Wooden Quill Pen and Letter from Samuel A. Allen to John McCarty, June 17, 1862
On Bunker Hill Day, June 17, 1862, Samuel Allen of Cambridge, Massachusetts sent a small parcel containing a wooden quill pen and accompanying letter to his friend John McCarty. Allen was in a reflective mood that day. All over Boston parades and speeches commemorated the first great battle of the American Revolution. Allen’s mind wandered instead to the War of 1812, when the U.S. Navy first proved its strength. “In that little group of sea-warriors stood first & foremost the Frigate ‘Constitution’,” Allen wrote to his friend. “The pet of Boston, the pride of the Sea-dogs of our national flotilla.” He clearly harbored a deep reverence for the “Sainted Ship.”
In 1833, having laid in ordinary for many years, Constitution was in great need of repair. The ship entered the newly built dry dock in the Charlestown Navy Yard on June 24, 1833 and underwent an extensive rebuild that included replacing much of the top timbers, hull planking, and copper sheathing. The ship left dry dock on June 21, 1834 after 358 days. During this time, Allen took it upon himself to procure “some of her original timber of live oak & white oak” as mementos of “Old Ironsides.” With his own hands, Allen whittled an “imitation of a goose quill” from USS Constitution’s wood and sent it, along with a storage box, to his friend nearly 30 years later.