MIGHTY CULTURE
Ellen Ioanes

The US Navy just threw a birthday cruise for its 222-year-old warship

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

A 222nd birthday is quite a milestone, and the USS Constitution celebrated in style on Oct. 18, 2019. A cruise through Boston Harbor showed off Old Ironsides, the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, according to the National Parks Service.

Although the ship isn't engaged in warfighting anymore, it hosts visitors as an historic site, along with the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Read on to learn more about the USS Constitution's history.


The Constitution started construction in 1794, and first set sail Oct. 21, 1797.

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution's birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

She was built in Boston as one of the US Navy's first six warfighting ships after the United States gained independence. The Constitution was first engaged during a dispute between the US and France called the Quasi-War, which took place between 1798 and 1800, according to the US Historian.

It wasn't until the War of 1812 that she earned her nickname.

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution's birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

The War of 1812 involved the US in a trade dispute between Britain and France, which later spiraled into a conflict over national sovereignty, territorial control, and westward expansion by the US.

But during the conflict, the Constitution's hull was apparently so strong — like iron — that enemy fire couldn't penetrate, earning the nickname "Old Ironsides."

The Constitution still has a full crew, which maintains the ship.

The Constitution got underway to celebrate the ship's 222nd birthday and the Navy's 244th Birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The ship maintains an active-duty commander and crew, who keep the vessel and its gear ship-shape and give tours to members of the public.

Source: US Navy

The Constitution attempted to launch into Boston Harbor twice — and failed — before it succeeded on October 21, 1797.

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

Source: USS Constitution Museum

After her lengthy service and legendary survivability in the War of 1812, rumors began to circulate in the 1830s that Old Ironsides would be retired.

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the poem "Old Ironsides" to stir public sentiment to save her, according to the USS Constitution Museum. She remained in service until 1853, and was converted into a naval school ship between 1857 and 1860.

In 1925, US school children raised $154,000 to restore the Constitution.

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution's birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

Source: USS Constitution Museum

She was designated the US's Ship of State in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.

The Constitution cruised around Boston Harbor on October 18, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Samoluk)

Source: USS Constitution Museum

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.