Star Trek: Asterisk "The Many Faces of Enterprise"

When The Motion Picture came out, viewers were presented with a completely new design for their favorite space ship and it was given a plausible explanation: an eighteen month refit process. Well, it didn't take long until that ship was destroyed and producers invented the multi-ship registry. With the original (though refit) ship given an A, it lent credence to naming further Enterprises down the line with other letters. This was specifically invented so that The Next Generation could fly on the Enterprise without causing too much confusion. But what about all the Enterprises of the past and those we rarely hear about in our future?

The original Enterprize was spelled with a "z" and was part of the British Royal Navy in 1705. But wait! No, that wasn't the first one... Because that one was captured from the French who called it L'Entreprise. Turns out that between 1671 and 1846 the French had at least 23 vessels christened with the name Entreprenant, which is French for "Enterprising". Enterprising is defined as having or showing initiative and resourcefulness. It's a good thing that has nothing to do with originality.
Famously not under the command of Captain Jack Sparrow.
After capturing that first ship, the British went on to dub fifteen different ships with the name including an Echo-class multi-role survey vessel launched in 2002 and currently in service. America has had an Enterprise in the Navy since before the United States Navy was even an official entity. The Continental Navy built an Enterprise in 1775, so no doubt it saw action in the Revolutionary War. The first Enterprise in the United States Navy was in 1799 and there have been five others since then including an aircraft carrier commissioned in 1961 (the same one seen in Star Trek: The Voyage Home) and scheduled for decommission in 2013. Other American Enterprises include a steam boat, a blimp, a space shuttle and the commercial space craft being created by Virgin Galactic.
Hoping the next warp is the warp home.
So, clearly the Enterprise name has a rich history of being plastered on several different vessels. And while this name never seemed to hold any special significance prior to 1966, after our favorite TV show came out, the name was used as an indicator of being the first of its kind. The first orbital space shuttle and the first commercial space craft. Which seems appropriate when Star Trek: Enterprise comes out with the first interstellar liner and the first warp-five ship, the Enterprise NX-01. And although the Enterprise of The Original Series doesn't appear to have claim to any particular design firsts, as an exploratory ship, it was involved in several first contacts, the first deliberate time jump and several other first events.
First Enterprise to be awesome.
When the movies came along, the Enterprise underwent a redesign after Kirk's promotion to admiral. But after this redesigned ship was destroyed in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, they built an entirely new one. This is mostly because the Enterprise was the most celebrated ship in her history. There's no way they could just let it go. But they did introduce one new thing to it: the A. And the A indicated that there would be more. Registered as NCC-1701-A, the brand new shiny Constitution-class Enterprise under the command of the demoted Captain Kirk went on a few more missions until it was time for Kirk to retire and then the Enterprise NCC-1701-B, the Excelsior-class ship, took over.
The Enterprise-B was notable as the ship that lost Kirk on her maiden voyage. It was during this voyage that Kirk was taken into the temporal nexus and not seen or heard from again until 2371 when Picard pulled him out only to die minutes later. The ship is also notable as the fattest Enterprise. (I just don't like the Excelsior design.)
Oh, C, we hardly knew ye. Which is probably good.
The Enterprise-C wasn't really notable for anything during its run until its end when it created an alternate timeline. The Ambassador-class ship got in a fight with some Romulans and then either plunged the Federation into a bloody war with the Klingons and allowed Tasha Yar to live in the future, or saved the day and forced the Enterprise-D to go exploring which killed Tasha Yar. Guinan eventually fixed that whole thing and Tasha was allowed to serve on the C and die for a cause rather than get eaten by a tar monster.
I always felt like the D had flat feet.
The Enterprise-D is the Galaxy-class from The Next Generation. Obviously. I could list all of its accomplishments, but that would take forever. Picard was its captain and Q was its biggest nemesis. It was also the first ship to let an android serve on board. And the first ship to have a first officer with a glorious beard. That ship had some fun in its run until Star Trek Generations when it crashed into a planet and was destroyed. Giving way to...
I'll be in my bunk.
The Enterprise-E! This one is my favorite ship as far as design goes. Picard and his crew migrated to the E after they decided they weren't done exploring. Everyone, that is, except for Worf who went to Deep Space 9. The Sovereign-class ship boasted, along with the most advanced techonlogy, a captain's yacht which was a fun little vessel that also carried a dune-buggy. Which, I'm sure, was thoroughly enjoyed by Picard in his off-time.
An artist's rendering since all we got before was a blurry screen in the episode.

There was an Enterprise-J mentioned in Star Trek: Enterprise, but it ran in the 26th century and we never really got a lot of info from it. It apparently fought in an important battle and had Xindi crew members. Its design is really... pointy.

Along the way, there were several alternate universe Enterprises such as the one with three nacelles in a future timeline, and the ones in the mirror universe. The Enterprise introduced in Star Trek (2009) had a different design from what anyone was used to, but this can be chalked up to alternate universe inconsistencies. I'm just going to go ahead and say that the person who originally designed the Constitution-class died along with Kirk's dad on the USS Kelvin. Probably also along with the guy who made the Original Series uniforms.

So this is a history of the vessels named Enterprise. I was actually very surprised to see exactly how many sea-going vessels were given the name. Turns out our favorite ship isn't quite as original as we thought... but it's definitely the best of the bunch.