On Wednesday, June 3, 2015, Constitution‘s late 19th-century galley stove, also known as a “camboose,” was removed from the forward gun deck in preparation for the stove’s de-leading and repairs.
The iron stove was probably installed in the 1872-1877 rebuild in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Used when Constitution sailed to France carrying the United States exhibits for the Exposition Universalle in Paris from 1878-79 and later when she sailed as a training ship until 1881, it was the operational galley stove for all meals on board.
When photographed by Thomas E. Marr in the late 19th century, Constitution‘s galley stove exhibited a multiplicity of ovens, burners, and damper vents. At the time it was installed, this would have been a modern ship’s stove capable of cooking enough meals to feed several hundred men daily.
In the 1906-1907 restoration of Constitution, the 1870s galley stove was altered to better represent a stove from the era of the War of 1812. As seen in the photograph below, the multiple burners have been cut away and a replica triangular hood has been installed.
This photo shows further adaptation of the stove with the installation of the grating in the “hearth”. This was all in an attempt to make the stove look more historically accurate to the early 19th century.
In the photo below, showing the back of the stove, the built-in boilers are located above the two circular ports in center of the back panel. The boilers are where water could be heated or stews could be made.
For Constitution‘s National Cruise of 1931-1934, a modern cast-iron Shipmate stove was installed in the “hearth” end of the stove to feed the 81 officers, Marines, and sailors on board.
That same stove has been exhibited aboard Constitution. In the 1974 restoration, the Shipmate stove from the National Cruise was removed and the black and white crane arm, visible in the photo below, was installed. There it stayed, as seen below, until it’s removal in June 2015 for repairs.
On June 3, 2015, the stove, weighing 5,300 pounds, was hoisted by crane through the main hatch and lowered onto Pier 2 in the Charlestown Navy Yard.
The stove was transported to the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston facilities adjacent to Dry Dock 1, where it currently sits awaiting repairs.
Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command
Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.
Manager of Curatorial Affairs, USS Constitution Museum
Kate Monea is the Manager of Curatorial Affairs at the USS Constitution Museum.