The United States Navy’s three-masted frigate USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides,” is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.
In March 1794 Congress passed a naval act that called for the construction of a half-dozen frigates — the 44-gun frigates Constitution, United States, and President and the 36-gun frigates Congress, Constellation, andChesapeake. The Constellation, launched in 1797, was the first of the US Navy’s original six frigates to go to sea, in June 1798.
Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the Navy’s capital ships, larger and more heavily armed than the standard run of frigate. Humphreys had two criteria to satisfy, to out gun the next rate ship and to out-sail adversaries. Humphreys understood that optimization of the two criteria became mutually exclusive when building a hull. Combining the weight of the guns and…
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