Franciezek “Frank” Prusz’s National Cruise Scrapbook
On July 2, 1931, USS Constitution and a crew of 81 sailors, officers, and Marines set off on a three-year, three-coast tour around the United States. This National Cruise was a public “thank you” to the men, women, and children who, from 1925-1930, donated monies and materials to support the 1927 restoration. School children across the country contributed pennies, nickels, and dimes toward a fund that eventually raised $154,000 for “Old Ironsides.”
Constitution, towed by the minesweeper USS Grebe, stopped at over 70 ports along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the United States. The crews of Constitution and Grebe were hailed as honored guests in these ports, and invited to parties and dances, dinners with local politicians and dignitaries, sporting events, and festivals. In return, the crew gave talks and lectures, made public appearances, and performed radio dramatizations of “Old Ironsides’” most famous battles to reach as large an audience as possible.
Several crewmembers created scrapbooks to memorialize this once-in-a-lifetime trip. They gathered postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, invitations, medals, postal cachets, hatband tallies, and even local brewery labels, and carefully pasted them into commemorative albums. These scrapbooks not only provide documentation of Constitution‘s activities in the early 1930s, but also offer historical and cultural insights into America’s Great Depression.
Like many old scrapbooks created from poor-quality paper and a diversity of materials, this album was in danger of crumbling and being lost forever. Thanks to funding provided by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, this remarkable scrapbook was professionally conserved and digitized to stabilize the materials, prevent further damage, and make the contents accessible to researchers worldwide.
Franciezek “Frank” Prusz of Worcester, Massachusetts was only 18 years old when he joined Constitution, and this scrapbook is a vivid record of his experiences during the National Cruise. In this album, he documents life aboard ship from the crew’s perspective. Many photographs show his friends in the crew (many labeled with nicknames) and their activities both on and off the ship, including climbing the masts, napping on the deck, and sightseeing in different ports of call. Prusz also saved booklets on the history of “Old Ironsides,” postcards, stamps, tickets and passes, beer bottle labels, and memorabilia from various ports.