|Ordered:||4 May 1898|
|Awarded:||11 Oct 1898|
|Builder:||Crescent Shipyard, Elizabeth, New Jersey|
|Laid down:||23 January 1899|
|Launched:||30 November 1901|
|Commissioned:||18 June 1903|
|Decommissioned:||24 March 1922|
|Fate:||Sold for scrapping, 25 July 1922|
|Beam:||50 ft (15 m)|
|Draft:||12 ft 6 in (3.81 m) (mean)|
|Complement:||13 officers 209 men|
Florida was ordered on 4 May 1898, and awarded to the Crescent Shipyard, Elizabethport, New Jersey on 11 October 1898. She was laid down 23 January 1899 and launched 30 November 1901 by Lewis Nixon and Arthur Leopold Busch, a marine engineer who worked at the Crescent Shipyard; sponsored by Miss S. Wood; and commissioned 18 June 1903, with Commander John Charles Frémont Jr., in command. The total cost for the hull, machinery, armor and armament was $1,508,881.84.
The Arkansas-class monitors had been designed to combine a heavy striking power with easy concealment and negligible target area. They had a displacement of 3,225 long tons (3,277 t; 3,612 short tons), measured 255 feet 1 inch (77.75 m) in overall length, with a beam of 50 feet 1 inch (15.27 m) and a draft of 12 feet 6 inches (3.81 m). She was manned by a total crew of 13 officers and 209 men.
Florida was powered by two vertical triple expansion engines driving two screw propellers with steam generated by four Mosher boilers. The engines in Florida were designed to produce 2,400 indicated horsepower (1,800 kW) with a top speed of 12.5 knots (23.2 km/h; 14.4 mph), however, on sea trials she was only able to produce 2,336 ihp (1,742 kW) with a top speed of 12.4 kn (23.0 km/h; 14.3 mph). Florida was designed to provide a range of 2,360 nautical miles (4,370 km; 2,720 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph).
The ship was armed with a main battery of two 12-inch (305 mm)/40 caliber guns, either Mark 3 or Mark 4, in a Mark 4 turret. The secondary battery consisted of four 4-inch (100 mm)/50 caliber Mark 7 guns along with three 6-pounder 57 mm (2.2 in) guns. The main belt armor was 11 in (280 mm) in the middle tapering to 5 in (130 mm) at the ends. The gun turrets were between 10 and 9 in (250 and 230 mm), with 11 to 9 in (280 to 230 mm) barbettes. Florida also had a 1.5 in (38 mm) deck.
Serving with the Coast Squadron, Florida trained midshipmen on summer cruises, and operated along the east coast and in the Caribbean waters. She participated in the Presidential Naval Review in Oyster Bay, Long Island, held by Theodore Roosevelt on 3 September 1906, and four days later reported to the Naval Academy for regular service as a practice ship. She was placed in reserve September 11, 1906, but returned to full commission between 7 June and 30 August 1907, for a midshipman cruise, and between 21 May and 19 June 1908 for participation in ordnance experiments. These included testing the then-new superfire concept where turrets were mounted in line with one turret elevated to fire over the other.
On 1 July 1908, Florida was renamed USS Tallahassee to free the state name for assignment to a battleship. On 1 August 1910, she was placed in commission in reserve and began a regular schedule of ordnance experimentation and occasional duty in the Panama Canal Zone and Norfolk area as a submarine tender. During World War I she served as submarine tender in the Canal Zone, the Virgin Islands, and Bermuda areas and on 30 September 1919, entered Charleston Navy Yard where she was decommissioned on 3 December 1919. Tallahassee was assigned to the 6th Naval District as a reserve training ship from 19 February 1920, serving in commissioned status from 3 September 1920 to 24 March 1922.
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