Harborplace continues to have the same draw and appeal as when it opened in 1980. The sunny Spring day saw crowds of people enjoying the atmosphere of the Inner Harbor and the street performers.

With only a couple of hours for sight-seeing before meeting friends for dinner, my husband suggested a tour of the U.S.S. Constellation. Remembering my last tour in the late 80s that consisted of one, very dark deck, lined with canons, and that was it, I almost steered him to a different attraction. Fortunately, I kept an open mind.

The ship was renovated in 2004 and is a completely different and enjoyable touring experience now. It has so much history that I never remember learning about. Among other things, the U.S.S. Constellation was commissioned to capture ships engaging in the African slave trade, which was made illegal in 1808.

All the decks are open, with a view into the quarters of the officers, the hammocks of the “powder monkeys,” a view of the provisions, and the tools of the ship’s surgeon. There is a free portable audio tour that provides additional history to complement the plaques around the ship. The plaques are really informative if you have the time to read them.

As one example, I learned quite a bit about the medical history. Naval hospitals were considered the best hospitals around, and the navy doctors superior to that of the Army. In contrast, dentistry skills were rather limited and consisted of tools that you would never want to see near your mouth. Even though Pasteur and Lister were theorizing about germs and recommending the use of antiseptics and sterilization, their research was not yet known in the U.S. Nevertheless, some naval surgeons were already practicing some of the sterilization methods. Among painkillers used in the 1800s were morphine and cloves!. Very interesting tour and worth the money.

Learn more about the history of the ship at their website. The movie Amazing Grace addresses William Wilburforce’s indefatigueable struggle to end slavery. (The website has resources for teachers too.)

Here are a few pictures of the Inner Harbor and U.S.S. Constellation.

THe History Channel also did a few episodes on the U.S.S. Constellation.

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