Constitution as a National Symbol

Constitution emerged from the War of 1812 as a national symbol, much as we think of the Statue of Liberty or the Liberty Bell today. Artists have long depicted the Ship with that legacy in mind. Print out or project these images of Constitution and discuss with your students the point of view the artist has taken. How have they glorified her? Do they think the British would have taken the same point of view? 

Reading Symbols

Upon returning home, Captain Hull was showered with praise and gifts for having led the crew to victory in the battle against HMS Guerriere. The citizens of Philadelphia honored him with a silver urn crafted by Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner that is full of symbolism. Together as a class, decode the piece to understand all the “hidden” messages the urn is trying to convey. This essay can help you lead the discussion.

Poetry and Songwriting: Working with Primary Sources

This broadside (like a poster) was printed in 1812. Set to the tune of Yankee Doodle, it tells the story of a brilliant naval victory. Use the original broadside to sing along with your students. Have them try to write a song set to a familiar tune that celebrates an important moment in their own lives.

Find and Meet Jesse Williams: Returning Home Victorious Means Prize Money!

USS Constitution’s sailors returned victorious three times during the War of 1812. Sailors enjoyed their success and were awarded with extra pay called prize money. How much did they get? Introduce your students to Jesse Williams, a free black man who served aboard Constitution and later earned an extra 2 ½ years of his wages in prize money after the Battle of Lake Erie. Research with your students what the average salary of a sailor is today, and what 2 ½ times that would be. What do you think Williams did with his prize money? Learn more about Williams in his journal.

Returning Home

Huzza! HUZZA! The captain and crew of Constitution were heroes! News of their victory over Guerriere spread fast as soon as Constitution returned to Boston. So when Captain Isaac Hull stepped ashore on the first day of September, the whole city greeted him. Flags flew. Bands played. Cannons fired deafening salutes. And flowers rained down as the captain led his officers down Long Wharf, to a party at the city's finest building, the Exchange Coffee House.

Musical History: Yankee Doodle, the Star Spangled Banner and Today’s Pop

If you listen closely, many popular songs can tell you what’s happening in the world today. The same was true in 1812. The lyrics of Yankee Doodle have often been altered to fit the times and to mock a specific group of people, as they were following the battle against Guerriere. The Star Spangled Banner lyrics began as a poem written by Francis Scott Key about a battle in the War of 1812. By looking closely at the lyrics, your students can learn a lot about the situation at hand. Encourage students to explore their own music collections; can they find any songs with political opinions or that are about current events? (For examples of music and lyrics with history/political opinions, here are some examples: American Soldier by Toby Keith, Where is the Love? by Black Eyed Peas, The Spirit of '43 by Disney, One by Metallic, Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2, The Ballad of the Green Berets by Sgt. Barry Sadler, Imagine by John Lennon.