Construction of the vessel began in 1795 at Hartt Shipyard in Boston following the design of Joshua Humphrey from Philadelphia. The CONSTITUTION was launched in October 1797 and was completed in 1798.
She was armed with 44 cannons, including 30 long-barrelled 24-pounders.
In the war between England and France (1812-1814) the CONSTITUTION led a successful engagement against the frigates GUERRIERE (with 38 cannons) and JAVA. Her last wartime voyage was in February 1815.
On l3th May 1821 the CONSTITUTION became the flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron. In July 1828 she was due to be taken provisionally out of service and the government then decided that she should be scrapped. However, the poem "Old Ironsides" by Oliver W. Holmes successfully made the case for the frigate's preservation.
Between 1833-1834 she was given a major overhaul and in 1848 sailed to the Mediterranean Sea where she was visited by Pope Pius IX. He thus became the first pope ever to set foot on the American territory.
During the years 1855 to 1931 the ship was almost completely rebuilt on three occasions at a total cost of around 200,000 dollars.
On 2nd July 1931, after her last refurbishment, she began a three year voyage under tow, during which she called at 90 American ports and received 4,614,792 visitors on board. Since 1934 the CONSTITUTION has been moored in the port of Boston. She is the flagship of the Commander of the First Naval District and therefore the oldest warship still in active service anywhere in the world. Once a year the frigate is turned around in Boston harbour with appropriate ceremony in order to change the weather side and avoid its constant exposition to bad weather.