jump to navigation

Otis House August 1, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

I recently visited the Otis House in Boston. This museum focuses on a house in Bowdoin Square and its surprising adaptability over a 200-year period.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Harrison Gray Otis and his wife, Sally, were the first owners of the Otis House. Harrison Otis held many prominent political offices, including that of Mayor of Boston; he served in both houses of the Massachusetts state legislature, and he even had a stint in the U.S. Senate. He was also quite skilled with the pianoforte and was an amateur composer. Sally Otis was a prominent Boston socialite who was known for hosting elaborate parties that were praised throughout the city. She was also quite skilled with the harp and had eleven children.

2. Bowdoin Square underwent a radical transformation after the Otis House was built in the late 1700s. The three hills that marked the Boston skyline at that time – Beacon Hill, Pemberton Hill and Mount Vernon – were reduced in height; thankfully Tremont Street commemorates their former grandeur. Cambridge Street itself has been widened several times over the past 200 years; at one point the Otis House was moved back about 40 feet from the street. The surrounding neighborhood evolved from a quiet, upper-class residential area to a bustling commercial zone with many working-class residents; this stemmed from the construction of the West Boston Bridge, which connected Boston and Cambridge.

3. The noted architect, Charles Bulfinch, designed the Otis House. Bulfinch was influenced by the Federal style of architecture and imbued its characteristic symmetry in the house. For example, each of the windows in the dining room and the drawing room was directly opposed by a matching door; in fact, several false doors were installed for this purpose. Interestingly, one aspect of Bulfinch’s design – where second-floor windows extended to the floor – was modified by Harrison Otis.

The museum contains a neat collection of period-era furniture, and the museum staff made a reasonable effort to replicate its original configuration. The tour guide was also extremely informative and friendly; I particularly enjoyed the questions that the other visitors posed, including one query that allowed the tour guide to explain the 18th-century perception of a hot water reservoir.

While I don’t have any quibbles at this time, I should offer two tidbits. First, if one only plans on going on the house tour, one should inform the staff of that preference when purchasing tickets; the website doesn’t state that a separate walking tour of Beacon Hill commences after the house tour. Second, the staff mandates that visitors wear shoe coverings to minimize damage to the carpets; this is especially important on snowy days.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs and those who happen to be wandering around Beacon Hill and/or Bowdoin Square.

Advertisements

MIT Museum June 20, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in History, Science.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

I recently visited the MIT Museum in Cambridge. This museum features a collection of science-themed exhibits – most of them are connected to MIT.

Here are five nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The slide rule arose from an invention of John Napier, who is best known for inventing the logarithm. After several people improved on Napier’s invention, William Oughtred invented the slide rule itself. Interestingly, slide rules were used by the English to enforce their harsh 17th-Century tax laws; they were also used by the British to calculate the fines on Massachusetts colonists for the Boston Tea Party. In addition, James Watt actually invented the Soho slide rule.

2. Malaria can have a rather debilitating effect on red blood cells, which are normally pliable, allowing them to squeeze through narrow capillaries in the brain. In particular, malaria can decrease the elasticity of a red blood cell membrane, restricting its movement through narrow channels. Also, malaria increases the adhesiveness of a red blood cell membrane, resulting in capillary blockage.

3. Edwin Land became intrigued by optics at a young age, when a camp counselor showed him a block of calcite, introducing him to the concepts of reflection and refraction. Land would later drop out of Harvard to pursue his passion for optics. He invented the instant camera after a 1943 trip to Santa Fe, where his daughter asked him why she couldn’t immediately view the photos that he had taken. He would also spur the creation of MIT’s UROP with an impassioned 1957 speech.

4. John McCarthy is credited with organizing the first conference in the field of artificial intelligence in 1956; it was held at Dartmouth and had ten attendees. McCarthy persuaded those in attendance to refer to their new area of research as “artificial intelligence.” He would soon move to MIT to continue his research in AI. He is also credited with developing the LISP programming language.

5. The Kanchenjunga region straddles Nepal and India. The name “Kanchenjunga” means “Five Treasures of the Great Snow” in Tibetan. The tallest mountain in this region, Mount Kanchenjunga, is the world’s third-highest peak; it was actually believed to be the world’s tallest peak until the discovery of Mount Everest.

The museum contains an impressive collection of robots that MIT researchers have developed in the CSAIL, including the well-known Kismet robot. I also enjoyed the Gestural Engineering exhibit by Arthur Ganson, which consisted of many curious contraptions.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in science.

Gibson House Museum February 2, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

I recently visited the Gibson House Museum in Boston. This museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Gibson family and providing visitors some insights on life in Back Bay during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Charles Hammond Gibson, Jr. was the driving force behind the conversion of the Gibson House into a museum. He happened to be a rather obscure poet and travel writer – yet he hoped that critics would properly appreciate his writings after his death. Of course, he needed to combat his obscurity to achieve this end, and so he placed portraits of his famous relatives throughout the house; it turns out that his mother’s great-uncle was Joseph Warren, who fell at Bunker Hill. Unfortunately Gibson’s writings still languish in obscurity due to their abstruseness.

2. The Gibson House was built in 1860 and was one of the first fifteen houses in Back Bay – which consisted of reclaimed land from Boston Harbor. Catherine Hammond Gibson moved there with her son, Charles Hammond Gibson Sr., who was twenty-five at the time. Catherine wanted her son to take ownership of the house after he got married and started a family; that would occur in 1871. Catherine put down roughly $750,000 in today’s money for the house; interestingly, two of the other houses in Back Bay at the time were owned by her relatives.

3. In a sad string of coincidences, three of the Gibson family members died at sea. Catherine’s husband, John Gardner Gibson, perished due to an outbreak of disease on his ship; the family suffered due to the loss of the income that he had derived as a sugar merchant. Another Gibson relative perished when his ship collided with another vessel in a freak accident. A third Gibson relative perished when his troop transport exploded during World War II.

The museum was impressive in that one could view reliable documentation of the items that were in the house during the life of Charles Gibson, Jr. This documentation also enabled the museum staff to provide its visitors with an authentic 1800s Back Bay experience. The tour guide was very informative and his liberal use of witty remarks made the tour enjoyable.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs who happen to be in the Back Bay neighborhood.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum July 22, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Arts, History.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

I recently visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This museum showcases the eclectic art collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Here are five nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. John Singer Sargent was particularly noted for his society portraits; he produced two portraits of Isabella Stewart Gardner, one of which was painted soon after she had suffered a debilitating stroke – she would be dead within two years of that tragic incident. The other was more controversial as it painted her in an iconic – even somewhat religious – light and was initially hidden from public view. Yet Sargent enjoyed painting nature scenes where he could experiment with perspective and brushstrokes; one of his notable works in this genre is Yoho Falls.

2. Rembrandt van Rijn was particularly noted for his self-portraits, as he produced over eighty of them. He enjoyed experimenting with colors, perspectives and shading in producing that series of works. In one of his earliest efforts, he presented himself in a rather confident manner – this was probably intended to attract the attention of prospective patrons. The feathered hat and gold chain that he wore for this work accentuated its dignified atmosphere.

3. In Sandro Botticelli’s Virgin and Child with an Angel, the wheat and grapes are probably meant to foreshadow the Eucharist, which was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper to serve as a reminder of His sacrifice for the sins of mankind. This painting shows Mary carefully picking some of the wheat, which may have been designed to show that she understood its significance. Interestingly, the infant Christ is holding up his right hand as if He were in a teaching position.

4. St. Martin of Tours is most noted for the following – possibly fictional – account. One day, while wearing his military cloak, he met a shivering beggar. He quickly cut his cloak in half and gave one half to the beggar. That evening, he had a vision where Christ appeared, wearing the half-cloak that he had given to the beggar. Christ then blessed him, triggering the series of events that led to his becoming the bishop of Tours.

5. The legend of Lucretia begins with her being raped by the son of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, who was the king of Rome. Due to her chastity and overwhelming shame, she committed suicide after this abominable act. Her death shocked the people of Rome, and Lucius Junius Brutus seized this opportunity to rally opposition to the king; after overthrowing the monarchy he established the Roman Republic.

The museum contained many interesting pieces of art, including The Rape of Europa by Titian, Portrait of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel by Peter Paul Rubens and El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent. I also enjoyed contemplating Gardner’s experimentation with lighting, furniture placement, and juxtaposition of art forms from diverse genres.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to art connoisseurs and fans of history.

Nichols House Museum June 15, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

I recently visited the Nichols House Museum in Boston. This museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Nichols family and providing visitors some insights on life on Beacon Hill during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Rose Standish Nichols was one of the most fascinating women of her time. As a noted landscape architect, she somehow found the time to write extensively on gardening. She also played a prominent role in the women’s suffrage movement and never married. In addition, she enjoyed wearing gaudy hats and high heels – making her six feet tall – which embellished her (highly) opinionated personality. Before she passed away in 1960, she decided to leave the Nichols House in the hands of a trust fund – angering her relatives.

2. The Nichols House was actually designed by Charles Bulfinch. It was originally owned by Jonathan Mason as one of a set of four houses in the Beacon Hill neighborhood that he wanted to rent out. Low demand led him to have each of his four daughters live in one of those houses. Eventually the Nichols House was sold to Arthur Nichols, a physician who completed his medical training in Vienna due to American restrictions on the dissection of cadavers by medical students.

3. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Beacon Hill families tended to live rather “frugally.” On one hand, they did not believe in splurging on decorating the private rooms of their homes, including the kitchen, the bedrooms and the bathrooms; this may have derived from the Puritan values held by the early settlers of Massachusetts. On the other hand, they made a point of designing rather opulent dining rooms and parlors with the aim of impressing their guests. Thus, the typical Beacon Hill home of that time period was a study in contrasts.

The museum contained several interesting items, including a tapestry that would have been worth one million dollars today – had it not been dry-cleaned sometime after Rose Nichols’ passing. The tour guide was friendly and extremely informative; she shared some interesting tidbits regarding Rose Nichols’ improper manner of speaking French and the surviving Nichols family members, which was neat.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs who happen to be in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

The Sports Museum March 6, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Sports.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

I recently visited The Sports Museum in Boston. This museum showcases the rich history of sports in New England and strives to teach important principles to youths, including leadership, teamwork and self-sacrifice.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Satchel Paige was one of the most colorful characters to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. He would entertain fans with his showmanship, performing feats such as firing 20 consecutive pitches over a chewing gum wrapper in place of home plate. With the tying run on base, he would call all of his fielders to sit behind the mound before he struck out the next batter. Despite his theatrics, he was one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, and none other than Dizzy Dean called him the best pitcher that he had ever seen.

2. The Beanpot is an annual ice hockey tournament held in February that features four Boston-area schools – Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. The winner secures not only the Beanpot trophy but, more importantly, bragging rights in the Boston-area ice hockey scene. The tournament has sparked several memorable moments over the years, including a thrilling victory by Northeastern in the 1980 edition that ended a 28-year title drought.

3. The parquet floor that adorned Boston Garden was assembled in 1946 using wood scraps from oak trees in Tennessee. These wood scraps were employed due to widespread post-war material shortages; it took a skilled team of workers about two hours to bolt all of the scraps together in the interval between a Bruins game and a Celtics game. The parquet floor was rumored to have dead spots, where the basketball in play would mysteriously lose its bounciness; it was alleged that Red Auerbach and his players knew the exact locations of these dead spots and steered opponents toward them.

4. Bruins great Eddie Shore, who was one of the best defensemen in NHL history, was also involved in one of the league’s most violent moments. On December 12, 1933, the Bruins were playing the Maple Leafs at the Boston Garden. Shore was tripped by King Clancy and sought revenge. He ended up going after another Leafs player, Ace Bailey, and smashing him to the ice. Bailey’s career was effectively over after that infamous hit.

5. Dom DiMaggio, though overshadowed by Ted Williams and his brother, Joe, was actually a fine baseball player in his own right. He was small in stature and wore glasses, earning him the nickname “The Little Professor.” DiMaggio, though, was an astute student of the game and learned to properly position himself in center field, giving him a good jump on balls that were hit in front of him. He also helped cover up some of Williams’ defensive deficiencies in left field, and he was one of the best base-stealers of his time.

6. The Boston Athletic Association is the actual entity that hosts the Boston Marathon. Inspired by the marathon that was held during the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the BAA organized the first Boston Marathon in 1897. The Boston Marathon has sparked many memorable moments over the years, including the 1936 edition where Johnny Kelley gave Ellison ‘Tarzan’ Brown a friendly tap on the shoulder as he passed him on the final ascent of the course. Brown was spurred by this gesture to outkick Kelley and win the race, earned that ascent the nickname “Heartbreak Hill.”

7. Steals have been featured in three of the most famous moments in Celtics history. The first steal was made by John Havlicek at the end of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and the 76ers, inspiring a famous call by Johnny Most. The second steal was made by Gerald Henderson, which led to a Celtics victory over the Lakers in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals. The third steal was made by Larry Bird and led to a game-winning layup by Dennis Johnson, as the Celtics triumphed over the Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

The museum is filled with a treasure trove of interesting items, including outfits worn by figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Todd Eldredge, an exhibit on the rivalry between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and a collection of photographs that celebrated the career of Rocky Marciano. I was also able to walk around the stands of the TD Garden, admire the various championship banners and retired jerseys, and watch some of the Pittsburgh Penguins go through passing and shooting drills in preparation for their game with the Bruins later that day.

In terms of quibbles, I should note that the exhibits are co-located with kitchens and food storage areas, so museum visitors should be aware that the TD Garden staff members will create a significant amount of foot traffic while they browse about; some patrons may view this as a distraction.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who want to gain an appreciation for New England’s love affair with sports.

Old North Church December 6, 2010

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: ,
add a comment

I recently visited the Old North Church in Boston. This church is best known for its prominent role in the events of April 18, 1775, when two lanterns were hung in its steeple to warn militiamen in Charlestown that British soldiers were on the move to Lexington and Concord.

Here are two nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the Old North Church.

1. The identity of the person who hung the lanterns in the church steeple on the evening of April 18, 1775 remains controversial. Many people believe that this honor belongs to the church sexton, Robert Newman. Newman was the only person who had a key to the church, and he lived nearby (note that the British were enforcing a curfew in Boston at that time). Others believe that this honor belongs to John Pulling, a militiaman who was also a member of the church vestry. Historian David Hackett Fischer, who wrote Paul Revere’s Ride, believes that both men actually took part in this famous act.

2. Box pews were common in Episcopal and Anglican churches from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Parishioners would actually pay for the pews that they occupied during Sunday worship services. The relatively expensive pews were located along the center aisle at the front of the sanctuary, while less expensive pews were located at the rear of the sanctuary and were reserved for wardens and strangers. Box pews were usually enclosed by high walls, as churches were usually unheated; parishioners would bring heated bricks to serve as footwarmers during the worship services.

I enjoyed wandering around the church and perusing various curiosities, including a wall-mounted list of the church’s rectors dating back to 1723, when the church was built. I also enjoyed seeing the box pew that Thomas Gage occupied during his tenure in Boston.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time, which is neat.

Overall I would consider the Old North Church to be worthy of a short stopover before continuing on the Freedom Trail.

Boston African American National Historic Site October 14, 2010

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

I recently visited the African American National Historic Site in Boston. This site consists of a set of buildings that preserve the vibrant history of Boston’s African-American community.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at this historic site.

1. Lewis Hayden was a prominent figure in Boston’s anti-slavery movement. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Hayden sheltered many escaped slaves; in one memorable incident, he used dynamite to deter would-be slave catchers who were looking for William Craft. Also, he hosted a dinner for Governor John Andrew that led to the formation of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

2. William Cooper Nell was another prominent member of Boston’s African-American community. His proficiency in academics actually led to an early brush with racism, when he was awarded the Franklin Medal but was prevented from attending a city-wide dinner in honor of the medal’s recipients. He would later agitate against injustices that were being inflicted on Boston’s African-American schoolchildren by overbearing headmasters.

3. In fact, Boston has a long history of conflict at the intersection of race and education. One of the first black lawyers in the U.S., Robert Morris, spearheaded a legal effort that culminated in Massachusetts becoming the first state to enact a law mandating school integration. In 1974, the famous Boston busing riots broke out when students from predominantly African-American neighborhoods were bused to all-white schools in South Boston.

The highlight of the historic site was a 15-minute video that was narrated by a high school sophomore named Denise. The video gave an accessible, yet informative survey of the history of Boston’s African-American community. I also enjoyed perusing the photo collection of Harrison Sutton Smith and a handwritten letter that was composed by Frederick Douglass.

In terms of quibbles, the African Meeting House was closed for restoration. It should also be noted that the Abiel Smith School was relatively sparse in terms of exhibits.

Overall I would consider the African American National Historic Site to be worthy of a short stopover before exploring the wonders of Beacon Hill.

Faneuil Hall September 6, 2010

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

I recently visited Faneuil Hall in Boston. This three-story building features a marketplace, a town meeting hall and a museum for the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.

Here are two nuggets that I gleaned from my time at Faneuil Hall.

1. Like many colonial-era buildings, Faneuil Hall has undergone numerous alterations through the years. Perhaps the earliest modification entailed replacing its steeple with a cupola. The most significant changes occurred in the early 1800s, when the noted architect Charles Bulfinch was tasked with improving the building’s capacity to serve the growing population of Boston. In particular, Bulfinch designed a significant expansion of the second-floor meeting hall, yielding the present-day Great Hall.

2. During the construction of an elevator shaft, workers discovered an underground treasure trove of artifacts that dated back to the 1700s. It turns out that Faneuil Hall was actually constructed on a landfill, which was part of a larger effort to reshape Boston Harbor. The discovered artifacts included Chinese porcelain wares, pipes of English and Dutch origin, and even almonds and coconuts. From these artifacts, historians gained insights into early Bostonians’ eating habits and household possessions.

I was particularly impressed by the Great Hall, which contained several paintings and busts of famous colonial-era figures. The Great Hall was dominated by George Healy’s massive and awe-inspiring painting of Webster’s reply to Hayne.

In terms of quibbles, the museum of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts was closed for the day. It turns out that the museum is only open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday-Friday, except on holidays; this seems a bit restrictive to me.

Overall I would consider Faneuil Hall to be worthy of a short stopover before enjoying the sights and sounds of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Charlestown Navy Yard June 20, 2010

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

I recently visited the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown. This historic site features the USS Constitution and the USS Cassin Young.

Here are ten nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the navy yard.

1. A sailor had to consume fairly unappealing rations during his stint on the USS Constitution. Breakfast usually consisted of tea and a biscuit. Also, lunch usually consisted of a stew made with salted pork or fish along with hardtack; to consume hardtack, sailors would wrap it in their handkerchiefs and beat it against the floor and ceiling until it shattered into tiny pieces that could be placed in their stew. Hardtack was made without yeast to guard against spoilage during long voyages. I’m curious as to what the sailors ate for dinner.

2. Wood actually served as the primary construction material for Old Ironsides. In particular, live oak provided the ship with a neat defense mechanism due to its density. This would negatively impact the ship’s buoyancy, though, so layers of white oak were used to cover the live oak. Also, ship knees were used to bolster the lower deck of the ship due to the placement of heavy cannons on the main deck.

3. The USS Constitution earned its nickname at its first victory, which involved a tussle with the HMS Guerriere. In that engagement, Captain Isaac Hull ordered his men to hold their fire until he gave the appropriate command. His sailors bravely obeyed while Old Ironsides approached her enemy, until he finally gave the order with about 25 yards separating the two ships. A series of well-aimed shots, coupled with a fortuitous collision between the ships, toppled the Guerriere’s masts and forced her to surrender.

4. Cassin Young served bravely during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. On that tragic day, he commanded the supply ship USS Vestal and rescued several survivors from the USS Arizona; he later beached the Vestal which allowed her to be salvaged. He was later killed in action aboard the USS San Francisco during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

5. Like other Fletcher-class destroyers, the USS Cassin Young featured an impressive array of armaments, including MK-7 and MK-9 depth charges, torpedoes, 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns and 5-inch guns that could be used for shore bombardments. The depth charges were later replaced by hedgehogs, which were fired from a spiky apparatus and were more accurate in terms of engaging enemy submarines.

6. All of the aforementioned armaments were of little use in the face of Japanese kamikaze attacks, which hit 88 American destroyers during World War II. The USS Cassin Young was struck twice during the Battle of Okinawa, but recovered to fight another day (and float in the Charlestown Navy Yard). After these kamikaze attacks, it was determined that placing two 40mm “ack-ack” guns per gun mount was insufficient, and so they were later upgraded to include 4 guns per gun mount.

7. James Leander Cathcart was a pivotal figure during the run-up to the Barbary Wars. Cathcart had been captured by pirates from Algiers and forced into manual labor in service of the dey of Algiers. Due to a combination of his resourcefulness and good fortune, he was able to rise through the ranks in Algiers. He eventually obtained his release and later returned to the Mediterranean as the chief negotiator between the U.S. and the bashaw of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli.

8. In one of the earliest incidents of the Barbary Wars, William Bainbridge made the mistake of having the USS Philadelphia pursue a Tripolitan gunboat into shallow waters, where it ran aground. The Tripolitans captured it and towed it into Tripoli’s harbor, which forced the Americans to hatch a plan to destroy it to prevent the Tripolitans from using it against their ships. To execute this plan, Stephen Decatur led the USS Intrepid on a daring raid that resulted in the burning and destruction of the Philadelphia.

9. The Barbary Wars dragged on from 1803 to 1805 with no apparent end in sight. To break this deadlock, William Eaton came up with a daring gamble. He had seven U.S. Marines join a combined force of roughly 400 Arabs and Greeks in Alexandria. They then undertook a punishing march of almost two months through the deserts of North Africa until they reached Tripoli’s second-largest city, Derne. A combined land and sea assault on Derne followed and the Tripolitans were soundly defeated, which led to the cessation of hostilities and a notable line in the Marines’ Hymn.

10. Old Ironsides achieved two more stirring victories during the War of 1812 after its triumph over the Guerriere. In one engagement, William Bainbridge redeemed himself after his disastrous command of the Philadelphia by defeating the HMS Java. At that time, the British were still scoffing at the new American frigates, which cost them dearly in this encounter. In another tussle, Charles Stewart brilliantly defeated two British frigates, the HMS Cyane and HMS Levant. Stewart used some clever maneuvers, including a well-executed backwards glide that bamboozled the British, to engage each opponent individually. Ironically, this battle occurred after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, since news traveled slowly in those days.

The tour guide on the USS Constitution was quite helpful and described a virtual treasure trove of useful facts along the way. I also enjoyed touring the USS Cassin Young and comparing/contrasting the two ships; in particular, I was struck by the massive upgrades in terms of safety precautions/regulations that had occurred in the US Navy over 150 years of plowing the high seas. In addition, I enjoyed browsing the exhibits at the USS Constitution Museum, especially since it offered free admission.

In terms of minor quibbles, having to go through a security checkpoint to reach the USS Constitution Visitor Center was a bit annoying. It would probably have been more efficient to set up a checkpoint just before one boarded the USS Constitution itself.

Overall I enjoyed my time in the Charlestown Navy Yard, and I would definitely recommend browsing it during a pleasant summer afternoon.