Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Old Ironsides Visits Norfolk-1931

This is a 1931 photograph of the legendary frigate USS Constitution in the Elizabeth River.  "Old Ironsides" docked in Norfolk for one week in September.  She berthed at the "Old Indian Wharf," near the Berkley Bridge.  She then sailed to Yorktown for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown.The last time Constitution docked in Norfolk was in 1838 when Commodore Jesse Elliot brought the ship and several dozen Arabian horses, cattle, donkeys, and antiquities home from a Mediterranean cruise. 

The 1931 call was part of a national "thank you" tour.   Because Congress was unwilling to appropriate public funds to restore Constitution in the 1920s (it was in the process of gutting the Navy as a whole), the Navy solicited private donations.  Through  a series of creative funding raising methods done across the United States, $600,000 was raised.

Norfolk Mayor Jeff E. Robertson (at right) pretends (we think) to
give a sample of grog to Norfolk City Attorney John Sebrell, while
on board Constitution.  It looks like the picture was taken in jest,
 as Prohibition was still in effect.
Fundraisers still fell short of their goals, though.  Congress eventually decided to appropriate an additional $300,000 to make up the difference. To thank the American public for its financial and political support of Constitution, Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams arranged for a three-year, coast-to-coast tour for the frigate.  More pictures of Constitution's visit to Norfolk can be found at the Norfolk Public Library's website.   

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