This ship was constructed and launched in the summer of 1776. It was built mostly of oak wood and measured 53 feet 2 inches long, with a beam of 15 feet 2 inches. The single mast was 36 feet, upon which was attached a square-rigged sail and topsail. Being made specifically for war, the ship also housed 3 cannons. The forward cannon was a 12-pounder, and the port and starboard cannons were 9-pounders. The ship could also be armed with 8 additional swivel cannons.
Despite the impressive armaments, the Philadelphia had a relatively short service life. Shortly after its construction, General Arnold Benedict ordered his fleet to provoke the British by sailing in the northern areas of Lake Champlain. Expecting a fight, he then stationed the ships in Valcour Bay. The provocation was successful and, on October 11, 1776, American and British naval forces clashed in a 6-hour fight that would ultimately sink the Philadelphia. Although Arnold managed to escape, most of the ships in his fleet was destroyed.
The USS Philadelphia is notable owing to the condition in which it was discovered, and the fact that it is one of the few Revolutionary War ships raised from beneath the waters. In 1935, the Philadelphia was located and raised by Lorenzo Hagglund, resting in an upright position at the bottom of the lake. In addition to the ship's hull and its guns, many artifacts were found within the vessel. The artifacts included shot, tools, and other items, as well as human bones. Other well-preserved ships from the battle have been discovered in Lake Champlain.
The ship has been exhibited in various locations since it was raised, including Exeter, New York. However, in 1961, Hagglund bequeathed the Philadelphia to the Smithsonian Institution in an effort to ensure its conservation. Despite preservation efforts, the ship has deteriorated significantly since it was raised. The boat was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and 1961, respectively.