Bathtub of the USS Maine
Everyone remembers the Maine, but who remembers the Maine's bathtub?
When the USS Maine was raised from Havana harbor in 1911, every Congressman wanted a piece. Frank B. Willis of Ohio snagged a prize -- Captain Sigsbee's enameled-steel bathtub -- and planned to give it to his hometown of Urbana. Urbana's clubwomen said no thanks -- they'd use the bathtub as a horse trough before they'd put it on display -- and told Willis to get Urbana a respectable 10-inch shell instead.
Neighboring Findlay saw its opportunity. They asked Urbana for the tub and got it, fending off competitors and guffaws. Boston demanded the bathtub because they were Captain Sigsbee's hometown. The Cincinnati Enquirer suggested that Findlay sink the bathtub in the Ohio River. Findlay hung on. Meanwhile, the bathtub was sitting in the chicken house of Urbana's mayor. He wasn't giving it to anyone until he got his 10-inch shell. In desperation, Findlay appealed to Congressman Willis, who pulled strings at the Navy Department. The shell arrived in Urbana, Urbana shipped the bathtub to Findlay, and Findlay stiffed Urbana for the freight charge.
Proper Hygiene: Uncle Sam's Front Line Of Defense
On March 3, 1913, the bathtub made its triumphant arrival. Findlay's heart sank faster than the Maine; its prize bathtub was rusted and ugly, having been underwater for 14 years. No one could figure out how to display such a cruddy relic, so the town stored it in its municipal building.
Less than a year later, the bathtub was being used as Findlay's city hall coal bin. Lima, a covetous rival town, found out and raised a stink, demanding the tub. Sleepy Findlay stirred to action. Local Spanish War veterans promised to bronze the bathtub and display it in a park. Lima backed off. So did the Spanish War veterans. Instead of bronzing the bathtub, the vets stuck it in a display case and shoved it into a little-used hallway of the Findlay courthouse. It sat there for 15 years. The courthouse janitor eventually taped a "USS Maine Bathtub" sign to the case because he got tired of explaining it to visitors.
Tarred By The Rust Of Infamy, Yet This Proud Battlewagon Endures
In 1929 the bathtub was placed along the wall of the courthouse rotunda, where it sat for another 30 years. When the courthouse was renovated in 1960 the bathtub was removed and shipped to the Findlay College Museum. They immediately cannibalized its case for another display and stored the bathtub in an old cigar factory. In 1974 it was turned over to the Hancock Historical Museum, which promptly dumped it into their basement.
This story might have had an unhappy ending. However, the bathtub was recently retrieved from the basement and can now, once again, be seen by visitors. Most of its enamel is gone, but that doesn't detract from the fact that it is the bathtub from the USS Maine, the only one you're ever going to see, and you should.
If you don't remember the Maine and you're less than 115 years old, we understand. The Maine was a U.S. battleship that blew up under mysterious circumstances in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. 260 American sailors died. Maybe a Spanish attack, maybe Cuban sabotage, maybe someone smoking in the ammo locker. The Maine's loud exit gave America an excuse to declare war in 1898 and kick Spain out of the Caribbean.