Tuesday, April 10, 2007

USS Constellation a Fraudulent Frigate!

ConstellationAccording to Wikipedia, Harborplace's USS Constellation is a fraud! It's not the first US Navy vessel to put to sea, as city plaques proclaimed to schoolchildren for 137 years, but an 1850's Navy war sloop altered to look like a 1797 frigate!
Oh, my.

A letter:

Just saw your post about the Connie. I used to work there as a shipwright. Although there are people who will swear with their dying breath that it's the Frigate Constellation built in 1797 (I'm doing this from memory, forgive me if I get the details wrong), general consensus, including the current management, is that it was a new boat built in 1854. There was some kind of Naval chicanery with the money from congress back in the 1850s—they weren't allowed to build a new boat, so they said they were restoring the old one, but they pretty much restored it out of existence. I believe there was a book written on the subject recently by a guy named Footner. During a major restoration a few decades ago, they tried to make it look like the original, and did a bunch of stuff that later had to be undone in the most recent restoration (1990s).

So Boston beats us on the oldest ship, with the Constitution, but the USS Constellation has some pretty cool history, including slave trade interdiction off the coast of Africa and running famine relief to Ireland. Seems harsh to call it a fraud, I prefer to think the people who believed it was the frigate were just misguided. One important thing—although it was altered to look like the frigate, it got altered back, so what you see there between the water taxi and the paddle boats is the 1854 sloop.

Still, when you look at memorabilia on Ebay and such, the older stuff will say "USF Constellation" with an F for Frigate, and the new stuff will say "USS Constellation" with an S for either Ship or Sloop, I can’t remember. There are any number of old armchair sailors who can talk about this for days on end. I tend to tune out after "Not the original? Okay."
More importantly, I made the mast in the middle at the very top after the last one was struck by lightning.

Chris L.
Former boatbuilder


C Love "The Rap Addict" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C Love "The Rap Addict" said...

there are quite a few wise acres on this site...so lemme restate my question more acurately:

What was the ship's commission (is that the correct word)? what was the ship crew's mission while on the USS Constellation?

I've heard rumors, but don't want to assume.

Dopple said...

According to Wikipedia the Constellation (the actual one in Baltimore) was stationed in the Mediterranean before the civil war to disrupt the slave trade, and during the civil war, fought against confederate raiders in the Mediterranean.

Later it delivered famine relief to Ireland.

Gor said...

This seems to be true. This is from an official navy website.


Anonymous said...

Wikipedia also claims that Jimmy Hoffa was raised in a gay nudist colony-- go figure.

Anonymous said...

Scratch that. I just checked Wikipedia and the Jimmy Hoffa entry has been altered since yesterday.

C Love "The Rap Addict" said...

very informative!!!

John Galt said...

C'mon, everyone knows Hoffa's in Leakin Park.

Anonymous said...

The Book in reference, USS Constellation: From Frigate to Sloop of War, is by Geoffrey Footer and can be found here:


He maintains that the ship in Baltimore is the original built in 1797, just heavily Modified.