U.S.S Constitution

Charlestown
MA

Portrait by Artist to Come

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Launched in 1798, the beautifully preserved USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Known as Old Ironsides, because during the War of 1812, when she fought the British Frigate HMS Guerriere cannonballs bounced off her sides — as if she were made of iron.

One of six frigates recommended by Secretary of War Henry Knox and approved by Congress in 1794, USS Constitution was put to sea, after two false starts, four years later. The durability of Constitution is attributed to a three-layer sandwich of wood. The ship’s copper fastenings were constructed by Paul Revere.

Open to the public for guided tours.

Part of the Freedom Trail™.

The most exciting scientific find of the period was Charles Willson Peale’s exhumation in 1801 near Newburgh, New York, of the bones of the mastodon, or mammoth. Peale displayed his mammoth in his celebrated museum and in 1806 painted a marvelous picture of what was perhaps the first organized exhumation in American history. Peale’s discovery electrified the country and put the word mammoth on everybody’s lips. A Philadelphia baker advertised the sale of mammoth bread. In Washington a mammoth eater ate forty-two eggs in ten minutes. And under the leadership of the Baptist preacher John Leland, the ladies of Cheshire, Massachusetts, late in 1801 sent to President Jefferson a mammoth cheese, six feet in diameter and nearly two feet thick and weighing 1,230 pounds.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)