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USS Constitution: 1794-1802

Before the USS Constitution was the oldest commissioned warship still afloat, and even before it was nicknamed Old Ironsides it was a squadron flagship in our mostly forgotten “Quasi-War” with France at the end of the 18th century. Learn more about the construction and first cruises of the Constitution in the first installment of a series that pay tribute to her glory.

USS Constitution Infographic

The design
Telling a story across geography and time on a static plane is difficult because it requires three dimensions – time, latitude, and longitude – when there are only two dimensions available. The Constitution chart addresses this classic challenge by recognizing that the locations of ships along the American and Caribbean island coasts can be characterized solely by latitude: it is enough to know how far north a ship is to know that it is in or near Boston and not Charleston. This insight relieves the burden of having to plot the second geographical dimension, longitude, and frees up the horizontal axis for time. So as you read the chart, you can follow the movement of the ship through time (left to right) from port to port up (top) and down (bottom) the coast.

The look, including a liberal use of many fonts, is based on period maps, broadsides, and engravings.

Future Posts
This poster is first in a series charting the cruises of the Constitution. Look forward to future posts about the Barbary War and the War of 1812.

Acknowledgements
We are lucky to have original orders, letters, newspapers, muster rolls, log books, and many other accounts documenting the day-to-day history of the Constitution and the stories that make her such a treasure. I am very lucky that so many have already been poured over, synthesized, and made available so easily on the web. In particular I would like to acknowledge the following data sources:

Info We Trust is a data adventure exploring how to better humanize information. To learn more read the opening post hereThe creator, RJ Andrews, is an engineer and proud Northeastern University and MIT graduate. Please reach out through facebook, twitter @infowetrust, or the contact page.

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