On April 25,1898, the United States formally declared war against Spain. The Monroe Doctrine, which since 1823 had viewed any European intervention in the Americas as a threat to U.S. security, coupled with the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor, precipitated U.S. engagement. Coverage by Hearst newspapers and the nascent film industry solidified public support for involvement in Cuba’s struggle for independence.
Within months, Spain’s overseas empire, which had begun with Columbus’s voyages of discovery, finally collapsed under the United States’ two-pronged war strategy. Commodore George Dewey sailed to the Pacific the day war was declared. On May 1 the Spanish fleet was defeated in the Philippines. The U.S. Marines and other troops, including Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, helped defeat Spanish forces in the Americas.
The U.S. and Spain signed a peace treaty in December 1898. Spain gave up its claims to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Guam and, for twenty million dollars, transferred the Philippines to the U.S. The U.S. emerged from the war as a significant player on the world stage.
- The Spanish-American War was the first U.S. war in which motion pictures played a role. See films made by the Edison Manufacturing Company and the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company in The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures. Two special presentations are also available: The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War: The Philippine Revolution and The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War.
- Search the Photos, Prints, Drawings for Cuba or Havana to find hundreds of still images related to Cuba and the Spanish-American War.
- Search Today in History on the term Spanish-American War to learn more about events in the war including the mysterious destruction of the U.S.S. Maine.
- Search on Spanish-American War in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940 to find recollections by veterans of that war. You can also search on the term Cuban War to hear a tune by that name in Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940 to 1941.
- See the online exhibition 1492: An Ongoing Voyage to learn about the origins of Spanish expansion into the Americas and to examine the first sustained contacts between American people and European explorers, conquerors and settlers.