The U.S.F. Constitution at sea signed and dated lower left: "James G. Tyler/1918" oil on canvas 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm.)
The U.S.F. Constitution is a three-masted frigate of the United States Navy. Named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America, she is the world's oldest floating commissioned naval vessel. Launched in 1797, Constitution was one of six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. Joshua Humphreys designed the frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so Constitution and her sisters were larger and more heavily built and armed than standard frigates of the period. Built in Boston, Massachusetts at Edmund Hartt's shipyard, her first duties with the newly formed United States Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. During the War of 1812 she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships: H.M.S. Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane and Levant. The battle with Guerriere earned her the nickname of Old Ironsides when the crew saw cannon balls bouncing off her hull. During the American Civil War she served as a training ship for the United States Naval Academy. She was retired from active service in 1881, she served as a receiving ship until designated a museum ship in 1907. In 1931 she started a three-year 90-port tour of the nation, and in 1997 she finally sailed again under her own power for her 200th birthday.