American armored cruiser Pennsylvania, commissioned 1905, was the first of a class of ten formidable fighting ships. She is glimpsed here at the Oyster Bay naval review, staged at least in part for President Theodore Roosevelt, on September 4, 1906. Click here to enlarge photo.
All French Armored Cruiser Classes, 1897-1910 - Plans and Specs
The Later French Armored Cruisers, 1902-1911 - Profiles of Selected Classes
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Cruisers, the scouts and intelligence nostrils of the fleet, grew as the Empires grew, and as the network of fuel depots grew to guarantee coal supplies virtually around the globe. Cruisers had a different role and different shape from the battleships, and the technology to roll out steel hulls and thin armor plate coincided with the introduction of triple-expansion marine engines in the 1880s to make large numbers of high-performing cruisers affordable. From the time of the Civil War onwards, there was a split between armored cruisers -- the heaviest kind, with some belt armor and usually mounting an 8" or 9" gun -- and protected cruisers, more lightly protected and generally with a 5" or 6" main armament. Britain fielded some of the largest and handsomest armored cruisers, but the U.S., late into the competition, came up with a very satisfactory four-pipe design of its own in the Pennsylvania class of 6 ships (below) launched 1903-1905 -- a long haul indeed from the experimental A-B-C-D ships of the 1880s. As usual, the French took a different approach, adopting a haughty attitude as hey plunged along to the beat of their different drummer, and (one imagines) making a big deal out of the difference. The results: warships as comely as the can-can at the Moulin Rouge; our Dupuy de Lôme article has quite a photographic catalog. The French pre-1900 cruiser fleet was certainly worthy to sail alongside the mighty Masséna and Jauréguiberry. Late in the 1890s the French came up with a more competitive design, the 6-stack Jeanne d'Arc and her derivatives, the later French armored cruiser classes, all with two sets of boiler rooms bookending the engine room. This led to a distinctive profile: two groups of funnels separated by a wide gap amidships. Otherwise these ships had and stylings drawn from the book of naval constructor Louis-Émile Bertin, and broadly similar to the Liberté class battleships built around the same time.
The powerful armored cruiser Jeanne d'Arc had six stacks in two sets of three -- not an unusual arrangement in the French and Italian navies. She was laid down in 1896 and commissioned in 1902. Click here for an enlarged view.