Constitution has called the Charlestown Navy Yard home since 1897.  Today, half a million people visit her as she lays comfortably at her berth on Pier 1.  She sticks out like a sore thumb, a black and white relict from an earlier age.

In the early 20th century, however, the ship seemed less out of place.  To be sure, her graceful lines would never blend in with the steel hulls of destroyers and battle cruisers, but those Dreadnought descendants still had a certain jauntiness and elegance to their lines that our modern warships completely lack.

The museum recently acquired a collection of glass plate negatives created by the skillful and prolific photographer Leslie Jones.  He worked for the Boston Herald-Traveler between 1917 and 1956 and his photograph collection (now mostly housed at the Boston Public Library) provides an incredible look at life in and around Boston during those years.  He seems to have especially adored Constitution, because he snapped hundreds of photos of her over the years.

Here we see Constitution as just one more Navy ship in a Navy Yard full of them.  Here’s a selection of some of the best photos.

Constitution alongside the pier, in the midst of a destroyer squadron sometime between May 1926 and June 1927.  The four destroyers are of the Clemson-class, and include USS Sturtevant (DD 240) and USS Childs (DD 241).  The receiving ship behind Constitution is USS Southery (IX 26). [USS Constitution Museum Collection, 2269.5]
Another view of the same scene.  Note the floating crane in the left foreground. [USS Constitution Museum Collection, 2269.28]
In this particularly artful shot, civilian workers mount one of Constitution’s newly-cast 24-pounders on the gundeck in 1930. [USS Constitution Museum Collection, 2269.13]
Constitution, newly restored and with sails bent to the yards, leaves Boston for her three-year, 22,000-mile “National Cruise” in July 1931.  Her tender, USS Grebe, can be seen peeking out from behind the frigate’s bow. [USS Constitution Museum Collection, 2269.22]

The Author(s)

Matthew Brenckle
Research Historian, USS Constitution Museum

Matthew Brenckle was the Research Historian at the USS Constitution Museum from 2006 to 2016.