U.S. Frigate Constellation Series, 1975-1980

Constellation Images, SVF

                         Browse an inventory of the 6 oral histories in this series

The U.S. Frigate Constellation Series is a collection of six interviews relating to the acquisition and restoration of the U.S. Frigate Constellation from 1955-1980.

The USS Constellation, built in 1854, is the only surviving ship from the Civil War and the last sail only warship built by the U.S Navy. It was decommissioned by the Navy in 1955 and donated to Baltimore that same year. This ship is the second U.S. Naval Vessel to carry the name Constellation; the first, constructed in 1797 at the Sterrett Shipyard in Baltimore, was dismantled in 1853 at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard in Virginia. There has been much controversy surrounding the ship's origins and identity following it’s arrival in Baltimore, with some claiming the ship docked in Baltimore's inner harbor was actually the original 1797 Constellation. Others argued that it was built using materials from the original Constellation. In the early 1990's the controversy was laid to rest when naval historians determined that the ship was indeed the 1854 Constellation.

When the Constellation arrived in Baltimore in 1955, it required a massive restoration effort to repair the rotting timbers and decaying structure. The interviews in this collection are with members of 3 groups who were involved in the acquisition and restoration process of the ship. The Star Spangled Banner Flag House Association was the original group who took on the task of restoring and maintaining the ship when it arrived in Baltimore in 1955. The group was succeeded by The Constellation Restoration Committee. This group later became the Constellation Foundation, which was also involved in a second renovation project undertaken in 1994 and completed in 1999. As of January 2012 the ship remains a tourist attraction in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Topics discussed in the interviews include: the history of the Constellation; the acquisition and restoration process; difficulties faced in funding the project; committees and individuals involved; role of the armed forces; role of the City of Baltimore in the project; the importance of the Constellation to Baltimore.

Audio recordings and transcripts are available for each of the interviews in this series along with biographical material.

To make a request to view transcripts or other materials from the U.S. Frigate Constellation Series, please contact the Special Collections Department at specialcollections@mdhs.org, or speak to the Special Collections Librarian at the desk in the library.

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