Sail Loft and Petting Zoo: Boston’s Old Granary and Constitution’s First Suit of Sails

No sailing ship is complete without a suit of sails to spread to the wind. As Constitution neared completion in Edmund Hartt’s Boston shipyard in the summer of 1797, Secretary of War James McHenry prepared a report to Josiah Parker, Head of the House of Representative’s naval committee. In it he wrote, among other things, that the ship’s “sails are preparing.” [1]

For decades, historians have acknowledged Boston sailmaker Benjamin Hale as the man who made Constitution’s first suit of sails.  No one person could sew (by hand) the hundreds and hundreds of yards of canvas needed to make them, but it seems likely Hale at least organized the labor that made it happen (and probably more than a few stitches himself).  This information comes largely from the reminiscences of Benjamin’s son James W. Hale, who in 1880 wrote:

Everybody must know why the old burial-ground between the Tremont House and Park Street Church is called the "Granary." But everybody don’t know that in the old Granary building, the first suit of sails for the old frigate "Constitution" was made by my father. Reason—because his sail loft was not large enough to spread the sails in, and Charles Bulfinch, who was his old friend and "Cheerman of the Se-lectmen," gave him permission to use the Granary building.  READ THE FULL STORY ON LOG LINES

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