Thursday, February 20, 2014

Figure, c. 1755


Figure, Bow Porcelain Factory, c. 1755, Victoria and Albert Museum.

This unpainted porcelain figure is one of the earliest three dimensional pieces I've included on this blog. Typical of that time, the sailor is depicted with a long coat, though slightly shorter than other professions would wear. His cocked hat is reversed, but fitted with a large cockade at the front. He wears a neckcloth tied tightly around his neck and an unbuttoned waistcoat beneath his jacket. There is a belt with a large rectangular buckle at his waist. The tar's trousers are long and built with a button fly. His shoes are pointed toe.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Taperstick, 1761-2



Taperstick, William Cafe, 1761-1762, National Maritime Museum (UK).

What I wouldn't give to have this on my dinner table! Made from cast silver, this candlestick may have been part of the commercial commemorations of British victories at sea during the Seven Years War/French and Indian War. The National Maritime Museum offers that this may have been part of a matched pair featuring a sailor and "his lass." This certainly would fit with the many porcelain figures of the time that featured just such a pairing.

The sailor here wears a cocked hat with a cockade on his left and the point to the front. His neckcloth is fitted tightly about his neck, but hangs long down the front. The jacket is quite long, typical for the 1750's and 1760's. It is single breasted with flap pockets at the waist, and no cuffs or collar.


There are three vents in the back of the jacket, along with some decorative metalwork.

Our tar is without a waistcoat, though the neck of his shirt looks fancier with a bit of ruffling down the front. Around his waist is fitted a sash of some sort, tied to his right. Trousers end just above the ankle, and he wears pointed toe shoes. 

Princess Charlotte Arriving at Harwich, September 1761


Princess Charlotte Arriving at Harwich, September 1761, Dominic Serres, 1761, National Maritime Museum.

This land/seascape depicts the arrival of the German princess Charlotte for her marriage to King George III. The lavish yacht sailing into the harbor bears both her and the name Royal Charlotte. Crowds have gathered on the shore to watch and celebrate her arrival.

There are two versions of this image by Serres in the collection of the National Maritime Museum. This particular piece is a watercolor painted the same year as her arrival. Serres would revisit the piece in 1763 as an oil painting. I decided to use the watercolor because the colors are lighter and a bit easier to interpret.


The reason this watercolor is appropriate for our study is the small gang of sailors at the right of the image. There are four tars overall. Their hats are a bit difficult to interpret with the image's resolution, but we can say with some certainty that at least three of them are wearing cocked hats. The fourth (second from the right) might be wearing a round hat, but I could not say for sure. Three of the four wear blue jackets ending jut below the waist. The tars on each end have two vents at the back of their jackets, and the fellow on the far left has a slash pocket at his waist with buttons. The fourth mariner (second from the left) wears a brown jacket with a single vent and slash pockets at the waist. The second sailor from the right is the only one facing us, and wears no waistcoat. His neckcloth is white. All four sailors wear slops of various hues of brown and white, as well as white stockings.

Rodny's New Invented Turn About, 1782


Rodny's New Invented Turn About, Thomas Colley, 1782, British Museum.

In this colorful political cartoon, Admiral Rodney flogs personifications of Holland, America, France, and Spain, who are bound to a turn about. Rodney wields his cat-o-nine to the delighted encouragement of the British tar to his left, who shouts "Da-n the Frog give him another Dozen!"


Our frighteningly enthusiastic tar waves his round hat in his right hand, and clutches a cudgel in his left. Jack wears a double breasted jacket with lapels, though no collar or cuffs. His black neckcloth is tied high and tight about his neck. Loose petticoat trousers hang down to just below the knees where he wears white stockings, round toed shoes, and oval buckles.

The British Tar's Triumph, 1783


The British Tar's Triumph, Thomas Colley, 1783, British Museum.

Riding the back of a Dutchman, our British tar swings a whip, riding crop, or perhaps a colt at a fleeing Spaniard, while being followed by a Frenchman bearing a broken sword. As far as political cartoons portraying British sailors of the American revolution go, it's pretty standard fare.

The seaman has no hat, and wears his hair about shoulder length. His neckcloth is spotted and of a light color. Our sailor's jacket is double breasted with slash cuffs and no collar. Interestingly, his slops are striped! I've only found one other image of this in the nearly one hundred I've examined so far. It is a very uncommon depiction. Otherwise, the sailor wears the typical white stocking and round toe shoe with a rectangular buckle.

EDIT: Adam Hodges-LeClaire points out that the object being whipped about by the tar is actually a queue! The long ponytail of hair that caricatures of the French were often depicted wearing has been torn off. You can see the ragged end of the queue hanging loose from the back of the Frenchman's head on the right.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Capt. Paul Jones Shooting a Sailor Who Had Attempted to Strike His Colours in an Engagement, 1780


Capt. Paul Jones Shooting a Sailor Who Had Attempted to Strike His Colours in an Engagement, Sayer & Bennett, 1780, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

As I explained in the last image of John Paul Jones shooting a sailor, the event is based in reality, but is itself fiction. Though Jones attempted to shoot a subordinate who attempted to surrender the Bonhomme Richard to the HMS Serapis, he did not actually kill them. This is just another in a very long series (stretching well after his death into the nineteenth century) of British prints decrying Jones as a bloodthirsty pirate.

The figure that intrigues me the most is the fellow above and to the left, with his legs sticking out from behind the sail. It appeared at first that he was hanging down, perhaps wrapped in parted lines. His right foot, however, rests on what may well be footropes. Regardless of whether he is helpless or merely working, the sailor wears a pair of striped trousers, an unlined jacket that ends at about his knees, white stockings, and pointed toe shoes with rectangular buckles.

Below him and to the left is a jack hauling on a line. This seaman wears a round hat, black neckcloth, and jacket. In front of him is a distressed sailor, kneeling down and resting his bare head in his hand. His jacket has white metal buttons at its slash cuff flap. A black neckcloth is fitted about is neck and he wears a pair of striped trousers. The neglected round hat in the foreground is probably his.

To the right and kneeling along with his mate is a sailor in a round hat and light neckcloth with a pattern on it, though it is unclear what that pattern is. His jacket is lined, with flap pockets at his waist, slash cuffs with flaps and white metal buttons. A single breasted striped waistcoat is fitted beneath his jacket, ending at his waist and his plain trousers.

With a brace of pistols, Jones stands at the center, delicately balancing his foot on  keg of powder as he levels a pistol into the face of his target.

The victim of his attack attempts to flee. He wears a black round hat, a single breasted unlined jacket with slash cuffs and flap fitted with white metal buttons, a single breasted waistcoat of the same color as his jacket, checked shirt, striped trousers, white stockings, pointed toe shoes, and rectangular buckles.

In his panic, the sailor steps across the body of his mate. The dead tar wears a checked shirt and unlined jacket.

Grog on Board, 1789



"Grog on Board," Thomas Rowlandson, 1789, Royal Collection Trust.

A group of tars is gathered about a rather buxom woman, sharing pipes and a bowl of punch. Familiar comforts abound in this piece!

In the background an on the right are a pair of young jacks looking over a red book. Though the resolution gives me some doubt, I believe the title reads "Strong Voyage." The chap on the left is a sailor of African descent, wearing a single breasted blue jacket with slash cuffs and cloth covered buttons. His neckcloth is striped, his trousers are (quite unusually) blue, and he wears neither stockings nor shoes. It is possible the fellow beside him is a midshipman: his jacket is also single breasted with cloth covered buttons, but he wears no neckcloth and his jacket bears a collar.

Embracing the woman with a wild look in his eyes is a sailor in a black round hat, a red jacket with blue lapels and slash cuffs, and a red or burgundy neckcloth. Behind the woman and puffing away on his pipe is a tar with a black cocked hat trimmed in gold with the point forward, a black neckcloth, and a blue jacket with cloth covered buttons and slash cuffs with flap.

To the right of him is another jack, this one offering a bowl to the woman while lighting his pipe on his mate's. His jacket is cut much like that of the sailor embracing the woman, but is brown in color. It has odd waist pockets with large buttons, but with a box (possibly a tobacco box) protruding from that pocket, it is clear the buttons aren't actually clasping it shut. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. In any case, he also wears a black neckcloth, a pair of off white trousers, and rounded toe shoes with oval buckles.

The furthest sailor to the right is the most wild looking of the lot. His hair is frayed, his teeth are few and far between, and his face is contorted into a bizarre caricature. Though turned away from us, we can certainly say his blue jacket matches the slash cuffs with flap that are on his mates' jackets, and his trousers are the familiar cut and color.

Gallant Behaviour of an English Sailor, c.1785


Gallant behaviour of an English Sailor in offering a sword to an unarmed Spaniard to defend himself, at the taking of Fort Omoa, in the Bay of Honduras, October 20th 1779, artist unknown, 1779-1787, Wikimedia Commons.

Here is another edition of the sailor at Omoa, which we've seen here before! Copies of this particular print exist in both the collections of the Library of Congress and the National Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, neither of those collections offers an online scan of the image. I have drawn this one from Wikimedia Commons. This print was engraved for Raymond's History of England, a work that (according to the Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museums) was first published in 1754, but continued into 1787. The Library of Congress dates this c. 1785, as the particular edition that this was published in included events through the Spring of 1784.

Though intended as a historical piece, rather than as a caricature or political cartoon, this engraving portrays the Spaniard in archaic clothing more reminiscent of the seventeenth century than the late eighteenth. Portrayals of Spaniards as backward or out of sync with the times were incredibly common among English cartoonists, but this is the first time I've seen it in a piece that is apparently serious.

The sailor wears no hat, but wears his hair short and loose. Without a neckcloth, his white shirt and jacket hang open. The jacket is single breasted without pockets or collar, ending right at the waist. His trousers end just above the ankle, revealing rounded toe shoes. Three of his mates mount a ladder over the fortress walls, but we can say nothing more about them than that they wear jackets.

Election Troops, Bringing in their Accounts, to the Pay Table, 1788


Election Troops, bringing in their accounts, to the Pay Table, James Gillray, 1788, British Museum.

In his typical biting satire, Gillray shows Pitt directing all of his brigands to the "back" of the treasury to receive pay for election fraud and voter intimidation. Cudgels and bloody bayonets abound, along with tickets describing the tasks of each blackguard. 

At the far left is a sailor, who holds a paper inscribed with: "For kicking up a Riot." Beside him is another tar, this one wearing the same slop clothes as his mate. What makes him unusual is that he portrayed as a shockingly racist caricature of a black sailor.



There are few images of black sailors in my period of study, but thus far they have been more realistic depictions of mariners of African descent, as in Rowlandson's The Jovial Crew.


It is probably that Gillray is trying to emphasize the meanness of the crowd by making one of the sailors a version of "black" that can be dismissed as less human. He has portrayed the sort of figure that is more common in antebellum American minstrel shows than in depictions of sailors from the eighteenth century.


The violent tar  in the foreground wears a black round hat with a blue bow on the right side. His short jacket is double breasted with open slash cuffs and cloth covered buttons. There are no waist pockets. About his neck is a yellow neckcloth with red stripes, the same neckcloth that his mate wears. His trousers are white with narrow vertical red stripes that end above the bottom of his calf. His stockings are white and his shoes are pointed toe with white metal rectangular buckles.

Both sailors hats bear a badge reading "Hood." These are election badges worn by all of the paid supporters in this piece, and do not represent a ship's name or specific naval affiliation, unlike the badges worn by the crew of the Edgar in William Henry Bunbury's From a Sketch taken at Portsmouth. The Edgar's men are still the only sailors I am aware of in my period of study that wore the name of their ship on their hats.

A Distressed Sailor, 1788


A Distressed Sailor, Thomas Rowlandson, 1788 (published 1789), Royal Collection Trust.

The 1780's saw a rise in the number of prints and works calling for reform in the care of disabled and aged sailors. Rowlandson's "A Distressed Sailor" is an emotional appeal to the viewer to do something to help the man who had lost his leg in their defense, while supporting a child both literally and figuratively.

Our poor jack wears a narrow brimmed round hat and short curly hair. His neckcloth is black, and his ragged jacket has slash cuffs with cloth covered buttons. At first glance I thought he was wearing a pair of trousers, but a closer look shows that it is a pair of breeches, gathered about the knee of his one good leg. His stocking hangs low around his shoe, which is tied rather than buckled.

Battle Between the French Frigate Surveillante and the British Frigate Quebec, 6 October 1779





"Battle Between the French Frigate Surveillante and the British Frigate Quebec, 6 October 1779," Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy, Musée national de la Marine (Wikimedia Commons).

I had intended to analyze this image for the slops clothes of the various sailors, but there are a couple of reasons I'm choosing not to: in the first, the sailors are far too small in the image to make any but the most generalized conclusions. In the second, the painter is a French artist, and likely not as familiar with the appearance of British sailors as he is with French.

Even so, I'm choosing to share this. It's an impressive image with a great play of light and dark. Closer inspection adds life to the otherwise inanimate frigates: the sailors may not have much detail, but you can still make out their desperation as they flee from the exploding vessel.

Many images were made of the battle between the Surveillante and HMS Quebec, but this has to be my favorite.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Embarkation, c.1760's



"The Embarkation," John Collet, c. 1760's, National Maritime Museum.

In this colorful, but unfinished piece by Collet, a portly landsman tries to climb aboard a vessel with his feet divided by two boats. While he struggles, a sailor takes the lovely lady above him into his arms, and giving her a none too innocent glance.


The sailor embracing the woman wears a cocked hat trimmed in white with the point forward. His blue jacket has slash cuffs with three large buttons which are either white metal or cloth covered. At his neck is a solid red neckcloth.


To left is another tar reaching through the shrouds with some mail, or perhaps taking a book that the unlucky passenger had unwisely clasped to while trying to board. It appears that the sailor is wearing a black "jockey" style cap. His jacket is red with brass buttons. Behind him is a shipmate with an off white cap, possibly a workman's cap or knit cap. His jacket is also blue, though definitely with white metal buttons.  Forward of these two is another salty fellow with his arms crossed. His cocked hat is reversed, and he wears a red neckcloth. Beneath his blue jacket with white metal buttons and slash cuffs is a waistcoat with narrow and horizontal red stripes. Most interesting are his trousers: very few images of sailors show any color in their striping save for red. On top of that, we see very clearly a broad fall fly, whereas most sailors' trousers show no detail in the fly at all. Quite a treat!


Above them climbs a tar in a pair of trousers, a blue jacket and some unidentifiable cap.


Below these tars in the boat are a pair of mariners trying to load some dunnage. At the bow is a sailor offering the slightest of hands to the distressed landsman. Our seaman wears an odd black and red cap, not unlike that worn by the marines in Gabriel Bray's work aboard the Pallas. This jack is weather beaten: his trousers are patched, his green waistcoat has a gaping hole, and his blue checked shirt is stained. Clutching a box is a half complete sailor. Atop his head is a black round hat with a very narrow brim, and he wears an open red waistcoat. Little more can be said about the figure, as this painting will forever remain unfinished.

The Human Passions, 1773


The Human Passions, Thomas Sanders, 1773, Walpole Library.

In an event celebrated in song and poetry, painting and print, a sailor tries to collect his pay from his most recent cruise. This print was part of a series by Thomas Sandars (or, as spelled on the print here: Sanders) exploring emotion. Some featured laughter, others anger, but this one is a bit more complicated.

Pay was a constant point of contention for sailors: the Royal Navy paid far less than merchant vessels would, piled deductions onto the tars, and hadn't even raised the monthly pay since 1660 (and still wouldn't for decades more). Here a sailor looms over the exchequer, who greedily clutches a purse close to his chest.

Jack has his hat tucked under his left arm, and it appears to be a round hat with a buckle at the crown, not unlike a Gabriel Bray painting I've featured here before. His neckcloth is white, and tied into a large knot at the front, draping over the jacket. The jacket is single breasted and unlined, with long slash cuffs left open, and flap pockets. The buttons at the cuffs appear to be cloth covered, but the lapel buttons are dark, perhaps horn or metal.

At first glance his waistcoat appears to be plaid, but closer inspection shows that the horizontal lines are actually creases and wrinkles, while the vertical lines are genuinely intended to be part of the pattern. Our seaman's shirt is clearly checked, and his trousers or slops are plain and loose. Under his right arm is tucked the trusty and familiar sailor's stick.

Jack's Return After Lord Howe's Glorious Victory, 1780


Jack's Return After Lord Howe's Glorious Victory, Sayer & Bennet, 1780, British Museum.

This jolly tar swings about his purse and clutches his stick with a self-satisfied smile. Behind him rests a dog at the feet of a woman reaching for a bowl of punch. British flags wave from the ship and the port, celebrating the victory.


At the center of piece is Jack, wearing a round hat with a short brim, a white band around the crown, and a large black bow on the left. Jack's loose neckcloth is red, tied well below the neck over his single breasted white waistcoat, and open white shirt. His blue jacket is without buttons on the lapels, but a number of cloth covered buttons on his slash cuffs. A very simple knot sticks out from beneath the waistcoat, at a spot that you'd usually find a watch fob. It could be that this simple knot is his impromptu stand in for something more formal. The trousers are very unique: yellow with narrow vertical stripes of a darker yellow. I've never seen a pair like this before, and they're quite bright! Unlike many other mariner's trousers, these don't flair out from the legs, but stick rather close. Jack's shoes are pointed toe with white metal oval buckles.

The Sailmaker ticketting the Hammocks on board the Pallas, 1774


"The Sailmaker ticketting the Hammocks on board the Pallas," Gabriel Bray, 1774, National Maritime Museum.

Deftly working his hands over a hammock, a sailmaker sits back against the ship's capstan. Beside him is a fellow sailor, probably his mate, who folds the finished hammocks into proper rolls. The sailmaker's mate will soon drop his completed work through the hatch below for storage or use.


The sailmaker wears a round hat and fairly long hair. Though unruly, his hair is tied into a short sort of queue. Beneath a high collar, you can see just the hint of his black neckcloth. His simple blue jacket ends at the waist and is closed with cloth covered buttons at the mariner's cuffs. We get a good view of the side pocket of his trousers. Interestingly, the pocket does not appear to be part of a seam. His trousers end above the ankles, revealing plain stockings and the sailmaker's shoes which have a somewhat pointed toe, and are fitted with rectangular buckles.


His mate wears a knit or work cap of some kind, possibly striped. He too wears a short jacket, one which appears to be white and possibly decorated along the seams with tape. It appears that his jacket has slash cuffs on a bottom seam. For those interested in the cut of sailor's jackets or their construction, this images gives a very good view of the seams in the jacket. The mate also wears trousers with side pockets, but this pair seems to be too long, extending well down past his shoes to the grating on which he stands. It could be that this sailor has just purchased these trousers from a slop chest, and has not yet had the chance to fit them more properly. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Landing at Mallicolo, One of the New Hebrides, 1770's


Landing at Mallicolo, One of the New Hebrides, William Hodges, mid-1770's, National Maritime Museum.

William Hodges gives us another view of Captain Cook's explorations, one that is decidedly more peaceful than the last painting we examined! Four officers stand in the foreground atop the boats, while a number of marines and sailors sit and work aboard the boats.


Behind Cook's barge a sailor gestures toward the natives ashore. His shirt is wide open and he wears no neckcloth. Atop his head he wears a simple workman's cap or knit cap. Beside him is another tar in a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His neckcloth is an orange or a red, though the exact details are a little unclear. Further astern is a jack in a typical blue jacket, and behind him is a seaman standing with the oar. His open shirt is white, matching very loose breeches or possibly trousers rolled up above his calves.


To the right of the marine officer in the red coat is a coxswain. The coxswain's shirt is also white, and he wears blue breeches and a dark cap. His oarsmen are likewise in their shirtsleeves, but without caps.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Landing at Erramanga, One of the New Hebrides, 1770s


Landing at Erramanga, One of the New Hebrides, William Hodges, 1775-1777, National Maritime Museum.

According to the National Maritime Museum, this was part of a series painted by Hodges to document the various adventures of the famous explorer Captain James Cook to accompany his writings when they were published in 1777. Cook's voyages are extremely well documented and incredibly dramatic. Of particular interest to us is the unique perspective they give us a picture of sailor's life in a very different setting. This is the first of the images I've examined that is set in the Pacific, rather than the Atlantic or Mediterranean.


At the stern of the jolly boat, a frightened looking tar, probably the coxswain, clutches his firelock. He wears a black round hat with a narrow and upturned brim, a black neckcloth, white trousers, and a brown short jacket. Interestingly, he appears to be wearing a brown leather belt outside of his jacket, possibly holding up a cartouche box.


In the center of the jollyboat is another jack aiming his firelock at the native warriors. I would guess by his sword, and the gold trim on his hat, that this is an officer.


At the bow a number of sailors push their oars into the sand in an attempt to escape. One of them is shirtless with a light red or orange neckcloth. In front of him at the center is a lad in a white shirt, black neckcloth, and petticoat trousers. Oddly, a pair of their mates are wearing long and open sleeved waistcoats or possibly jackets of blue and brown. I hesitate to conclude they are jackets as the garments are rolled up well above their elbows; this would be rather difficult with your typical woolen jacket. The closest seaman to the natives and standing at the very tip of the bow, is a tar in a black cocked hat, white trousers, and a blue, unlined jacket.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Naval Triumph or Favors Confer'd, 1780


Naval Triumph or Favors Confer'd, J. Harris, 1780, Royal Collection Trust.

The shake of the hand with Goodness & grace,
Shews who is in Favour & who is in place.
At Greenwich the poor Invalids will proclaim
What at present we do not think proper to name.

This sad ditty accompanies this cartoon of officers of the Admiralty literally riding the backs of invalid veterans to honors and graces.


The well dressed officer with the cocked hat rides astride a peg legged veteran with blue stripped trousers. His jacket is red, which we've seen a few times before, though it is not nearly so common as the blue. It is a lined jacket with slash cuffs and cloth covered buttons. His neckcloth is white and his shoe is fitted with a rectangular yellow metal buckle.

Beside his crutch is another invalid sailor, this one wearing a black round and decrying the sight: "Alas! what a Scene to each Son of the wave, Who in Thunder & Fire have always been brave." His jacket is blue, trousers are off white, and his stockings the common white.

Generous Jack Tars, 1780


"Generous Jack Tars," artist unknown, 1780, British Museum.

Circling a table with a massive plate of English roast beef, sailors indulge while humorously prodding the Frechman, Spaniard, and Dutchman they've captured. In this political cartoon, Britain is not personified in a single sailor, but a whole mess!


The tars all wear white trousers of varying lengths, and those at the fore of the table have single breasted jackets without vents or waist pockets, and with slash cuffs and flaps. One of them wears a round hat and carries a cutlass. They all wear black neckcloths.

Seamen Relaxing on the Pallas, 1774


Seamen relaxing on the Pallas, Gabriel Bray, 1774, National Maritime Museum.

Though most of Bray's works are unsurprising in their depictions of dress, there are the odd ducks. The last image I posted was of a marine and sailor wearing odd fur caps and what appear to be vambraces. This is another odd piece.

A sailor leans back against a line to relax, while his mates sew in the background. The first thing that I noticed in this image is the very long and tightly bound queue. A vast majority of images of the time show sailors with short hair. Occasionally they will have side curls, but most do not have queues. This proves definitively that sailors could and did wear their hair longer than many popular representations show. As to how common this actually was, it is difficult or impossible to say.

The other odd bit is his cap. It looks like a cross between an infantry forage cap and a light infantry cap of the French and Indian War. With a red brim bound in white tape around a black crown, I have to say I've never seen anything quite like it.

Another notable feature  of the sailor at the center is his blue and white checked shirt. Few images show this, but it is perhaps more common than we know. Other lower class laborers are known to have worn similar patterns on their shirts, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume sailors did as well. His waistcoat is a plain white with slash pockets at the waist, and his trousers are white as well. 

Behind him and to the right is a jack in the same cap, with a black neckcloth, white shirt, and white trousers. To his left is a tar in the same slop clothes, but wearing a round hat. 

This image is an important reminder that we don't have all the answers. As much as we may examine the sources available to us, we have to recognize that not all sources are available. The passage of time means the destruction and loss of countless written, physical, and visual sources, not to mention the memories of those who lived at the time. Strive as we might to capture an understanding of an era, we have to acknowledge that our understanding will be incomplete.

EDIT: When I first started this blog, I did not rely on catalog entries for the images I collected, or at least not as much as I should have. Adam Hodges-LeClaire pointed out that the caps are typical of British marines, and the National Maritime Museum's assessment is in agreement with him: "From his apparent headgear the seaman shown and the man seated on a sea chest with a tankard in his hand, far right, are probably Marines." We can reasonably conclude that the fellow sewing in the background with the round hat is a sailor, but the others should probably be regarded as marines.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Music Break - Heart of Oak

Unlike our last music break, this one is an explicitly patriotic song. There are plenty of versions on the web, but most are somewhat bombastic modern interpretations with orchestras or marching bands, so I tried to link us to a video that was at least approximating the style it was originally sung in.

Here it is: "Heart of Oak."


It was written to celebrate the victories of 1759 over the French and their allies in the Seven Years War and French and Indian War, but more specifically the Battle of Quiberon Bay.

Interestingly, the lyrics were composed by that famous actor David Garrick, who appears in a couple of posts on this blog as the "Drunken Sailor."

"Heart of Oak" was wildly popular, and sung throughout the empire. Today it is still the official march of the Royal Navy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Count De Grasse Delivering his Sword to the Gallant Admiral Rodney, 1782


Count De Grasse Delivering his Sword to the Gallant Admiral Rodney, Thomas Cowley, 1782, National Maritime Museum.

This political cartoon depicts the surrender of Count de Grasse following his defeat at St. Kitts, and again at the Battle of the Saintes. Admiral Rodney accepts his sword on the quarterdeck of a warship that has seen a stiff action. Balls are scattered about the decks, and holes have been ripped through her hull and ensign. On the weather deck a pair of sailors toast their Admiral with a bottle and glass, shouting "Huzza Rodney!" The cry is taken up by the tars on the ratlines: "Huzza!" Particularly after the embarrassing defeat at Yorktown, an American and French victory enabled by de Grasse's fleet, the capture of the French Admiral was a major boost in the flagging morale of the Royal Navy.


The sailors drinking to the health of their Admiral are gathered by the mizzenmast on the deck. Both have round hats with short brims, wear black neckcloths, double breasted jackets, and striped trousers. The tar on the right has slash pockets at the waist of his red jacket, but his mate's blue jacket does not.



In the starboard ratlines of the mizzenmast, another tar waves his round hat in celebration. He wears a blue jacket and a black neckcloth. He also wears petticoat trousers and white stockings.

At about the same height on the larboard (port) side is another jack in the ratlines. He too waves a round hat, and wears a black neckcloth, striped trousers, and double breasted red jacket.

The Press Gang, or English Liberty Display'd, 1770


The Press Gang, or English Liberty Display'd, 1770, Walpole Library.

Typical of depiction of press gangs, this unnamed cartoonist depicts a man being physically dragged away by a gang of unruly sailors bearing rattans and cudgels. A woman kneels at the feet of a British naval officer, begging him "For goodness sake dear your Honour, set him free, he maintains his Father, Mother, Sister & Wife." Despite her pleas, the brutish officer (who notably wears his cocked hat reversed like a common sailor) replies: "Let them starve & be damned, the King wants men, haul him on board you dogs."


The dogs scowl at the man, waving their sticks and shoving him along. All of them wear jackets with slash cuffs buttoned down with flaps. The chap to the left of the unfortunate victim, who holds his shoulder in a fist, wears a single breasted waistcoat and a very loose pair of trousers. His hat is a jockey style cap with a very short brim to the front, and a band around the crown. Beside him is a sailor in much the same outfit, though with a cocked hat trimmed in tape and with a cockade, worn reversed. Behind the man being pressed is yet another sailor with a backward cocked hat, this one untrimmed and without a cockade. Instead of the trousers his mates are wearing, he has a pair of slops.


In the boat to the far right is another tar with a jockey style cap, and his mate in a reversed cocked hat bound in tape and fitted with a cockade. All of the sailors wear light but solid color neckcloths.

The Sailors Race, 1788


"The Sailors Race," S. W. Fares, 1788, Royal Collection Trust.

Returning to the theme of sailors having no idea what to do with horses, this artist casts three hapless tars in the role of inept equestrians. The sketch is full of flowing lines and grotesque depictions, a style that I admire as a product of its time. Rarely have I seen something like this reproduced by modern artists.


On the far left is a jack in a wide brimmed and loose round hat. His jacket has slash cuffs, and his trousers are striped. Though he wears pointed toe shoes, it is mere speculation to draw any conclusions about the buckle.


In the center rides a jolly looking sailor with a round hat turned up on each side and a large cockade on the right side. His jacket also has slash cuffs that button over with a flap. In his right hand is a cutlass. This jack's trousers are also striped.


To the far right is another mariner, this one wearing a round hat with a more narrow brim, a jacket with a single vent at the back, and plain trousers.