South Bend local Joe Schultz completes ‘Old Ironsides’ model ship over 64 years

March 1, 2022 | Patron Stories

Joseph Schultz was always interested in ships. He would walk the few blocks from his home in downtown South Bend to the original downtown library (nicknamed “The Castle”) to pour over the ship history and model making section in the lower level. This began his new hobby of making ship models.

When he was 15 years old, Joe checked out a book, Ship Model Making by E. Armitage McCann (1927) which contained a history of the U.S.S. Constitution, or ‘Old Ironsides’, and pull-out instructions for building a model of the ship.

Joseph Schultz at River Park Branch

Launched in 1797, The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. It is best known for its role during the War of 1812, defeating many British warships and winning its nickname ‘Old Ironsides’ after defeating the British frigate, Guerriere. In 1881, The Constitution was retired from active service, then served as a receiving ship until it was designated a museum ship in 1907. Today, it is berthed in Boston.1

Ship Model Making by E. Armitage McCann (1927)

Pull-out instructions from Ship Model Making

“The Castle”, South Bend’s original downtown library

15-year-old Joe began working on the complicated model, based on how it looked in 1812. He was able to build most of the hull, but life soon intervened. At age 18, inspired by his love of ships, Joe joined the Navy, then married and had children. The Old Ironside model was set aside for the next 30 years.

Decades later, in the 1990s, Joe returned to Main Library to hunt down a copy of Ship Model Making. He and his wife had expanded their home, giving Joe a space to work on his model building hobby. A librarian found McCann’s book in storage in the basement and Joe got to work.

Details from Joe’s model U.S.S. Constitution

Last year, at age 79, Joe completed his model of Old Ironsides, as well as an accompanying stand and glass case, 64 years after beginning the project. The finished piece is three feet long by twenty inches wide and the mast is another two feet high. Every piece of the model was handcrafted by Joe, including the barrels of the cannons, which were hand poured, the glass case, and the stand. The ship will be on display at River Park Branch this spring.


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