The U.S.S. Kentucky was the first iron battleship built in Newport News, Virginia, and only the sixth built in America. Launched in 1899, she sailed to the Far East via Gibralter and the Suez Canal a year later, reaching Hong Kong in 1901, where she became flagship of the Southern Squadron under Rear Admiral Louis Kempff. During this call one of her proud masters must have commissioned this portrait.
The Kentucky spent two years calling on the ports of China and Japan before returning home; then joined President "Teddy" Roosevelt's famous Great White Fleet, circumnavigating the world 1907 to 1909 to demonstrate America's good will - and its growing strength.