PBS History Detectives Embark USS Constitution

Story Number: NNS100319-14Release Date: 3/19/2010 1:28:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Frank E. Neely, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) began film production aboard USS Constitution March 10, as part of an episode they're producing for the television series "History Detectives."

This episode will examine whether or not a wooden piece resembling a mouth and chin was part of a sculpture of Andrew Jackson's head. The figurehead was once affixed to Constitution's bow.

"The story of the Andrew Jackson figurehead is a compelling part of Constitution's history," said Cmdr. Timothy M. Cooper, 71st in command of Constitution. "I am eager to see what conclusion the History Detectives reach as a result of their research and time with us."

According to PBS, vandals removed the figurehead from Constitution during a protest in the 1830's. In 1975, a collector traded some duck decoys for what was inside a Sunbeam electric iron box. Inside the box, wrapped in sheepskin, was a mouth and chin carved out of wood. Articles and a letter at the bottom of the box say this mouth was part of a figurehead of Jackson.

The figurehead once affixed to Constitution's bow, which is missing a mouth and chin, was eventually picked up by Museum of the City of New York. It remains there today.

"After having seen the lips in person, it certainly is possible that the lips could be from the Andrew Jackson figurehead," said Margherita M. Desy, historian, Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston. "And unless there's some reason to distrust the old handwritten label on the back, I don't have any other information that would contradict the story of the family that currently owns the lips."

History Detectives is a PBS series where history investigators crisscross the country, delving into legends, folklore and personal histories to discover potentially extraordinary objects in everyday American homes, cities and small towns.

"This is an outstanding episode," said Pat Kruis of History Detectives. "The sculpture allows us to tell the little known story of the animosity between a faction of people from Boston and their then president, Andrew Jackson. This is History Detectives at its best."

Kruis added that this episode will be part of season eight of History Detectives beginning June 8, but the exact date the episode will be aired is unknown at this time.

Constitution is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard of Boston Harbor. She is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year.

For more information about Constitution, visit http://www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/.

For more news from USS Constitution, visit www.navy.mil/local/constitution/.

USS Constitution is towed from her mooring at Boston National Historical Park and turned around in Boston Harbor during a major three-year restoration.
Official U.S. Navy file photo.
February 22, 2010
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