Tag: Primary Source

Make an Officer’s Hat

Make an 1812 officer’s hat out of paper and view an original hat that belonged to a USS Constitution midshipmen.

Telling Time Aboard Ship

A ship’s bell played a crucial role for timekeeping on board a ship and was rung every half hour to mark the passage of time

Creative Writing: Broadside Poem

View an 1812 poem/song set to the tune of “Yankee Doodle” that celebrates USS Constitution’s victory over HMS Guerriere. Students then write their own lyrics

Recipe: 1812 Hot Chocolate

Make hot chocolate as a sailor would have made it in the early 1800s, using a primary source recipe.

Team Identity

Each gun on Constitution was manned by the same gun team in practice and in battle. These teams developed their own identity and named their

Holystoning Quotes

Read these primary and secondary source quotes about the sailor chore of holystoning: cleaning the floors of the Ship.

Flogging in the Navy

Two primary source quotes about discipline and flogging on board a U.S. Navy ship. Flogging was a severe form of corporal punishment reserved for the

Art at Sea: John Lord’s Powder Horn

John Lord’s engraved powder horn was designed to carry gunpowder, but was also a special memento of his service. In this activity, students engrave a

War Declared!

This June 22,1812 supplement to the Connecticut Mirror, a Hartford newspaper, broke the news about a new war for the United States with Great Britain.

Broadside: Huzza for the Constitution

Broadsides are oversized printed sheets containing proclamations, announcements, or advertisements. They were publicly posted or distributed door to door. This broadside with a six-stanza poem

Broadside: Hull’s Victory

Broadsides are oversized printed sheets containing proclamations, announcements, or advertisements. They were publicly posted or distributed door to door. This broadside is a statement of

Thomas Chew’s Telescope

This wooden and brass telescope was owned by purser Thomas Chew. It represents the type used by mariners during the late 18th and early 19th

Speaking Trumpet

There were no radios or loud speakers on board USS Constitution in the War of 1812. Instead, speaking trumpets like this one were used to

Silas Talbot’s Writing Desk

This portable writing desk belonged to USS Constitution’s second captain, Silas Talbot. Desks like this were common among naval officers, because they were easy to

Ship’s Biscuit

This is a ship’s biscuit from 1861. A sailor aboard USS Constitution kept it as a souvenir. Discuss with your students: why would a sailor


A sextant was an essential navigation tool. It was used for determining a ship’s position at sea. It measured the angles between the horizon and

John Lord’s Seabag

This seabag is a rare surviving example of a once common, utilitarian item. Seabags were issued to United States Navy sailors as a means of

John Lord’s Powder Horn

During the War of 1812, powder horns were used to carry the finer gun powder used in the Ship’s long guns. This horn is uniquely

Hammock Arrangement

This birds-eye diagram shows how hammocks were arranged on the berth deck for sleeping. It is from David Steel’s 1794 book, The Elements and Practice


This instrument was used to communicate orders to the Ship’s crew, such as calling them to battle. Fife music also gave rhythm to heavy work


This object was used for pouring wine in ships’ wardrooms, the place where officers ate on board.  Early frigates had a lot of tableware like

Cat o’ Nine Tails

USS Constitution’s boatswain’s mate would use a cat of nine tails, a whip with nine knotted cords, to flog sailors that needed to be punished

Boatswain’s Pipe

The boatswain’s pipe (pronounced “bosun”) was used for communication on a ship. Its loud and piercing sound woke up sailors and called them to duties

Bible Removed from HMS Java

This King James Bible was removed from HMS Java after the British ship’s capture by USS Constitution on December 29, 1812. Following a ship’s surrender,

William Swift’s Cocked Hat

This collapsible silk hat, also known as a chapeau bras, belonged to Surgeon William Swift. Naval officers in the early 1800s typically wore hats like

William Bainbridge’s Gold Medal

In 1813, the U.S. Congress approved the commissioning of a Congressional gold medal to Commodore William Bainbridge of USS Constitution for his defeat of the

Thomas Chew’s Stays

This set of stays belonged to Thomas Chew, who was USS Constitution’s purser during the War of 1812. Stays were a corset that helped fashionable

Portrait of Thomas Chew

Thomas Chew served on USS Constitution at the beginning of the War of 1812. His job was the purser, making him responsible for keeping the

Portrait of George Sirian

This is a portrait of George Sirian, who was orphaned as a boy in 1824 while escaping war in his home of Psara, Greece. The

Portrait of Commander William Bainbridge

William Bainbridge became a national hero after USS Constitution, under his command, defeated the British frigate HMS Java in December 1812. This portrait, painted by

Portrait of Captain Isaac Hull

This impressive portrait of Captain Isaac Hull was completed by Gilbert Stuart, a renowned American portrait artist, in Boston, Massachusetts in 1807. Hull is wearing

Pardon Mawney Whipple’s Sword

A decorative weapon such as this sword would not be used in actual combat. Instead, it was worn as a ceremonial piece, or a fashionable

Pardon Mawney Whipple’s Hat

This cocked hat was worn by Pardon Mawney Whipple after his promotion to lieutenant in 1820. At that time, the hat was in fine form

Miniature Portrait of John Lord

This miniature watercolor portrait depicts John Lord, who served as gunner on USS Constitution between 1824 and 1828. Before photography, miniature portraits were popular keepsakes

Isaac Hull’s Seal

This wax seal, featuring an image of the Ship and his name, was owned by Isaac Hull, one of USS Constitution’s most famous captains. Hull

Abigail Chew’s Coral Jewelry

This set of coral jewelry belonged to Abigail Chew, wife of USS Constitution’s War of 1812 purser, Thomas Chew. While away from his family for

Staffordshire Creamware Pitcher

This ceramic pitcher depicts two of USS Constitution‘s exploits during the War of 1812. It is an example of the many pitchers, plates, bowls, mugs,

Ship’s Bell

A ship’s bell played a crucial role for timekeeping on board a ship, and was rung every half hour to mark the passage of time

Powder Horn

This is an example of the type of powder horn used by United States Marines in the early 19th century. The hollowed-out horn carried gunpowder

Round Shot

This 24-pound iron ball was a form of ammunition fired from a cannon, or gun, by warships like USS Constitution in the late 18th and

Period Musket

Muskets were carried by all Marines who served on USS Constitution and other United States Navy ships in the early 19th century. This musket is

Boarding Pike

Some of USS Constitution’s crew were listed as “boarders” during battle. They used this weapon to attempt to force their way onto enemy decks when

Objects Up Close: Stool of Grapeshot

Grapeshot was a form of ammunition fired by USS Constitution’s long guns. Take a behind-the-scenes look inside our vault to view this handmade artifact that’s

Objects Up Close: Pay Allotment

Pay allotments were a way for sailors to provide a small but steady income to their families until their return home. Learn more in this

Objects Up Close: Bibles on Board

Bibles were often found on 19th century naval vessels, since Bible societies gave out cheap editions of the religious work.  In this video, learn more

Objects Up Close: Ship’s Biscuit

USS Constitution sailors received 14 ounces of “bread” per day during the War of 1812. But it wasn’t like the bread we know today! Learn

Objects Up Close: Boarding Weapons

When the hulls of sailing warships intentionally or accidentally crashed together in early 19th century battles, some of the crew who were listed as “boarders”

Objects Up Close: Wardroom Decanter

Decanters–for pouring wine–were often found in the wardrooms of well-to-do officers on early 19th century ships, along with other fancy tableware. Learn more in this

Objects Up Close: Sextant

How did sailors in the Age of Sail figure out a ship’s position in the open ocean? They used a sextant, a navigational tool that

Objects Up Close: Cat o’ Nine Tails

Flogging was a form of severe corporal punishment on board vessels in the United States Navy through the first half of the 19th century. Offenders

Objects Up Close: Surgeon’s Kit

Naval surgeons in the early 19th century were responsible for tending to sick and injured sailors while at sea. They carried kits with them filled

Objects Up Close: Ship’s Bell

Ship operations at sea continued 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. A ship’s bell, tolling every half-hour, day and night, marked the passage of time

Objects Up Close: James Sever Collection

In this video are key highlights from the James Sever Collection, a rare and meaningful assemblage of materials related to the construction, launch, original outfitting,

Objects Up Close: Commemorative Medals

In 1776, the U.S. Congress began awarding congressional gold and silver medals to distinguished military figures as expressions of appreciation for their achievements and contributions.

Object Up Close: The Gwinn Portraits

Learn about two portraits and the stories they tell: Captain John Gwinn and his wife Caroline. Gwinn commanded USS Constitution from 1848 until his untimely

Objects Up Close: Victory Song

This poem, sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” captures Bostonians’ excitement about USS Constitution’s victory over HMS Guerriere in 1812.

Silver Urn Presented to Isaac Hull

This ceremonial silver urn was a gift from the merchants of Philadelphia to Captain Isaac Hull in honor of USS Constitution‘s defeat of HMS Guerriere

Pardon Mawney Whipple’s Letterbook

Pardon Mawney Whipple joined USS Constitution’s crew in 1813, at age 22. His letters offer a unique and intimate view of the events aboard USS