Boston, Massachusetts

USS Constitution
"Old Ironsides"
Friday, October 1, 1999

In 1794, when the Constitution and five other frigates were authorized, the new United States of America had been without a Navy for nine years. During those years the nation's economy depended upon, and was nurtured by, seaborne commerce with peoples around the world. Those of our merchants who traded in the Mediterranean found it increasingly more difficult to conduct business because of the attacks of the Barbary (North African) pirates who knew there was no U. S. Navy to stop them. Finally, on March 27, 1794, Congress passed a bill to establish the U. S. Navy that we know today.

Photos by Pat Tyler

USS Constitution Statistics:



2200 tons

Length Overall:


204 billet head to taffrail
175 at waterline

Beam (Width):


43 ft., 6 in.



22 ft., 6 in.

Foremast Height:


198 ft.

Mainmast Height:


220 ft.

Mizzenmast Height:


172 ft., 6 in.

Sail Area:


42,710 sq. ft.



13+ knots


450 including
55 Marines
and 30 Boys


Owen Tyler stands beside the
hand-carved gate to the gangway.


32 - 24 pounder Long Guns:


Crew: 6 to 14
Range: 1200 yards
Weight: 5600 lbs.

20 - 32 pounder Carronades:


Crew: 4 to 9
Range: 400 yards
Weight: 2200 lbs.

2 - 24 pounder bow Chasers:


Range: 1000 yards

Today the USS Constitution rests at her moorings on a dock at the Charlestown Navy Yard with the Boston skyline in the background.

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This page last modified August 31, 2000.