Patriots and Pirates

Discover the city of Philadelphia’s connection to the founding of the United States Navy. The new, permanent exhibition features curated objects never, or rarely, seen by the public—highlighting the little-told story of America’s conflict with pirates. At the center of Patriots & Pirates is a full-size waterline model of Diligence of 1797. Climb aboard Schooner Diligence, a stationary 102 foot vessel with masts soaring above a 62 foot deck, constructed by staff and volunteers from Workshop on the Watera traditional boat shop located inside the Museum. Patriots & Pirates is a unique exhibition developed by Chief Curator Craig Bruns.

Featured interactives and artifacts:


  • Schooner Diligence: Climb aboard a full-size model of Diligence of 1797. The stationary 102 foot vessel has masts soaring above a 62 foot deck.  
  • Simple Machines: Test simple machines aboard Schooner Diligence and on the exhibit floor, then learn how they are used to build and sail a ship at sea.
  • Decatur: Created specifically for Patriots & Pirates, the cartoon cat stimulates discussion through games and other participatory experiences.


  • A rare letter written by American citizens held hostage in Algiers to the American Congress requesting for their return home (December 29, 1793).
  • Tools from the excavation of I-95 at Old City (Philadelphia) in 1974.
  • An octant used by Captain John Barry throughout his entire career.
  • A model of the Federal St. Navy Yard, recreating Joshua Humphreys’ shipyard in the 1790s where he built the frigate United States.
  • A painting of Philadelphia merchant ship Pigou being pursued by the French privateer L’Adventure.