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Page 409

GREAT AMERICAN AUTHORS
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Nearly a century ago the Navy Department decided to destroy the frigate Constitution, one of the most famous ships in the early American navy, but in 1830 old and unseaworthy. The ship had been launched in 1797, had served in the Mediterranean, and had become famous in the War of 1812. The orders of the Department would have been carried out had it not been for one singular circumstance. A young student named Holmes, barely twenty-one years of age, read the newspaper bulletin telling what was in store for the brave old ship. He thought it shameful that such a thing should be proposed. He seized a scrap of paper and a lead pencil and wrote a poem of three stanzas to which he gave the name "Old Ironsides."
The effect of these verses by the young student was astonishing. They were printed in a Boston paper, were copied by newspapers in every part of the country, and were even scattered about the city of Washington on handbills. A storm of indignation was roused by this poem written by an unknown youth; the ship was saved, and the youth became famous.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) was born in Boston. At the age of twenty he was graduated from Harvard College, and

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