Her “birth” had been complicated and was for some a matter of serious foreboding. The great event had been scheduled for the morning of 20 September 1797 and was supposed to be a cause for great celebration. Dignitaries—including President John Adams and Massachusetts Governor Increase Sumner—were joined by large throngs of people to witness the launching of the great frigate at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in the North End of Boston. Numerous receptions and celebratory meals were planned, and a play entitled “The Launch” was scheduled for debut that evening at the Haymarket Theatre.
Many more than a thousand trees had been sacrificed to conceive this 1,200-ton blend of hard labor and expert craftsmanship. Like most newborns, her beauty was really only in the eye of the beholder. Without the towering masts and webs of rigging that give tall ships their striking elegance, only the decorative figurehead and the sun glinting off her coppered bottom gave promise of the day when she would steal the breath from admiring men.