In 1886, a sixteen-year-old named Fred Buenzle did what many boys had dreamed of: joining the Navy and sailing the high seas. Recognizing that the Navy was changing rapidly, he took note of the stories and lore of old salts and devoted himself to chronicling his own adventures; training in the Caribbean, briefly leaving the service in China, and in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A stenographer who rose in rank to Chief Yeoman, Buenzle was the court reporter for the investigation of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, and took dictation for many of the Navy’s highest officers, including Theodore Roosevelt when he was briefly Secretary. Buenzle also founded and edited “The Bluejacket,” the first newsletter for enlisted men, and fought against discrimination of uniformed sailors.
Special Collections has recently acquired and processed the Fred J. Buenzle papers, which contain scrapbooks, unpublished manuscripts, and hundreds of photographs documenting his naval career, family, and subsequent retirement at his ranch in Los Gatos.
Albumen print of St. Thomas from Buenzle scrapbook, May 1891.