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USS Constitution Artifacts, Archives and Stories

Ship History

Reading and understanding history provides an experience that can inform the individual's judgment and decision making.


27 March

    George Washington signs into law the U.S. Congressional act that authorizes the construction of six frigates, three 44 gun ships and three 36 gun ships.

    These ships are built to counteract Barbary Coast piracy against American merchant shipping and were the first of the emerging nations and established the United States Navy.

28 June

    Being charged with these urgent naval matters, the Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, appointed Philadelphia shipbuilder Joshua Humphreys to design the six vessels. Humphreys, a Quaker, was already active in building warships during the Revolutionary War.

    The contract for one of the 44-gun frigates, later named Constitution, was given to Edmund Hartt's shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts. There's a plaque commemorating the site there on Atlantic Avenue.


   Josiah Fox, a highly qualified young English shipwright with excellent connections, was appointed assistant to Joshua Humphreys.

    The design team also included another shipwright, William Doughty, an excellent draftsman and Humphreys' yard clerk in Philadelphia.


    With the design and preparatory work near completion, a peace treaty with Algiers stopped all work.


20 April

    President George Washington signs the Appropriation Bill to fund the completion of the three most advanced frigates of the six authorized, which included the USS Constitution in Boston.


20 September

    The first launch attempt of the 44-gun frigate USS Constitution was unsuccessful. The ship only moved 27 feet down the slip and stopped. Two days later she went another 30 feet and then her stern settled down. The unsuccessful attempts were associated to a slip with to moderate of a decline which had to be subsequently built up to increase the incline.

    The added pressures and stresses to the ship's keel during the extra weeks on the slip brought on a permanent hog (bent keel).


21 October

    On the third attempt Constitution was successfully launched. Construction space was leased at Hartt's shipyard in Boston for completion.

    Colonel George Claghorne was appointed naval constructor, Samuel Nicholson superintendent as her first captain and General Henry Jackson as naval agent.

    Timber used in building the ship amounted to approximately 2,000 trees, felled in forests as far apart as Maine and Georgia.

Stay Tuned.

The story begins for the USS Constitution,

a most fortunate ship.

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