The USS Constitution, one of the Navy’s original six frigates as well as its oldest commissioned warship—will celebrate the 225th anniversary of her launching on 21 October.
Of those original six ships that marked the birth of the U.S. Navy—the United States, Constellation, Constitution, Congress, Chesapeake, and President—the Constitution, aka “America’s Ship of State,” is the sole survivor. Their construction was authorized in the legislation entitled “An Act to Provide a Naval Armament.”
Signed by President George Washington on 27 March 1794, “An Act to Provide a Naval Armament” allowed for the purchase or building of six warships. The decision to build six sailing frigates established the U.S. Navy, which defended the vital trade of the American merchant fleet on oceans around the world.
The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) last spring proclaimed 10 May as “U.S. Navy Original Six Frigates Day,” during an event held at the National Museum of the United States Navy. That date marked the 225th anniversary of the launch of the United States, first of the six frigates to be completed.
“The launch of the first six frigates was a significant moment in both U.S. Navy and American History,” said NHHC Deputy Director Patrick C. Burns. “It’s important that we mark this 225th anniversary—some of our country’s earliest heroes, achievements, and traditions are part of the six frigates’ story.”
The 225th anniversary of the Constitution’s launching this October resonates all the more, for the venerated ship offers modern-day visitors a tangible connection to to those long-ago days of the Navy’s creation.
“When you walk the decks of the USS Constitution, you are following some of the U.S. Navy’s greatest captains—Edward Preble, Isaac Hull, William Bainbridge, Thomas McDonough, David Dixon Porter, and George Dewey,” said Margherita M. Desy, a USS Constitution historian with NHHC Detachment Boston.
“USS Constitution is our direct link to the beginnings of the U.S. Navy. Commemorating the 225th anniversary of the launchings of the six original frigates provides an opportunity to reexamine and appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of the men, and now women, who have, and continue to, sail the world, keeping sea lanes free for all.”