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Reference Question of the Week – 11/1/09

   November 7th, 2009

USS United StatesThis was kind of a fun question. A patron called in and said:

I'd like to know any information you've got on the USS United States. It's an old Navy ship from the War of 1812. I heard some guy on the East Coast is going to build a replica of it next year, so I want to know about that, but I also want to know about its history.

Okay, that's fairly straightforward. The only major catch is that almost every single book or website that contains the keyword "uss" will also contain the phrase "united states," so searching might require a different strategy.

I know we have books in the collection on historical ships, but nothing concrete was coming up with a search for "uss united states." I then searched for just books on Navy ships, and from the indexes I found some basic information.

I next tried the internet, with a search for "uss united states" to get started. The first result was a Wikipedia disambiguation page, from which I learned that there's been more than one ship called the USS United States. I chose the ship from the right era, and read about the its history - but no mention of a replica.

However, the best part about the article was the bibliography at the bottom. It listed seven books, two of which had reasonably recent copyright dates, which means I could probably request them from another library.

[Now comes my favorite part of this question]

But just because they were listed here, I wasn't sure how much information they'd have on the ship. I looked them both up on Amazon, hoping they'd have the "search inside this book" feature. They did, so I was able to flip through their indexes, and saw that both books had numerous entries for the USS United States. This made me feel comfortable requesting them for the patron.

A third book didn't have this feature, but was in the reference collection of another library in my consortium, so I did an old-fashion favor-asking to see if they could check that book's index and fax me any useful pages.

That seemed like enough historical information, so I switched to looking for news about someone building a replica. On this point I couldn't find a thing. I found a lot on model building, but nothing about someone building a full-scale replica.

I called the patron and told him the book titles to expect, and also that I couldn't find anything on the replica. He said he wasn't surprised, since the guy didn't have any funding yet and was trying to keep the whole project a secret. Hmm.

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5 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 11/1/09”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Do you know about shipindex.org? It’s a hobby project by the founders of Serials Solutions, and does have citations for the United States: http://shipindex.org/ships/united_states. The whole project is kind of fascinating, too.

  2. Mary Jo Says:

    You get such fun questions! This website mentions the replica being built (well, funds being raised for it) by the USS United States Foundation:

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Shannon & @Mary Jo: Thank you both very much – these are two resources I missed, and am sure my patron will love them.

  4. Andrew Says:

    Here are a few more leads, hope they help.

    “From the Poop Deck,” the official newsletter of the USS United States Foundation.
    Also contains links to full history of the USS United States found in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

    More links from Google search:

    FaceBook Contact Page: Edward C. Zimmerman, Jr.

  5. USS UNITED STATES Foundation Says:

    TO The Swiss Army Librarian:
    I am the “some guy” the above article refers; Edward C Zimmerman, Jr.; Founder, President & CEO of the USS UNITED STATES Foundation; representing the Frigate USS UNITED STATES since 1978.
    First of all, would you be so kind as to contact the originator of the request and forward my contact information to them? I’m glad I saw this son soon and was able to respond. I hope it’s not too late.
    I was born and raised in Philadelphia until 1991 when I moved to Las Vegas. However, my love for Philly never stopped. It will always be my home City.
    Thank you for posting the info. I respectfully request the posting of the following to clarify Project Old Waggon with contact information:

    BRING BACK the USS United States
    and the SPIRIT that
    once Ran Deep in our COUNTRY
    [email protected]
    At the end of the American Civil War our Nation’s first ship of war was abused, neglected, and abandoned. Although she served her new owners well, they had great respect for her in calling her the CSS UNITED STATES. Her younger sister, USS Constitution, which still exists today in Boston, was sent north to a more sheltered port.
    Being scrapped in 1865-1866, this gallant frigate was historically placed into obscurity, until September of 1978. Since then, historical and construction data has been collected and collated by the USS UNITED STATES foundation, in preparation of a full-scale, seaworthy replica of this gallant abandoned Old Waggon. It seems a pity and a shameful act that our Country had abandoned such a beautiful, powerful, and proud Icon of our Country and lost National Treasure to neglect and abuse.
    Has our patriotism disappeared within several weeks after 911? Some may think so. But to the USS UNITED STATES Foundation, patriotism is not something we ware on special occasions, or lasts only a short time. We now have a chance to bring back this First Ship of War of Our Country. Her history of valor, courage, pride, and all the virtues have not been forgotten.
    It is the time to bring this frigate back into the hearts and minds we once had in song, spirit, and love of duty, honor, and country; that the spirit must be felt within every true American Citizen. Regardless of the current status of our Country, “May she always be in the right…but our Country, right or wrong” (Stephen Decatur, Jr., former commanding officer of the USS UNITED STATES, and victor over the HMS Macedonian).
    All the plans for construction have been collected. The reconstruction of sister USS Constitution, completed in 1995, the knowledge of constructing the Constitution will be of greater value when the USS UNITED STATES is under construction. The behavior and study of the handling and attributes of these first ships can be better understood with the new frigate at sea. The study of life on board these frigates will be better appreciated as to how the men on these first frigates assessed, adapted, and overcame their difficulties.
    Already close to $2,000,000 worth in time alone has been spent in researching the data needed for construction by the USS UNITED STATES Foundation, not to mention information accumulated in the research of the sister USS Constitution, by enjoying her beauty at sea along the coasts of our Country, the Indies, and possibly Europe, will surely be a majestic splendor for generations to behold and enjoy for generations.
    There are many worthy causes being supported by the public; and some projects that are more important than Project Old Waggon. But, there is something about a ship, particularly a Tall Ship, that stirs the depths of mortal soles. To be at sea again, in her natural element, to feel the rolling deck under foot, and to demonstrate the beauty, strength of spirit at sea, and the awesomeness of her towering masts supporting clouds of billowing sails, may be enjoyed by all those who have the salt of the sea flowing through them. No other ship that sailed the seas, ever demonstrated such spirit of a new Country and a world power of all free people as did the First Ship of the United States Navy, the Frigate USS UNITED STATES, a true National Icon of our Country. ECZ Jr. USS Fdn. For further information contact [email protected]

    Thank you Swiss Army Librarian

    Your humble servant;
    Edward C. Zimmerman, Jr.