"Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!"
The USS Maine is one of the most famous ships in American history but for all the wrong reasons. A symbol of naval strength in the late 19th century, the Maine's tragic fate is taught to students across the nation not just because it was a disaster but because it is associated with the most notorious examples of yellow journalism in the country's history and ultimately brought about a war, despite the fact it's still unclear what caused the ship's explosion.
In 1898 one of Spain's last possessions in the New World, Cuba, was waging a war for independence against Spain. Though Cuba was technically exempted from the United States' Monroe Doctrine, since Cuba was already a possession of Spain when the Monroe Doctrine was issued, many Americans believed that the United States should side with Cuba against Spain. At the same time, however, President William McKinley wanted to avoid getting entangled in a war between outsiders while Spain also wanted to avoid any conflict with the United States and its powerful navy.
Despite leaders hoping to stay above the fray, American economic interests were being harmed by the ongoing conflict between Cuban nationalists and Spain, as merchants' trading with Cuba was suffering now that the island was undergoing conflict. Furthermore the American press capitalized on the ongoing Cuban struggle for independence, which had been flaring up time and again since 1868. In an effort to sell papers, the press frequently sensationalized stories, which came to be known as yellow journalism, and during the run-up to war, yellow journalism spread false stories about the Cuban conflict in order to sell newspapers in the competitive New York City market.