On the successful completion of the War of Independence, the American navy was disbanded, and it was not until the late 1790s that a regular naval force was reconstituted. Provoked by the need to protect American merchant shipping from the belligerent European nations and the piratical Barbary powers, Congress decided on a programme of frigate building, which included the 32-gun frigate Essex. Designed by William Hackett, Essex was a typical medium frigate of her time. Working from both US and British sources, the author has reconstructed many previously undetermined details of the ship and in passing has rehabilitated the reputation of the designer as one who was responsible for one of the best balanced of that generation's frigates.
Portia Takakjian was a professional ship modeller who before devoting herself to modelling and to maritime research was a book illustrator. Her early training is apparent in the quality of the draughtsmanship displayed in this book. Her ships' plans collection is held by Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea.