John R. Bell was a steward on the Battleship Maine. Bell officially joined the Navy in 1871, although he may have begun his service as a servant to a naval officer during the Civil War. Prior to the Maine, he served on the St. Louis and Lancaster. He was known as a very kind man, beloved by the sailors on the ships he served. When the Maine was lost in Havana harbor in 1898, Bell was one of the missing men whose body was never recovered from the wreckage.
A black-and-white cabinet card portrait of John R. Bell. He is pictured from the waist up and is looking directly at the camera. He has a mustache and goatee and is wearing a dark colored naval jacket over a dark colored necktie and white shirt. The jacket is double breasted with large buttons. A tie tack in the shape of an anchor adorns his necktie. The back of the photograph is inscribed "to Paul," and signed by John R. Bell, dated "Christmas 1885." A second inscription reads, "John R. Bell, with Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Neilds USN, Christmas 1885." The back also has the photographer’s mark, [Hinkle / 4739 & 41 / MAIN STREET GERMANTOWN PA.], at center.
Text reads in part: "$1000 REWARD! Ran Away from the subscribers, on the night of the 5th inst. a NEGRO MAN named George, aged 22 or 23 years, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches in height--color, a dark black, a long or double head, had a variety of clothing, among which may be found a green frock cloth coat, with a black velvet collar, a low-crowned white silk hat. One negro BOY, aged 25 or twenty-six years . . . named Jefferson - - - he is a dark molatto [sic] . . . One negro girl, named ESTHER, . . . (nicknamed Puss) . . .a girl named AMANDA . . . " Posted by "Anderson Doniphan, Joseph Frazee, John D. Morford"; "Germantown, Mason Co. KY. 20th January 1840"