Joseph Severe Emile Beland’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, 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.
Joseph Severe Emile Beland of Florida, a Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, served on board USS Constitution from 1932 to 1934. Beland gathered newspaper clippings, programs, and articles together in a scrapbook to memorialize his experience on Constitution during the second half of the National Cruise. Particularly notable is a booklet titled “Cachets of The U.S. Frigate Constitution Pacific Coast Cruise 1933-34,” which contains postal cachets from every port Constitution visited along the West Coast, as well as arrival and departure details, visitation numbers, and docking information for every port.