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The USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides and the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat in the world, launched from Boston Harbor on Oct. 21, 1797. The wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate was one of six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794 and the third constructed. Joshua Humphreys designed the frigates to be the young American Navy’s capital ships, and so Constitution and her sisters ships were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period. Her first duties were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. The vessel was retired from active service in 1881 and served as a receiving ship until being designated a museum ship in 1907. In 1934, she completed a three-year, 90-port tour of the nation. She sailed under her own power for her 200th birthday in 1997, and again in August 2012 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her victory over the HMS Guerriere.
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