The Later Years (1882-    )


Portsmouth, NH, newpaper items, 1890s


Portsmouth Chronicle, 17 September 1892:


            “The old smooth bore guns of the pattern of 1848, which have been on the spar deck of the old Constitution at the Navy Yard for a number of years, were taken out last week and shipped to Johnstown, Pa.”


Portsmouth Chronicle, 17 September 1892:


            “ The U. S. [sic] Fern brought 54 naval apprentices from Norgolk for the U. S.  training ship Monongahela.  They are temporarily aboard the receiving ship Constitution until their own ship shall be ready for occupancy.”


Portsmouth Journal, 17 February 1894:


            “Mr. Patrick D. Corcoran of this city has been appointed a ship-keeper on t he U.S.S. Constitution at the navy yard, vice Mr. Charles Favor of Kittery, removed.”


Letter From "Sydney" In The Boston TRANSCRIPT,

9 JUNE  1893, as reprtined in

U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. XX, No. 3 (1894).



    "The claim of Portsmouth, N.H., to the Constitution, which Boston wants and Washington ought to have, is an example of unblushing cheek.  The old ship happened to lie at the Portsmouth yard the last time she went out of commission, and was simply allowed to remain there.  When there was talk of removing her the people of Portsmouth set up a howl, just as if the Constitution belonged to them.  The fact is, she is a great attraction at the Portsmouth yard, and the people are loth [loath] to give her up.  The opinion among naval people is that the ship ought to be thoroughly fitted up as she was at the time of her glorious career, and kept at Washington, as a museum of naval relics.  She is now nothing but a dismantled hulk, boarded up outside, bare inside, and wholly unsightly.  The cost of fitting her would not be great, and perhaps the navy yards of the country might furnish enough old guns for her batteries."


The Chelsea Gazette, 10 December 1898, in Box 4613, John D. Long Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society




Disposition of the Frigate Constitution


Editor Chelsea Gazette:


            Our citizens of both sexes are asking what is to be done with the Constitution, as they view the old ship now lying at one of the lower wharves at the Navy Yard.  It my\ay help toward an answer to state a few facts, and make some suggestions in reference to he future.  It is now more than a century since she was launched; she has been twice at least absolutely rebuilt, down to her keel, besides being several times “retopped,’ which means that all of her which floats above the water, has been torn down and replaced with new timber.  So far as detailed identity of material is concerned it is manifest to everyone who known anything about her that the original vessel has long since ceased to exist.  But the present writer is able to state from his own personal observation of several of the ships of the old navy, which passed under his notice while a lad, that she is such a faithful reproduction as to answer all the elevated purposes to which we should now devote the original ship if she was still intact.  She has not been rebuilt by contract with strangers or foreigners animated by mercenary motives.  Her timbers are not from tropical forests; they are neither of teak, nor yet of mahogany, as they might have been if selected by a degenerate or purse proud people.

            The oak and pine of which she was rebuilt are as distinctly American as were the original stocks of lumber; and so were the workmen who forty years after she was launched recast her in the dry dock at the Navy Yard.  She is like the water which flows from the Cochituate into our homes, always the same, yet never identical.  The men who fought upon her decks were eye witnesses of her rebirth and gladly sent her forth to inspire the patriotism of the two generations of our American youth, who have gazed upon her dear and venerable outlines during the sixty or more years which have since elapsed.  The Constitution long since passed out of the realistic conditions, under which, as an ordinary ship she might with propriety be judged, and possibly assigned to an auction sale, to be broken up for firewood, or sold to the junk shops.  Byron might have written of her as truly as he did write of Rome, that she is a “city of the soul.”  Rome is in ruins, but the Constitution has been so gradually and so faithfully reproduced that it requires no effort of the reason or the imagination, as the visitor enters her main cabin or paces the deck, to have a grace and realistic appreciation of the deeds of Preble and Decatur, Stewart and Hull.

            The further disposition of the Constitution rests with the navy department, subject to such revision by Congress as may be connected with the appropriations of money for whatever may bee decided upon.  The department seems at present to halt between two courses, either to “rebuild the old vessel, or to build an entirely new modern vessel to be known by the same name.”  I think that the economic argument enters with great force against the first proposal.  Such a ship can only be used as a show ship, perhaps in connection with a training school.  Fully equipped it will cost us a half million, and a large part of this swill be for sails and rigging after they have ceased to used in the navy.  The other expedient practically dooms the ship to her death; it is all very well but it is of little or no account.

            The Constitution, in my opinion, ought not to leave Boston Harbor; she belongs here so far as she has any local status.  I propose a use for her which would, as I think, pay the government more for much less money, besides being locally a great advantage to this neighborhood.  A permanent house should be provided for her upper works in the Cannon Park abreast of the dry dock.  If need be, she should be rebuilt there; it is possible, however, that she might be placed in the dry dock, and cut of at her water-line.  She would not have to be moved more than twice her length to find her permanent location in the park.  A low ship-house should be built over her of iron and glass.  Her battery should be replaced of wood upon her decks; the Naval Museum and Library, now poorly located elsewhere, would find a shelter under the same roof, and the regular religious services of the yard on  the Sabbath, should take place upon  the spar deck, besides affording accommodation for other social gatherings appropriate to the yard.


                                                                                     Edward H. Rogers.


Chelsea, Mass.



Clipping File, The Boston Globe, 1897-1972


 5 Aug 1897:  (New York Tribune Illustrated Supplement) CONSTITUTION - In bad shape; needs rebuilding.


19 Apr 1924:  State Sons of the American Revolution held its annual meeting on board; 300+ attended.  There were 30,000+ visitors to the ship in 1923.


10 Mar 1925:  PM edition.)  Boston Navy Yard this date ordered to refurbish CONSTITUTION by SecNav Wilbur.  First donation ($1) from Daniel Jennings of Boston, who was a ship's boy during the Civil War.


11 Mar 1925:  (PM.)  Excellent "as is" picture.


16 Jul 1925:  (PM.)  BPOE resolves to help raise funds.


 3 Sep 1925:  All about the Henry L. Jenks "sketch" of CONSTITUTION, said to have been done on 22 Jul 1898.


22 Nov 1925:  (AM.)  Gordon Grant to do a "portrait" of the ship.


12 Sep 1926:  (AM.)  On 11 Sep, William Ray Dillow, 5 months, was christened on board; son of Chief Gunner W. R. Dillow.


21 Oct 1926:  (AM.)  Details of relic sales as well as an available brochure.


17 Jul 1928:  (PM.)  New inner stem piece of live oak has been installed.


25 Jul 1929:  (Post.)  "About 40" Paul Revere copper bolts from the ship sold as fund raisers, each mounted on a numbered plaque.


20 Mar 1930:  (AM.)  Restoration funds blocked in the House.


 9 Jul 1930:  (AM.)  A $5 gold coin was placed under the foremast by Norman Warren Merrill (9), grandson of Captain Armistead Rust of the training ship NANTUCKET.


 1 Aug 1930:  (PM.)  "This morning" all materials taken from CONSTITUTION and not used in bonafide memorabilia was piled near the South Boston Dry Dock and burned, together with left over material from the current restoration.


 1 Feb 1931:  (AM.)  Concerns 24‑pounders made for CONSTITUTION.


15 Mar 1931:  (AM.)  A biography of Commander Louis Gulliver.


 3 Jun 1931:  (PM.)  Sails unfurled for the first time.


16 Jan 1933:  (Transcript.)  Says original bell in barn in Oswego, NY.  (More on same theme in PM Globe, 17 Jan 1933, and in Traveller, 4 May 1939.)


20 Feb 1933:  (AM.)  Reports the theft of a 24‑pdr ball at San Pedro.  Notes that a 7' ramrod and "even battle gongs" already disappeared.


 7 Apr 1933:  (AM.)  Reports bomb scare in San Francisco the preceding day; closed to visitors during the search for it.  None found.


15 Jun 1936:  (AM.)  An account of "one of a series of Summer Sunday morning services...held on board the CONSTITUTION, usually at 10" under the Navy Yard Chaplain, in cooperation with some patriotic or fraternal      organization.


30 Sep 1936:  (AM.)  A 5" hog found upon drydocking.  Ship undocked right away and the keel blocks rebuilt.


26 Sep 1937:  Guy Martin Purser, son of enlisted man Clarence L. Purser, serving in WANDANK, christened on board CONSTITUTION the previous day. (Picture.)


24 May 1939:  (Herald.)  Navy Yard Chaplain Captain Thomas B. Thompson announces 4th series of Sunday morning patriotic services.


 2 May 1940:  (AM.)  Visiting was resumed yesterday after the ship completed shifting berths; 314 do it.


21 May 1940:  (Post.)  CONSTITUTION moved from Pier 4A to Pier 1 for better security, keeping visitors from the depths of the Navy Yard.  (Move actually made on 4 Apr 1940.)


27 May 1940:  (AM.)  On the 26th, the Fleet Reserve Association held memorial services on board, and the ashes of Lieutenant Charles Franz, USN, were strewn over the harbor waters at the close of the services.


24 Aug 1940:  (AM.)  CONSTITUTION returned to commission.


25 Aug 1940:  Mentions BMC Clarence E. McBride as "second in command."


 8 Mar 1946:  (AM.)  YTB‑540, engine stuck in reverse, rammed CONSTITUTION in stern, damaging several timbers.  (Apparently during the afternoon of the 7th.)


 2 Mar 1948:  (AM.)  Log kept by Lieutenant La Vallette, Oct 1824‑Jul 1828, sold to art dealer Emily Driscoll of New York City.


16 Sep 1948:  (PM.)  Two cutlasses stolen from the ship two months earlier found on a bed in a rooming house.  Thief was a Marine WWI veteran.


17 Aug 1952:  (AM.)  Announces new visiting hours of 9:30 to 4.


21 Nov 1959:  (AM.)  XO is Chief Horace L. Turpin.


 5 May 1960:  (PM.)  A car with 4 Marines went over the log obstruction and hit the ship, hanging itself up on a mooring line.  No damage.  The turnaround is to be on 20 May.


25 Jan 1962:  (NY Times.)  Journal of Midshipman Langley (in ship under Talbot) bought by John F. Fleming, a dealer, of 322 E. 57th St., NYC.


 4 Apr 1982:  (AM.)  On the 3rd, a piledriver installing pilings for the new visitor access pier next to CONSTITUTION caught fire and scared everyone.  No damage to the ship.


18 Jun 1970:  (PM.)  The turnaround cruise was this date.


24 Jun 1971:  (AM.)  The turnaround yesterday had a female stowaway ‑‑ Ruby Litinsky, city editor of the Peabody (MA) Times ‑‑ in disguise, but spotted by CO from the rear by her walk; ousted.  (Good picture of girl.)


15 Jun 1972:  (AM.)  Baseball hero Carl Yastrzemski made this year's turnaround with his son, Michael. 



Extracts From The Boston Naval Shipyard News. 1959‑1972



 9 May 1949  General Jonathan M. Wainwright visited the ship on 23 April.


 4 Jul 1949  Ship "undergoing extensive repairs."  $75,000.  "...the first large‑scale work on the ship since 1927‑28..."  8% of ship now still original: including keel, some bottom timbers.  Thomas Murray, master woodworker, first worked  on her in 1906; master rigger Joseph McDonald had worked on her in the '20's.  One picture.


17 Aug 1949  SS KENYON VICTORY "just" unloaded six Douglas fir timbers from Oregon's Shepard and Morse Sawmill, which also provided similar timbers for the ship, 1927‑31.  Timbers are for bowsprit; also to be replaced:        jibboom, mizzen topmast, fore yard, mast caps, and "sections of the foremast."  Overhaul to be completed "within the coming 12 months."


 7 Nov 1949  A picture of the old bowsprit being removed.


25 Dec 1949  Secretary of the Navy Francis P. Matthews visited the ship on 8 December.


30 Jan 1950  Picture of spar timbers.  Ship to get new main topsail yard, main topgallant mast, spanker boom, gaff, jibboom, and flying jibboom.


27 Mar 1950  Five pictures show "coop" being removed.  Had been placed aboard "in prewar days."  New spars to be added.


10 Apr 1950  Warrant Officer Knud H. Christenson relieved Chief Warrant Officer L. E. Wood as Captain in a ceremony "held aboard CONSTELLATION to avoid holding up the heavy flow of visitors..."  Picture of the two, as well as one of new rigging in preparation.


19 May 1950  Open 9 to 4 daily.


 5 Jun 1950  Picture of a new yard being made.


17 Jul 1950  Picture of fore yard in the making.


11 Sep 1950  Picture of sailors in early uniforms, made by the Sail Loft, during yard's 150th birthday week.  A picture of master woodworker Murray and old cathead.


28 Mar 1952  Picture of Rear Admiral John L. McCrea relieving Rear Admiral Hewlett  Thebaud on board on 29 Feb.


 9 May 1952  Picture of visitors going aboard.


16 Apr 1953  A picture of the Easter service at 0515.  Sermon by Methodist Bishop John Wesley Lord.


30 Apr 1953  Mainmast removed for repairs.  Two pictures, including Lieutenant (junior grade) Messier, CO.


11 Jun 1953  Twenty crewmen gave blood on 26 May to help mother of shipmate QM2 J. Briggs of Brookline.


17 Mar 1967  Easter service to be held on board CONSTITUTION at 0630 26 Mar, the Reverend Paul E. Town of Park Street Church officiating.  To be broadcast on WBZ.  Primarily for military and families.


18 Aug 1972  Picture of "Old Ironsides Friends."