This particular piece of the past has a distinct resonance for the U.S. Naval Institute; it ties us to a landmark chapter in the long saga of the Navy’s oldest commissioned ship. But while the venerable USS Constitution holds that honorific, it’s worth noting that for seven decades and more, “Old Ironsides” was decommissioned. By the 1920s, she was an aging museum ship in a sorry state of decrepitude. America came to the rescue, and between 1925 and 1930, the public raised more than $985,000 to give the historic frigate the major restoration she desperately needed. The Constitution’s rebirth was a cause célèbre throughout the land. She was recommissioned on 1 July 1931, and the very next day, amid a 21-gun salute and great fanfare, she departed Boston with a crew of 81 and a monkey named Rosie.
Pieces of the Past