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Worth Bagley and State House, Raleigh, N.C.

Worth Bagley Monument_web

In recognition of Memorial Day, our postcard feature for Flashback Friday this week depicts the Worth Bagley monument, located on Capitol Square. Most folks these days probably have never heard of him, but at the turn of the 20th century Ensign Worth Bagley, USN, was a highly regarded hero of the Spanish-American War.

Worth Bagley Monument_back_web

As was common with many postcard greetings of the era, our correspondent, ‘Grace,’ didn’t reference the image on the front of the card at all.

Rec’d your card yesterday and was indeed glad to hear from you. Am so sorry I didn’t see you while in Asheville. And am having a big time. [illegible] School is [illegible] and we are having a great time. Much Love. Grace Ransom

Worth Bagley — A Hometown Hero

Worth Bagley was born into a prominent Raleigh family in 1874. His grandfather was Gov. Jonathan Worth, and his father, W.H. Bagley, had been a major in the Confederate army. His older sister married Josephus Daniels, owner and editor of the politically influential News & Observer. Bagley entered the U.S. Naval Academy as a teenager in 1891, and graduated in 1895. He was commissioned an ensign in 1897. That same year, 23-year old Ensign Bagley was assigned as the second-in-command officer of the torpedo boat USS Winslow.

The torpedo boat

Torpedo boat USS Winslow in action.

The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898 precipitated the Spanish-American War. On May 11, 1898, under heavy fire from Spanish gunboats in Cardenas Harbor, Ensign Bagley and four shipmates onboard the USS Winslow lost their lives. He was the first American officer and the only line officer of the U.S. Navy killed during the war.

On the day of Ensign Bagley’s funeral in Raleigh, his body was escorted by the Governor’s Guard in a procession up Fayetteville St. to the Capitol where he lay in state in the rotunda. Schools and businesses closed and thousands turned out for his funeral on the capitol grounds.

Worth Bagley

Ensign Worth Bagley, Raleigh’s fallen hero.

In 1899 the General Assembly voted to erect a memorial on the Capitol grounds to honor the young ensign. The Bagley Monument Association raised the necessary funds and commissioned sculptor Francis H. Packer to design the monument. He created a bronze statue of Bagley which stands atop a rectangular granite base embellished with a bronze relief of an anchor, symbolic of both the US Navy and hope.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

The dedication of the Worth Bagley monument took place on May 20, 1907. The News & Observer gushed poetically:

Fayetteville Street … [is] a revel of red, white and blue, the folds of hundreds of United States flags flying in abandon in the soft breezes of springtime. … On the south front of the Capitol two beautiful North Carolina flags add to the effect, which, set in nature’s offering of full foliaged trees, a carpet of green, and hundreds of rose bushes with the first offering of spring, is one that is beautiful in the extreme.

And, as they had nine years earlier for his funeral, thousands of Raleighites, along with state and local dignitaries, Navy officials and uniformed servicemen turned out on Capitol Square for the dedication ceremony of the Worth Bagley monument. Gov. Robert Brodnax Glenn was the keynote speaker. Bagley’s eight-year old nephew, Worth Bagley Daniels, assisted in the unveiling of the statue of his uncle.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

The US Navy named three vessels in honor of Ensign Worth Bagley — a torpedo boat (1900) and two destroyers (1918 and 1937). Raleigh’s hometown hero is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, along with his parents, grandfather, and other members of the Bagley, Daniels and Worth families.

Worth Bagley grave_2_web


Our Flashback Friday ‘divided back’ postcard this week was published by F.M. Kirby & Co. of Wilkes-Barre, PA..

Fred Morgan Kirby 1887-1997
Wilkes-Barre, PA

A publisher and large retailer of postcard views of the American South and mid-Atlantic region. These cards were sold from their Five & Dime stores which numbered 96 in 1912.


“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!


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