The fifth USS Boston, a protected cruiser, was launched 4 December 1884 by John Roach & Sons, Chester, Pennsylvania, and commissioned 2 May 1887, Captain Francis M. Ramsay in command.
Boston, being the second cruiser of the New Navy completed, was not ready for active service until 1888. She then made a cruise to Guatemala and Haiti to protect American citizens. She joined the Squadron of Evolution 30 September 1889 and cruised to the Mediterranean and South America (7 December 188929 July 1890), and along the east coast in 1891. Boston departed New York 24 October 1891 for the Pacific, via Cape Horn, arriving at San Francisco 2 May 1892. Except for a cruise during which she participated in the U.S. invasion of the Kingdom of Hawaii (11 August 189210 October 1893), she remained on the west coast until laid up at Mare Island Navy Yard 4 November 1893.
Recommissioned 15 November 1895, Boston joined the Asiatic Squadron at Yokohama, Japan, 25 February 1896. She remained in the Orient protecting American interests for the next four years and during the Spanish-American War took part in the Battle of Manila Bay (1 May 1898) and the capture of Manila (13 August 1898). She remained in the Philippines assisting in their pacification until 8 June 1899.
Boston returned to San Francisco 9 August 1899 and went out of commission at Mare Island Navy Yard 15 September 1899. She remained out of commission until 11 August 1902 and then rejoined the Pacific Squadron. During 1625 June 1905 she helped represent the Navy at the Lewis and Clark Exposition at Portland, Oregon, and between 23 April and 10 May 1906 she helped care for the victims of the San Francisco earthquake and fire. She went out of commission again at Puget Sound Navy Yard 10 June 1907.
From 15 June 1911 to September 1916, she served as a training vessel with the Oregon Naval Militia and was loaned to the Shipping Board (24 May 1917June 1918). On 18 June 1918, she was recommissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard as a receiving ship and towed to Yerba Buena Island, California, where she served as a receiving ship until 1946. She was renamed Despatch, the sixth U.S. Navy ship to bear that name, on 9 August 1940, thus freeing her original name for use on the new heavy cruiser Boston (CA-69). The old ship was reclassified IX-2, 17 February 1941. Despatch was towed to sea and sunk off San Francisco 8 April 1946.