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Happy Birthday, Old Ironsides!

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Old Ironsides, we know that you were born the USS Constitution and that you were first launched in 1797. But it was today, August 19, in 1812, that you became Old Ironsides after your victory in the War of 1812 against Great Britain. You were barely a teenager, but you defeated five British warships, including HMS Guerriere.

Old Ironsides, you held your own when the USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere collided. You continued firing during the war-filled entanglement, and you left battle intact, but your enemy's boat dismasted. The British surrendered afterward, and the American public adopted your popular name, Old Ironsides.

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Old Ironsides retired from warship service in 1881, but continued to sail as a receiving ship for the next 26 years.
A view of the frigate Constitution (Old Ironsides), Philadelphia,
circa 1880. From United States in Stereo: In the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views. The New York Public Library, Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

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In 1907, Old Ironsides became a museum ship. For her 200th birthday in 1997, Old Ironsides sailed without assistance in celebration.
Warships and Old Ironsides, Navy Yard, Charlestown, Mass. circa
1900-1910. Detroit Publishing Company, Postcards in the Leonard Lauder
Postcard Collection, The New York Public Library, Photography Collection,
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

See more classic photos from NYPL's Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs at the Digital Gallery.