USS Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides,” is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. Named after the United States Constitution, she is the oldest commissioned ship afloat in the world. Constitution was one of the six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794 and was launched in 1797. Joshua Humphreys designed them to be the Navy’s capital ships and so Constitution and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed than the standard frigates of the period.
The modern day role of “Old Ironsides” is that of “ship of state”. The crew of 55 sailors participates in ceremonies, educational programs and special events (including sail drill) while keeping the ship open to visitors year-round and providing free tours. The crew are all active-duty sailors in the Navy and the assignment is considered a special duty. Traditionally, the duty of captain of the vessel is assigned to an active duty Navy commander.
USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. It was first launched in 1797. Constitution is one of six ships ordered for construction by George Washington to protect America’s growing maritime interests. The ships greatest glory came during the war of 1812 when she defeated four British frigates and earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides,” because cannon balls glanced off her thick hull. The ship was restored in 1927 with contributions from the nation’s school children.