From: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. II p 284-286
DolphinA gregarious aquatic mammal having a pointed muzzle, and found in most oceans ; also, a swift, spiny-finned fish having a long dorsal fin and iridescent body, and found throughout warm seas.
The fourth Dolphin, an unarmored cruiser, was launched 12 April 1884 by John Roach & Sons, Chester, Pa. ; and commissioned 8 December 1885, Captain R. W. Meade in command.
The first of the vessels of the "New Navy" to be completed, Dolphin was assigned to the North Atlantic Station, cruising along the eastern seaboard until February 1886. She then sailed around South America on her way to the Pacific Station for duty. She visited ports in Japan, Korea, China, Ceylon, India, Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and England, and the islands of Madeira and Bermuda, before arriving at New York 27 September 1889 to complete her round-the-world cruise. She returned to duty on the North Atlantic Station, cruising in the West Indies from 9 December 1889 to 12 June 1890. On 23 December she was reassigned to the Squadron of Evolution and sailed from New York 7 January 1891 for a Caribbean cruise, returning to Norfolk 7 April.
Out of commission from 1 May 1891 to 14 March1892, Dolphin then resumed her cruising along the Atlantic coast, often carrying the Secretary of the Navy. On 3 December 1895 she was assigned to the Special Service Squadron and made a surveying expedition to Guatemala during January and February 1896. She carried President W. McKinley and his party to New York for the ceremonies at Grants Tomb 23 April 1897. Dolphin was placed out of commission at New York 23 November 1897.
Dolphin was recommissioned24 March 1898 just prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War and served on blockade duty off Havana, Cuba, during April and May. On 6 June she came under fire from the Morro Battery at Santiago and later that month sailed for Norfolk arriving 2 July.
From 1899 until the outbreak of World War I in Europe Dolphin served as a special dispatch ship for the Secretary of the Navy and often carried the President and other important officials and diplomats. She visited Washington Navy Yard for the Peace Jubilee of 14 May to 30 June 1899 ; New York for the Dewey celebration of 26 to 29 September; and Alexandria, Va., for the city's sesquicentennial on 10 October. From 7 November 1899 to 2 February 1900 she cruised to Venezuela to survey the mouth of the Orinoco River. She departed Washington, D.C., 11 January 1902 to survey the southeast coast of Santo Domingo, then carried the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment from Havana for a tour of inspection of the coaling stations in the West Indies. She returned to Washington 6 May.
Dolphin sailed from Norfolk 2 December 1902 to carry mail and dispatches to Culebra Island, P.R., then took the U.S. Minister to Venezuela to La Guaira, arriving 11 January 1903. She continued to cruise in the West Indies until returning to Washington 19 April. From 1903 through 1905 she carried such dignitaries as the Naval Committee, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral and Mrs. Dewey, the Philippine Commissioners, the Attorney General, Prince Louis of Battenberg and his party, and President T. Roosevelt on various cruises. Early in August 1905 she carried the Japanese peace plenipotentiaries from Oyster Bay, N.Y., to Portsmouth, N.H., to negotiate the settlement of the Russo-Japanese War. She continued on primarily ceremonial duty, participating in the interment of John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy, and the departure ceremonies for the Great White Fleet, until 22 October 1908 when she became flagship of the Third Squadron, Atlantic Fleet. She cruised in the West Indies on this assignment until 1917, assisting in the occupation of Santo Domingo from 12 to 22 May 1916.
Sailing from Washington, D.C., 2 April 1917 to take possession of the recently purchased Virgin Islands, Dolphin 4 days later received word of the declaration of war between the United States and Germany.
The next day she arrived at St. Thomas and the squadron commander assumed office as Governor of the Virgin Islands 9 April. Dolphin carried the Governor and his staff to the islands of St. Croix and St. John to hoist the American flag with proper ceremony. On 26 April she began a search for the steamer Nordskar, flying Danish colors, hut suspected of aiding enemy operations. She found her at St. Lucia 5 May and since her registry showed irregularity, Dolphin kept her in custody until departing for Key West 28 June when she turned her charge over to British authorities. Dolphin continued to patrol in the Caribbean until arriving at Washington, 6 September.
Assigned as flagship for the American Patrol Detachment 17 September 1917, Dolphin was based at Key West and operated in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean to protect merchant shipping until the end of the war. She remained in the Caribbean until her departure for New York on 25 June 1920. After an overhaul at Boston she sailed 16 October 1920 as flagship of the Special Service Squadron and joined Des Moines (PG-- 29) to represent the United States at the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Straits of Magellan. Dolphin returned to Balboa and was based there for target practice, hydrographic experiments, and to obtain political information, visiting various neighboring countries to promote friendly relations. On 16 September 1921 she was at Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, to attend the anniversary of Guatemalan independence.
Dolphin arrived at Boston Navy Yard 14 October 1921. She was decommissioned 8 December 1921 and sold 25 February 1922.