All Hands on Deck: Learning Adventures Aboard Old Ironsides
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Books and Articles

  • Amongst My Best Men: African Americans and the War of 1812, by Gerard T. Altoff. 1996. Ohio, Put-In-Bay: The Perry Group. A study of blacks in the military in the early years of our nation.
  • Black Jacks—African American Seamen in the Age of Sail, by W. Jeffrey Bolster. 1997. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Defines early African American history as maritime history; highlights how common experiences drew black and white sailors together and documents how the meaning of race aboard ship changed over time.
  • Building the Wooden Fighting Ship, by James Dodds and James Moore. 1984. New York: Facts on File Publications. Wonderful drawings of shipyard tools and precise descriptions of how they were used, as well as materials and design details related to wooden shipbuilding.
  • Creating a Legend, by Tyrone G. Martin. 1997. Chapel Hill: Tryon Publishing. Covers the authoriza- tion, design, construction and launching of the ship.
  • The History of Us, The New Nation Series, by Joy Hakim. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. One of a ten volume, storyteller’s history of our nation, written for young people ages 9-99.
  • Live Oaking: Southern Timber for Tall Ships, by Virginia Steele Wood. 1995. Reprint. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. Thorough investigation of the importance of southern timber in the building of tall ships, including Constitution.
  • Little Book of Early American Crafts and Trades, edited by Peter Stockham. 1976. New York: Dover Publications Inc. One of the earliest 19th century books of trades, originally published in 1807 as The Book of Trades, with descriptions of jobs and skills, such as those of the shipwright, carpenter and potter.
  • The Making of A Sailor (or Sea Life Aboard a Yankee Square Rigger), by Frederick Pease Harlow. 1988. New York: Dover Publications Inc. A gripping, first person narrative of sea life aboard a deep water ship.
  • A Most Fortunate Ship, A Narrative History of “Old Ironsides”, by Tyrone G. Martin. 1997, Revision. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. Perhaps the most complete of Constitution’s biographies, written by a naval officer who served as her captain; Martin makes you feel as if you were there.
  • “Old Ironsides” - Americans Build a Fighting Ship, by David Weitzman. 1997. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Illustrated book following a young boy (John Aylwin) as he watches and helps build Constitution.
  • So Proudly She Sailed — Tales of “Old Ironsides”, by Olga Cabral. 1981. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. The story of “Old Ironsides” from the vantage point of fictional men and boys who served upon her decks. Connects Constitution to the American Revolution and the Civil War; with many drawings to convey her life story to young readers.
  • Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections Man-of-War, by Stephen Biesty and Richard Platt. 1993. New York: Dorling Kindersley Books. Captivating details in the labels of drawings that show the insides and outsides of a ship-of-the-line, ancestor of the modern battleship.
  • The Story of “Old Ironsides”, by Norman Richards. 1967. Chicago: Children’s Press. Illustrated by Tom Dunnington. Grades 4-6. Constitution’s story from the Barbary corsairs to her retirement in a simple, engaging style.
  • “‘To Feel like a Man’: Black Seamen in the Northern States, 1800-1860,” by W. Jeffrey Bolster. March, 1990. Journal of American History. A complete, engaging report of the lives of blacks within the seafaring culture.
  • USS Constitution. September 1997 issue of Cobblestone Magazine. Peterborough, New Hampshire: Cobblestone Publishing. History magazine for young people. This issue is devoted exclusively to USS Constitution and the USS Constitution Museum. To order, call 1-800-821-0115, or
  • White Jacket or the World in a Man of War, by Herman Melville. 1988, reprint (paperback) of 1850 text. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and Newberry Library, 3rd printing. One of the best-known chronicles of life on a man-of-war. A fictional account of life in the Navy based upon the author’s service on USS United States.

Field Trips

  • Historic sites often offer craft demonstrations which can help students understand the skills involved in making things by hand. One fascinating demonstration is how flax, the fabric of Constitution’s original suit of sails, is spun and made into cloth.
  • Do not miss the opportunity to see the Timber Framers Guild of North America in action. The Guild tackles group projects—everything from building a bridge to an old-fashioned barn rais- ing—at various sites around North America, employing the woodworkers craft of old. To find out if there is a project near you, write to P.O. Box 60, Becket, MA 01223 or phone (888) 453-0879. The e-mail address is The guild web site is at
  • Young people (and teachers) can find out for themselves about life at sea by joining programs such as those offered by the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, MA. SEA’s marine sciences- oriented programs, created in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University are three-week long summer courses for high school students. Seminars sponsored with the National Science Foundation for K-12 teachers are also offered. For more information, call (703) 292-5111.

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