The oldest ship in the United States Navy (and one of the oldest in the world) is the iconic USS Constitution. The USS constitution is a three-masted wooden-hulled heavy frigate of the US Navy and is one of the first warships to have ever entered American service.

She is one of the world's oldest ships of any type still afloat (although the still-commissioned HMS Victory in the UK is older). She is one of the most interesting and historical naval museums in the United States that one can visit today. Also in Massachusetts is the replica of the Mayflower that brought the first pilgrims to the United States which is also open to the public.

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The 6 Original Frigates

She was authorized under the Naval Act of 1794 that called for the six original frigates for the fledging US Navy and was launched in 1797.

  • Authorized: Under The Naval Act of 1794
  • Original Frigates: She Was One of The Six Original Frigates For The US Navy

The six original frigates were part of a plan to build a fleet of frigates that would be powerful enough to engage any of the British or French figures but fast enough to evade the more powerful ships of the line (like the HMS Victory).

The frigates were the USS Chesapeake, the USS Constitution, the USS President, the USS United States, the USS Congress, and the USS Constellation.

Of these, the USS United States was scuttled by Confederate forces but raised and scrapped after the war. The USS Chesapeake was captured and taken into service by the Royal Navy. The USS President was also captured by the Royal Navy and taken into British service as the HMS President.

  • Fate of the Orginal Fridges: 2 Lost, 3 Retired, 1 In-Service

Related: Touring The Lady Washington: The Rea-Life "HMS Interceptor" From Pirates Of The Caribbean

The Distinguished Careers of The USS Constitution

But of the frigates, it was the USS Constitution that served with a very distinguished career. Her first duties were to protect American merchant shipping in the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates.

But she is most noted for her excellent actions in the War of 1812. She managed to capture numerous merchant ships and defeat an amazing five Royal Navy warships - the HMS Levant, Cyane, Pictou, Java, and Guerriere. 

It was her dance with death with HMS Guerriere that earned her the name "Old Ironsides" and has ensured her preservation ever since. She circumvented the world in the 1840s and served as a Union training ship in the American Civil War.

  • Nickname: Old Ironsides

Today she remains a fully commissioned Navy ship with a crew of 75 officers and sailors who participate in ceremonies. Her mission is now to promote understanding of the Navy's role in war and peace by being a museum.

  • Crew: All Her Crew are Active-Duty Navy Personnel
  • Location: She Is Usually Berthed At Pier 1 At The End of Boston's Freedom Trail

Related: How To Get The Most Out Of A Historical Visit To The Pearl Harbor Museum & Memorial

Visiting The USS Constitution

She is open year-round and provides free tours. Next time one is in Boston be sure to visit this historic ship of the US navy. If one can't make it to Boston, then there are virtual tours Mondays at 1 pm and Sundays for morning or evening colors.

  • Days Open: Open For Public Tours Wednesday through Sunday
  • Hours: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
  • Closed: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • Basis: First-Come, First-Served
  • Security: Note That One must Pass Through Security Screening and Who ID To Embark on the USS Constitution

She is kept at the Navy Yard and is one of two ships on display. One will also see USS Cassin Young. The USS Cassin Young is a World War 2 Fletcher-class destroyer moored just across from the USS Constitution. She is one of only four surviving Fletch-class destroyed and was launched in 1943. She saw action in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Battle of Okinawa, and was reactivated for the Korean War.

  • Navy Yard Ships: USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young

Come abroad the venerated USS Constitution, meet the active-duty sailors, and then go deeper into her history at the nearby USS Constitution Museum. While admission to the USS Constitution herself is free, access to the museum has a suggested admission fee.

USS Constitution Museum:

  • Hours: Open Daily | 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Cost: Suggested Admission of $10 – $15 for Adults and $5 – $10 for Children

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Visiting the USS Constitution is a fun family activity that all can enjoy. It is an activity that combines enjoyment with education. It will be a big win with the kids! It tells the story of the earliest days of the US Navy that would go on to become the indisputably most powerful navy in the world as it is today.

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Next: Why Visiting NYC's Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is A Must