The British Sailor’s Loyal Toast, 1738
Many people in the academic and living history communities know me by my expertise in clothing worn by common sailors and pirates in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I gained this knowledge from years of research that eventually became a Master’s thesis I wrote in 2015 for the Graduate Program in Maritime Studies at East Carolina University. Now, I wish to bring that to publication, but before this I want to provide my readers with the best information I can provide. This will require a trip to the National Archives in London. To make this trip requires funding that I could not raise before while attending University. To fund the project, I’ve created a crowdfunding project with its own GoFundMe page. There are many more details regarding this project on the page itself, linked below:
Here is a short video I made to go with the project:
If you are interested in seeing the publication of my work on maritime clothing, including a long chapter regarding the attire of pirates in this era, please contribute what you can to the project before Christmas, December 25, 2016. If you know anyone who might find this project of interest, please send them a link to this post or to the GoFundMe project itself.
Excerpts from “The Sailor’s Parting,” by C. Mosley, 1743. The image includes depictions of a hammock, sea chest (with initials), and simple bag.
The sea chest is a common piece of material culture seen among stereotypes of pirates and sailors in the Age of Sail. Many people imagine a variety of items locked away within these chests, from fascinating tools of the seafaring trades to treasure plundered during many adventures at sea. In the realm of stories about pirates, Billy Bones owns the most famous sea chest of all fictional pirates. In Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, originally published as a serial in Young Folks magazine from October of 1881 to January of 1882, Bones was the first mate of the pirate Captain John Flint. The exterior of Billy’s sea chest was, “somewhat smashed and broken as by long, rough usage,” with a “B” burned to its top. Stevenson described the contents of the sea chest in detail, including items concerning the story’s treasure, such as Bones’ account book, a bar of silver, a bag of coins, and a treasure map. Beyond these pieces concerning the treasure, the chest contained a suit of clothes, “a quadrant, a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols,…an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells… [and] Underneath there was an old boat-cloak, whitened with sea-salt on many a harbour bar.”1 Contents such as these are typical by the standards of the modern stereotype of sailors and pirates in the Golden Age of Piracy. When compared to the historical record, with exception to the treasure items, how accurate is Stevenson’s depiction? What did Anglo-American sailors or pirates of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries own? Broadly speaking, some sailors of the era did own the kind of items seen in Stevenson’s stereotypical sea chest. However, examining the historical record for traces of sailors’ possessions provides some insight into the lives of mariners in this era. Continue reading