View and discuss the uniforms of an 1812 U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy sailor.
View and discuss the uniforms of an 1812 U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy sailor.
Read regulations from 1802 to learn about the role of a U.S. Navy captain.
Midshipmen were the officers in training on USS Constitution, often teenagers. Take this quiz to see if your students would qualify to be a midshipman in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812.
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 bar of soap inspired by this primary source object.
Use these statistics to see how students compare to a U.S. Navy sailor and Marine on USS Constitution in 1812. This activity includes statistics, gleaned from primary resources, about the people who served on the ship.
Midshipmen served as Constitution’s trainee officers. Often the sons of wealthy or powerful families, some were as young as 15. Their duties on board were to study, and write journals. As they learned, though, they also stood watches, and the oldest might even command a captured enemy ship. In front
In battle, Constitution’s Marines fired on the enemy with muskets. These guns were loaded with a lead ball and enough gun-powder to fire it, wrapped in a paper “cartridge”. Marines bit off the top, and tipped a little powder into the gun’s pan. They poured the rest – and the
In his quarters at the stern of ship, the captain enjoys a luxury that everyone else aboard lacks: space. In this roomy, calm, comfortable cabin, he plans the ship’s route, and makes decisions that might win or lose a battle – or a war. It’s a big responsibility, and it’s
Would you have liked to be a sailor during the War of 1812? Or maybe you’d prefer to be the captain instead? In this video, find out what it really took to be a captain in the Age of Sail.
This short, handwritten letter is a poignant firsthand account of one officer’s bravery and sacrifice during USS Constitution‘s first battle in the War of 1812. The letter, from Marine Lieutenant John Contee to Lewis Bush, recounts the death of Lewis’ brother, Lt. William Sharp Bush, on August 19, 1812 during
This certificate was a form of ID for American sailors in the early 1800s. It provided proof of their United States citizenship and was intended to help protect them from the British practice of impressment, or the seizing of men and sailors for service in the Royal Navy.
This is an allotment receipt, a form authorizing a Boston Navy Agent to pay one half of USS Constitution seaman Jesse Cole’s monthly wage to his wife Tabitha – eight dollars per month for ten months. It speaks to the emotional and financial bond that tied together a sailor and
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 centuries. It is a personal telescope, small enough to be slipped into a pocket, and was perhaps used by Chew to detect enemy ships on
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 transport between ship and shore, provided a convenient writing surface, and served as secure storage for important documents and letters.
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 storing clothing. Navy-issued bags were painted black to waterproof them. Personal bags, like this one, were often richly decorated by their owners. This bag belonged
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 decorated with militaristic themes by John Lord, a gunner on USS Constitution from 1824-1828.
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 this to mark their rank among the crew.
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 British frigate HMS Java. Beginning in 1776, the United States Congress began awarding gold medals to distinguished military figures who served in the American Revolution,
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 men achieve the popular narrow-waisted look in the 1820s. Surviving portraits of Chew suggest that he was fashion-conscious, and he was certainly wealthy enough to
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 Ship’s pay and muster rolls, accounting for supplies, running the Ship store, and keeping detailed account books. Chew resigned from the U.S. Navy in 1821,
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 young refugee joined USS Constitution‘s crew in May of 1827 at nine years old. He served first with the rank of boy, and then ordinary
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 famed artist Gilbert Stuart, has a funny story. Bainbridge sat for Stuart in the artist’s Boston studio, but the two did not get along. Stuart
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 the traditional uniform of early U.S. Navy officers and looks every bit the confident captain in this painting.
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 accessory indicative of rank. It belonged to Pardon Mawney Whipple, who served as a midshipman on USS Constitution during the War of 1812.
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 with gold lace and shiny silk. Stripped of its decoration and worn thin over time, the hat remains a relic of a U.S. Navy officer
It was common in the 19th century to give a lock of hair to family members as a memory of a loved one. Hair, which does not decompose quickly, was often braided, tied with ribbon, or incorporated into jewelry. This lock of hair belonged to Pardon Mawney Whipple, who served
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 for remembering a loved one at sea.
John Cushing Aylwin was 5th lieutenant and sailing master aboard USS Constitution during the battle against HMS Java in December 1812. Aylwin took a musket ball through his shoulder at the height of the battle, but continued at his station until the conflict was over. He died on board the
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 would have pressed this fob into melted wax, which created a personalized seal when dry. The seal certified documents and emphasized his status as an
On July 2, 1931, USS Constitution and a crew of 81 sailors, officers, and Marines set off on a three-year tour around the United States. This National Cruise was a “thank you” to the men, women, and children who donated money and materials to support the Ship’s 1927 restoration. Frank
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 his naval service, Chew frequently sent gifts home to them as tokens of his affection. It is likely that this set of coral jewelry was
This gold-mounted presentation dress sword and scabbard was presented to Captain Isaac Hull by the State of Connecticut in 1819. Its maker, Nathan Starr, worked with state and federal governments to produce ceremonial pieces to present to American naval heroes.
Why did USS Constitution need a band? Who was in the band? This article looks at a musical part of the Ship’s history.
Ship boys were vital members of the 1812 crew–and some were as young as eight years old. Read about the lives of the youngest crew members in this blog article.
Read a harrowing account of USS Constitution’s second War of 1812 victory, against the HMS Java, in December of 1812.
In the early 1800s, free black men made up an average of 15% of U.S. Navy crews. Read about the motivations behind this service and the opportunity it provided for black sailors.
Cesilia Aleman Hernadez is one of the 39 sailors the USS Constitution Museum interviewed in 2019 for the Museum’s Today’s Crew: USS Constitution exhibition. In this video, Seaman Aleman Hernandez shares why she decided to join the United States Navy.
Emma Hoernlein is one of the 39 sailors the USS Constitution Museum interviewed in 2019 for the Museum’s Today’s Crew: USS Constitution exhibition. In this video, Seaman Hoernlein shares why she decided to join the United States Navy.
Jason Petitfrere is one of the 39 sailors the USS Constitution Museum interviewed in 2019 for the Museum’s Today’s Crew: USS Constitution exhibition. In this video, Seaman Petitfrere shares why he decided to join the United States Navy.
USS Constitution crew members describe what a typical day is like on the Ship today. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
USS Constitution crew members share why they joined the U.S. Navy. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
USS Constitution crew members share what it’s like being away from their families while serving in the Navy. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
A culinary specialist assigned to USS Constitution shares how the U.S. Navy feeds a crew today. The interview was conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
USS Constitution crew members describe what it’s like climbing high up the mast and working the sails. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
USS Constitution crew members describe their roles on the ship today. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
USS Constitution’s 75th and 76th commanding officers, CDR Nathaniel Shick and CDR John Benda, share what it’s like being in command of “Old Ironsides” today. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
USS Constitution crew members share what the ship means to them today. Interviews were conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
Lieutenant Travis Leary, an operations officer serving on USS Constitution, shares how he reacts when people say “thank you for your service.” The interview was conducted by the USS Constitution Museum in 2019.
In January 2022, CDR Billie June (BJ) Farrell, USS Constitution’s first female commanding officer, sat down for an interview with USS Constitution Museum President & CEO Anne Grimes Rand to discuss her career in the U.S. Navy.
Builder 1st Class Hilary Lemelin, assigned to USS Constitution, takes us behind the scenes of USS Constitution’s woodworking repair shop in the Charlestown Navy Yard. In this repair shop, U.S. Navy builders craft handmade souvenirs, signs, awards, and even a replica ship’s wheel for the Pentagon, using materials removed from
Meet some of the active duty crew members currently serving aboard USS Constitution in 2019. The crew members share their thoughts on what it’s like to be in the United States Navy and working aboard the oldest commissioned warship afloat.
What “school supplies” did midshipmen use when learning to become naval officers in the 1800s? Find out in this video.
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 video.
This video shows how one couple, Purser Thomas Chew and his wife, Abigail, endured the stress of wartime separation while he was away at sea.
During 19th century sea battles, Marines armed with muskets were stationed in each of the three fighting tops, high above the spar deck. Learn more about Marines and their weapons in this video.
Watch, quarter, and station bills showed the names of individual sailors and all their assignments on board a ship. Learn more in this video.
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 with the best surgical tools of the era. In this video, learn more and hear from a modern hospital corpsman serving on USS Constitution today.
Following USS Constitution’s first victory in the War of 1812, Captain Issac Hull and his crew returned to praise and adulation. This video looks at some of the gifts he received as a thank-you from a grateful nation.
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. Learn about some of the medals awarded to USS Constitution’s crew in this video.
Letter writing was an essential form of communication in the 19th century, and wax seals were a way to authenticate correspondence and ensure that letters remained unopened and unread in transit. Learn about Captain Isaac Hull’s gold fob and personal seal in this video.
After serving in the War of 1812, Pardon Mawney Whipple was promoted to lieutenant in 1820. Learn about his officer’s cocked hat and pommel sword in this video.
Midshipmen were the young officers-in-training in the US Navy. Pardon Mawney Whipple, a midshipman on USS Constitution, kept a letterbook to remember his time at sea from 1813 to 1820.
Imagine going to sea for two years and everything you needed had to fit in a single sea bag. In this video, learn about navy sea bags, including one owned by Thomas Chew, a purser aboard USS Constitution in the War of 1812.
Learn about USS Constitution crew member Richard Dunn, who was struck in the leg by enemy fire during the battle with HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. His leg was hastily amputated by the ship’s surgeon, and he later received a prosthetic.
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 death in 1849.
This short, handwritten letter from 1812 is a poignant firsthand account of one officer’s bravery and sacrifice during USS Constitution‘s battle with HMS Guerriere. William Bush was the first US Marine Corps officer killed in combat during the War of 1812.
Builder 1st Class Hilary Lemelin, assigned to USS Constitution, talks about what it was like building two desks for the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of the Navy. The desks were built using materials from USS Constitution and other historic U.S. Navy ships.
Are you dressed to impress? USS Constitution’s officers wore fancy hats called “chapeau-bras.” Make your own paper version of this impressive hat and show your friends who is in charge.
With its bright colors and decorative trim, the Marine’s War of 1812 uniform made a statement and projected American military power for all to see. Try your hand at making a distinctive part of this uniform – the hat – with paper, scissors, tape, and patience.
Students read a story of bravery at sea and look closely at the uniform of USS Constitution sailors. Then they make their own captain’s hat out of paper.
There is evidence of numerous dogs on board USS Constitution throughout her career, but none appears as frequently, or is known by name, as Guerriere the Terrier. Guerriere proved himself a faithful and helpful member of the crew.
USS Constitution, under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge, defeated the British frigate HMS Java in December 1812 in its second victory of the War of 1812. In this letter, Bainbridge discusses a medal he received in honor of this victory. Bainbridge was dissatisfied with the design on the back,
Thomas C. Byron served as a Marine fifer on USS Constitution and composed this narrative in 1861 as an older man, looking back on the ship’s actions during the War of 1812. He was present for Constitution’s three major battles, which he describes, as well storms, visits to foreign ports,
Letters are one of the few primary sources that provide insight into the women and families sailors left behind when they went to sea. Abigail Chew’s letters to her husband Thomas, USS Constitution’s 1812 purser, help us understand her thoughts and feelings being on the homefront with a loved one
The path for women to serve on board USS Constitution has been long and slow. This blog features interviews with two key women in the Ship’s history: Claire Bloom, first Executive Officer, and Rosemarie (Lanam) Wilamowski, who became the first female enlisted sailor to join the crew in 1986.
This is the story of USS Constitution’s War of 1812 surgeon, Dr. Amos Evans. Learn about Evans’ experience treating the crew, from everyday illnesses to battle injuries, in this article featuring excerpts from the surgeon’s personal journal.
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 Constitution during the War of 1812. He describes both the excitement and horrors the men felt during battle, as well as the protocols followed after