In January 1897, Frederic Remington, a 19th-century painter famous for his depictions of the Old West, was on assignment in Havana for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal to illustrate Spanish atrocities against Cubans. He sent a telegram to Hearst, noting: “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return.” Hearst replied: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
One year later, on February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine mysteriously exploded in Havana Harbor. Pres. William McKinley ordered the battleship sent to Havana on January 25th to observe the growing tension between the U.S. and Spain. The explosion killed 268 of the crew’s 354 men and shocked the American public.
The U.S. press went wild with headlines proclaiming, “Spanish Treachery!” and “Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!” Hearst and the Journal offered a $50,000 award for the “detection of the Perpetrator of the Maine Outrage.” “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!” became a rallying cry.
To this day, no one knows what caused the explosion. Initial reports claimed the ship was sunk by a naval mine. Later investigations, one in 1911 and another in 1974, hypothesized that it was a coal dust fire. Still others believed it was due to sabotage, some speculating it was a covert Hearst operation to increase his…