Rare and Important Naval Broadside
Fine early image of the U.S. Constitution, noteworthy for its detailed and accurate depiction of the ship’s rigging.
One of six frigates authorized to be built by Congress in 1794, the Constitution was built at the Hartt's Navy Yard in Boston and launched in October 1797. During the War of 1812, the naval ship became known as “Old Iron Sides, ” because cannon balls of other ships bounced off her thick oak sides without significant damage.
The image is based upon an original drawing by William Lynn, which was engraved Abel Bowen in about 1812. This is the only large-scale engraving by Abel Bowen. The ship and water are engraving and the sky is aquatint.
The Constitution's victory over the H.M.S. Guerriere in August 1812 proved immensely popular in Boston. Soon after the frigate's return to Boston with her British prisoners, 500 "respectable citizens of both parties" formed a procession from the Exchange Coffee House to Faneuil Hall where Commodore Hull was the guest of honor at a celebratory dinner. Bowen most likely produced this image in the immediate wake of that victory. Grolier Club, United States Navy, 214; Stauffer, 233.
The Constitution was in active combat service for more than 100 years, and is currently a floating museum in the Boston Navy Yard. Still listed as an official vessel of the United States Navy, the Constitution is still sailed once a year.
"Tribute to American Gallantry," The Repertory & General Advertiser, Boston, 8 Sept. 1812, p. 2