The Great White Fleet
America became a global power in the latter days of the 19th century by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War, taking possession of Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and Guam. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt (credited with preparing the Navy for the war, before resigning his appointment to serve as a Colonel in the U.S. Army) understood the importance of naval power to a nation's economic and military strength.
A decade later, as Roosevelt's presidency was drawing to a close, he dispatched four squadrons of four battleships each (and their escorts) from the Hampton Roads, Virginia on a 43,000-mile, 14-month journey that would circumnavigate the globe. This fleet, "The Great White Fleet", began its journey exactly 100 years ago -- and would demonstrate to the world America's global reach and blue-water navy capability.
Tensions with Japan were rising due to Japan's incredibly lopsided victory over Russia's Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Tsushima two years prior -- and their growing sphere of influence in the western Pacific. This led many (including Harpers magazine) to believe that the outgoing president was launching a war against Japan.
However, Roosevelt's intentions were to build goodwill and cooperation -- akin to the modern U.S. Navy's recently-published "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower".
(The above photo, taken from the roof of the Hotel Chamberlin at Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, shows the fleet passing into the Atlantic at the start of their journey, December 16th, 1907.)