patriots & pirates

The United States Navy Started Right Here, in Philadelphia​

Did you know that the city of Philadelphia had a significant role in the founding of the United States Navy? 

Or how about the fact that sailors had to combat pirates while they were transporting goods across the high seas? No? Well, learn all about that and more in our exhibit Patriots & Pirates! Designed to tell the origin story of the United States Navy and the little-known conflict they had with the pirates that plagued them, this exhibit transports visitors back to the late 1700s and early 1800s.


Your visit wouldn’t be complete without climbing aboard Schooner Diligence, a replica of the original vessel built in 1797 by Joshua and Samuel Humphreys in Philadelphia.  Ships like Diligence played a vital role in developing the early Navy toward defending American merchant ships from attacks by Britain, France, and the Barbary pirates.  The original Diligence was commissioned for the Revenue-Marines and immediately transferred to Captain John Barry’s squadron stationed in the West Indies to protect commerce in the Caribbean.  

Schooner Diligence was built in-house by our very own staffers and volunteers in the Seaport Boat Shop.  Make sure to sea what they are up to on our next visit!  

Exhibit Highlights

As you tour the gallery, make sure to be on the lookout for rare artifacts explicitly displayed for the exhibit.  Examples include:

A rare letter written by American citizens held hostage in Algiers to the American Congress requesting their return home (December 29, 1793).

An octant used by Captain John Barry throughout his entire career.​

Tools from the excavation of I-95 discovered in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood (1974).

visit the seaport museum

Immerse yourself in award-winning exhibitions and climb aboard the Olympia, a nineteenth-century cruiser, and the Becuna, a World War II-era submarine.