“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast


Donated by

Steve and Sue Kovacs



For the past 23 years I've been an avid collector of matchbook covers issued by Navy ships.  Back in the early 1990's I donated a cover to the USS Houston Memorial at the University of Houston and about that time began a short correspondence with Otto Schwarz.  Otto was, as you can imagine, most accomodating in providing materials to aid me in the preparation of an article about the ship.


Yesterday, I was on the Houston web site researching several facts for another article, which is now nearly complete.  It dawned on me that I ought to send in scans of two of the matchbooks once used aboard Houston.  Note that these matchcovers have had the matches removed and were pressed flat.  For safety reasons, this was and still remains the standard method of collecting matchbooks.  Please feel free to use these scans to help illustrate the web site should you so desire.


Despite the number of matchcover catalogs and bulletins that have survived from the era, I have been completely unsuccessful in my attempt to assign to these items a precise date-of-issue, even to a specific year.  All I can say with absolute certainty is that they date to the late-1930's


It may interest you to know that the blue/gold matchbook was re-ordered by the Ship's Service Department perhaps a half-dozen times as shipboard stocks were depleted.  While the overall design remained the same each time, there are subtle differences that allow the issues to be told apart.  For example, while most of those were printed by Diamond Match in Chico, California, several were printed by that firm's New York factory.  The point is, most Houston crewmen would have been familiar with the basic appearance of this particular matchbook.


The gold/black issue was ordered by the ship but once.  For the record, a third design was used aboard ship but, alas, in all my years of collecting and associating with other collectors, I've never seen it.  I only know of its existence thanks to an old catalog.  Obviously, it may be considered the rarest of all of Houston's matchbook covers.   


Wartime security restrictions would have necessitated the removal of all such matchbooks from aboard ship after the Pearl Harbor attack.  Ostensibly, if one were carelessly tossed away by a man on liberty, the name of the ship would have revealed its presence in that port.  Unless one was secretly hidden away, it's highly unlikely any of these matchbook designs was aboard Houston when she went down.  The thought does trigger the imagination, however!  I hope you and those who visit the web site enjoy viewing them.


Thank you for the kindness of your time.  It does my heart good to know you are actively carrying on the memory of your father and the other crewmen who suffered Houston's protracted ordeal.


-Steve  [If your eyes were sharp, yes, that is indeed the hull number of Houston's younger sister, Augusta, in my email address.]