Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke December 10, 2021

A seaworthy myth about alcohol aboard the U.S.S. Constitution

If Your Time is short

  • This story has been online for years and thoroughly debunked by the U.S.S. Constitution Museum. 

Yo ho ho, and thousands of bottles of rum. The drunken tale of the U.S.S. Constitution on the cusp of the 19th century has been faring the internet waters for several years now, and though debunked, the story persists. 

In one recent Facebook post about Old Ironsides, as the ship is known, it is said that the "combat vessel carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men" and that when she sailed from Boston in July 1798, "79,400 gallons of rum" were on board. Stopping in Jamaica in October, the crew collected 63,800 gallons more, and then 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine in the Azores. 

"On 18 November, she set sail for England," the post continues. "In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war ships and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each." 

By the time the boat returned to Boston in February 1799, the post says, there was "no rum, no wine, no whisky, and 38,600 gallons of water." 

The story ends with a triumphant "Go Navy!" 

But as the U.S.S. Constitution Museum notes in a 2013 blog post, "it would be better to end with an admonition to ‘go read a book!’"

Featured Fact-check

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

"Where to begin?" the museum’s blog post laments. For starters, "the story is completely at odds with the ship’s operational history during this period," but records of the water-to-booze ratio for a later trip reveal that the Constitution’s provisions included 47,265 gallons of water to 9,546 gallons of spirits.

"The 79,400 gallons of rum on board at sailing is some eight times more than the ship ever carried," the blog post says about the story. "Besides the extreme expense of so much rum, there was simply not room in the ship’s hold for the barrels, puncheons, hogsheads, and butts needed to contain it all." 

But let’s just say there was that much alcohol on board, and none when the ship returned. The museum does the math. 

With 475 men on board, "each would have had to consume 395 gallons during the cruise, or about 1.8 gallons each day. If you’ve ever tried consuming nearly two gallons of spirits in a day, you’d probably not be around to read this."

This tale didn’t happen. We rate this post False. 


Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Ciara O'Rourke

A seaworthy myth about alcohol aboard the U.S.S. Constitution

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up