The USS Constitution Museum invites visitors to a conversation with the crew who sailed “Old Ironsides” for the first time in 116 years.
USS Constitution underwent a major restoration between 1992 and 1996 which refurbished her to the most historically accurate state of the 20th century. With “Old Ironsides’” keel straightened and hull significantly strengthened, Commander Michael C. Beck’s vision to sail her became a possibility.
Constitution could set up to 48 sails, however, for this historic sail the ship was equipped with only her “Fighting Sail”—the six sails used leading into battle. Funding for these sails came from public contributions through the “Old Ironsides” Pennies Campaign, modeled after the original Penny Campaign of the 1920s when school children across America donated pennies to the restoration of USS Constitution.
Thanks to the generosity of students and citizens across the United States the 1990s campaign purchased sails for “Old Ironsides” and on July 21, 1997 USS Constitution sailed under her own power for the first time since 1881.