“I'm Amos Binney.

President Madison appointed me navy agent for the port of Boston. I’m already a successful merchant, but the Navy allows me a 1% commission on all the goods that pass through my hands. By the time this war is over, I’ll be really rich!”

It takes a town​

Although only a town of 20,000 people, Boston provided nearly all the materials needed to outfit Constitution in 1812. The ship’s masts, sails, metal fittings, boats, gun carriages, and a thousand things besides came from skilled craftspeople. In all, Bostonians earned more than $200,000 for their work. The frigate building program proved a powerful stimulus to the local economy.

Amos Binney, Boston’s purchasing agent for the Navy, hired poor women and children to sew clothing needed for the ship’s crew during the war. This practice enabled Binney to procure clothes at a moment’s notice and at low prices, which benefitted the Navy and offered a meager income to those in need of work.

Map of Boston in the State of Massachusetts
John Groves Hale, 1814
Map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

  1. Blacksmith Thomas Barnes made augers and bolts for $197.
  2. Musical instrument maker and ivory turner William Callender made powder horns for $156.
  3. Brewer Andrew Dunlap supplier four barrels of beer for $32.
  4. Coppersmiths Martin Gay and William Hunneman made a cabin stove and provided copper for $297.
  5. Upholsterer Moses Grant sewed three cushions for the ship’s barge for $22.50.
  6. Ropemakers Jeffery and Russell supplied hemp and cordage worth $22,042.
  7. Bookseller Ebenezer Larkin sold stationary for $123.
  8. Shipcarvers John and Simeon Skillin carved the ship’s Hercules figurehead for $719.
  9. Butcher Edmund Winchester provided beef and pork worth $2,636.
Suppliers Map - Individual Suppliers

In six months Constitution’s 485 hungry sailors consume:

Hard Tack

Ship's Biscuit

84,456 lbs

About 337,824 biscuits.

Beef

Beef

57,700 lbs

Equal to about 101 cows, or 230,800 hamburgers.

Pork

Pork

50,600 lbs

Equal to about 338 pigs.

Flour

Flour

12,544 lbs

Equal to 2,509 5-lb sacks. Flour was used to thicken stew.

Suet (beef fat)

Suet (beef fat)

5,850 lbs

Fat from about 216 cows.

Cheese

Cheese

2,174 lbs

Equal to about 233 wheels of cheese.

Butter

Butter

1,765.5 lbs

Equal to 7,062 sticks of butter.

Raisins

Raisins

360 lbs

Equal to 3,840 small boxes of raisins.

Peas

Peas/Beans

1,932 gals

Equal to 13,248 bags.

Rice

Rice

1,657 gals

178 bushels or the yield of 4 ½ acres of rice.

Molasses

Mollases

870 gals

Byproduct of 2 acres of sugar cane or 400,000 lbs of sugar cane.

Vinegar

1,310 gals

Equal to 335,360 tbsp.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

800 gals

About 4,000 cabbages and 2,400 tbsp of salt.

Spirits

Spirits

9,546 gals

38,184 regulation Navy ration ½ pints.

Water

47,265 gals

Equal to 756,240 glasses of water.

Ship's Cook William Long

Quality Beef for the Crew

Sailors ate better at sea than many of their social group on shore. The meat procured for the sailors met high standards. As Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert wrote in 1799, “The Navy Sailors having been used to the best Beef will not eat the common kind.”

The U.S. Navy had strict rules for meat supplied to its sailors. According to one contract, beef was to be “packed in the best White Oak Barrells full bound with white oak or walnut hoops, from well fatted Oxen weigh[ing] not less than 600 pounds each, excluding the neck, shins, shoulder blades and leg rounds and to be cut into ten pound peices [sic] or 20 peices to each Barrell…. The whole to have a sufficient quantity of good Salt and Salt Petre.”

Today's Crew: Meet a Culinary Specialist