Ship launching ceremonies have been recorded as long ago as 3,000 B. C. Although modern ceremonies no longer include such ancient customs as animal sacrifice to the gods, the sentiment behind them is the same as in ages past: to officially name the ship and bless it on its voyages.
In America, women became the preferred sponsors of ships around the 1840s, charged with breaking a bottle of spirits over the bow. Champagne eventually became the libation of choice for its effervescence.
Local shipyards documented their ceremonies with photographs of the participants, leaving us a record not only of the massive machinery they produced, but also of the human ritual that made an appeal to forces beyond mere technology. A number of photographs of ship launchings can be found at the site Ladies Who Launch.
USS Bainbridge, 1920
Miss Juliet Edith Greene, great-great granddaughter of William Bainbridge, sponsor, USS Bainbridge, June 12, 1920. New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey.
This destroyer was named after William Bainbridge, a naval officer who commanded ships during the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, and served as a commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the 1820s.
Independence Seaport Museum
New York Shipbuilding Corporation Collection