Letter from Rachel Bradford to Elias Boudinot, September 26, 1797
The construction of USS Constitution, one of the United States Navy’s original six frigates, was completed at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s North End under the direction of Naval Constructor George Claghorn. On September 20, 1797, Claghorn prepared to launch the heavy ship from dry land into Boston Harbor. As crowds of Bostonians and dignitaries gathered in the shipyard, the heavy frigate inched forward, became stuck on the launching ways, and refused to budge. A second attempt made September 22 also failed, much to Claghorn’s chagrin.
Among the crowd of onlookers was Rachel (Budd) Bradford, widow of the printer William Bradford, who recounted the events in a letter to Elias Boudinot, a lawyer in Philadephia, Pennsylvania. Bradford observed that Claghorn “actually appeared to have lost flesh in eight and forty hours, from mortification and vexation.”
Shipyard workers labored to increase the angle of the ways and, at high tide on October 21, 1797, Constitution at last floated into the harbor.