Sunday, May 18, 2014

Voyage to Margate, 1786


Voyage to Margate, Isaac Cruikshank, published by W. Hinton, 1786, Yale University Lewis Walpole Library.


Voyage to Margate, Isaac Cruikshank, published by W. Hinton, 1786, National Maritime Museum.


Voyage to Margate, Isaac Cruikshank, published by W. Hinton, 1786, from 'Margate Prints: A History,' by Anthony Lee, via Margate in Maps and Pictures.

Just like our last entry, this is one that captures the unfortunate experience of landsmen and women on even moderately rough water. Though the image is not populated by nearly so many sailors as our last, it is crowded with more explicit images of sickness.


Consoling an unfortunate woman is a naval officer in a fine cocked hat and coat. He sports a wooden leg and patched eye. Helping him along is a sailor who clutches his nose against the stench.

He wears a knit cap, a long jacket or coat with lapels and scalloped mariners' cuffs, a double breasted waistcoat, and a pair of slops that end at the knee. Peeking from beneath are the straps that would secure his breeches just below the knee.


At the tiller is a jolly coxswain with his trust mug of foaming ale. He wears a round hat with a short brim, a double breasted jacket with metal buttons, striped neckcloth, and striped trousers.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Fresh Breeze/Margate Hoy, 1785


A Fresh Breeze, C. Catton, published by W. Hinton, 1785, Royal Collection Trust.



Margate Hoy, C. Catton, published by W. Hinton, 1785, Margate in Maps and Pictures.


Margate Hoy, Charles Catton the Elder, published by W. Hinton, 1785, Yale Center for British Art.

This humorous print depicts a number of landsmen and women struggling to keep their lunch in check while sailors work around them. One woman doses herself with a bottle, a Reverend struggles to cope by reading from his book, and others visually express their distress. It would be fair to assume that this print tickled Georgian funny bones, as it was reprinted into the 1790's. Later, it was erroneously attributed to Thomas Rowlandson, as the style and subject are certainly in keeping with his works.




At the tiller, and apparently the only person enjoying himself, is the coxswain. He wears a short brimmed round hat with tape around the edge, which is eliminated in the second coloration. His plain neckcloth is tucked into a single breasted waistcoat with welt pockets, beneath a double blue breasted jacket with slash cuffs unbuttoned. Interestingly, the first colorized version portrays his jacket with brass buttons and a white lapel, while the second version using the same color for the jacket and the buttons, and does not colorize the lapel. Similarly, they differ in the color of his waistcoat: white in the first and red in the second. Sticking out of the waist pocket of his jacket is a brass tobacco box. He also wears a plain pair of trousers with a broad fall fly




To starboard is a tar plugging his nose, presumably against the sickness of the passengers that he carries in the bucket. Like his mate at the tiller, he wears a double with buttoned down lapels, but no waistcoat. In the first colorized version he wears a blue jacket with white lapels and white or brass buttons. In the second it is a simple red jacket, with matching lapels and buttons. His trousers match that of the coxswain, though we get a good look at this side seam pocket, out of which peeks a pipe. Atop his head is a cocked hat with the point forward.





Beneath him is another sailor, this one climbing a ladder, but also carrying a bucket. He wears no hat, a jacket that has a single vent at the back, a white kerchief, and a pair of petticoat trousers. The first colorist gives him a red jacket and white neckcloth, in the second he has a blue jacket and red neckcloth.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Death of Lord Robert Manners, 1786


The Death of Lord Robert Manners, T. Macklin, 1786, Michael Finney Antique Prints.

This print is currently for sale through Michael Finney Antique Books and Prints. It depicts the death of Captain Lord Robert Manners, HMS Resolution at the 1782 Battle of the Saintes. Like many "Death of" paintings and prints of the period, this is an overly sanitized version. In truth, Manners broke an arm and took severe wounds to both legs, requiring the amputation of one of them. At that, he did not die in battle, but from the subsequent lockjaw that followed his wounds.

I don't usually address officers on this blog, as our focus is the common sailor, but this print features a good number of sailors, and gives us an idealized yet helpful picture of their dress. Oh, and it might be worth noting that there is a nearly identical print in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

In the background on the upper left, up on the quarterdeck behind a railing and a line of buckets, are a pair of sailors looking on as Captain Manners is carried away. The sailor on the right holds what might be a fid, though it is difficult to tell. His hat is a round hat with a short crown and a floppy, short brim. He wears a single breasted jacket without collar, and a plain neckcloth tucked into the jacket. To the left is another tar in a very similar round hat and a shirt with neither waistcoat nor jacket.

Directly beneath them and almost hidden in the dark background is the helmsman, whose sleeves are rolled up almost to the shoulder, and wearing a pair of trousers. More immediately to the foreground is one of the few depictions of a black sailor that I've come across. He wears a pair of trousers, an untucked shirt without waistcoat, and a black neckcloth. Another tar with long locks of loose curly hair wears a jacket with a single vent at the back, a pair of slops, and plain stockings.

At first I thought that Manners' head and shoulders were being supported by some unspecified wreckage and sailcloth, but it turned out to be a sailor! The jack wears a plain white shirt with no waistcoat, slops, and plain stockings. Behind Manners is a mariner with a bald head, who wears a black neckcloth and a waistcoat with narrow horizontal stripes. Two more sailors clutch Manners' legs: one without a waistcoat and wearing a striped neckcloth, the other with a dark waistcoat and a round hat to match his mates on the quarterdeck.

This is where it gets interesting:


Three sailors run out a gun as Manners is led away. The sailors reaching furthest forward is fairly unremarkable, as we can't see any details beyond his shirt. Yet, the other two sailors wear jackets with tape! Much more common during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, British sailors of the late eighteenth century do not appear to have worn these very often. This is the first appearance of such decoration in any of the images we've examined. The white tape lines the seams of the jacket.

The tar further aft wears a cap of some sort, while the jack in the foreground wears a cocked hat with a flat topped crown and a pair of striped trousers.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The bull over-drove, or, The drivers in danger, 1782


The bull over-drove, or, The drivers in danger, John Harris, 1782, Library of Congress.

Once again, the Library of Congress catalog entry pretty well sums it up:
Print shows a bull trampling the prostrate body of Lord Sandwich, lead driver, and kicking toward Lord North and George Germain, the "drivers in danger." The bull is charging toward three men, representing France, America, and Spain; in the background, on the left, British sailors cheer.
I am not immediately inclined to agree on their last point. Clearly, the fellow in the foreground is a sailor, but those behind him wear their hair long and clubbed, wearing frock coats and breeches, none of which matches the popular image of the sailor. It would probably be safer to say that only the sailor in their front can be definitively identified as such.


He waves a dark hat, but the angles on the hat make it difficult to determine whether it is a round hat, or a cocked hat. I would lean toward round hat, but cannot be sure. His jacket skirts extends to just above the thigh, and is far fancier than most: double breasted with a button down collar, white lapels, cuffs, and flap pockets at the waist. A single breasted white waistcoat with flap pockets and a cutaway is likewise atypical for sailors. A plain black neckcloth is tucked into the waistcoat. White trousers end above the ankles, and a stick is held in his opposite hand. He is well turned out to cheer on the bull with a "Huzza."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Labour in vain or let them tug & be da--nd, 1782


Labour in vain or let them tug & be da--nd, W. Richardson, 1782, Library of Congress.

The catalog entry for this political cartoon at the Library of Congress (linked above) does a fine job of summing up what we're looking at here:
Print shows Neptune, the British lion, Britannia, and a British sailor on a piece of land labeled "England" laughing derisively at a Dutchman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, and a partly draped Native woman wearing a feathered headdress, representing America, who are tugging at taut ropes hooked onto English soil.
Once the former American colonies had secured European allies, fears of invasion in England caused the Crown to reevaluate its strategy. The artist is here dismissing concerns of a European invasion by claiming that the British could handily defeat their opponents.


Looking on with an amused expression of contempt, and causing Britannia to laugh at his command of "Avast heaving," is a typical British tar. His cocked hat is reversed, revealing short cut hair. A plain neckcloth is tied about his neck, draping onto a double breasted jacket that ends at the waist with slashed cuffs buttoned closed. Unusually tight fitting trousers, decorated with vertical stripes, is sewn with a broad fall fly. Tucked under his arm is a stick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Sailors Adventure to the Streights of Merry-Land, 1749


The Sailors Adventure to the Streights of Merry-Land, Or, An Evening View on Ludgate Hill, J. June, 1749, Library of Congress.

We return to the theme of the bawdy sailor. Tarts wander the streets and night, selling themselves to the passing men. All are illuminated by the streetlights hanging above and the lanterns of a remarkably short man (or perhaps a boy) selling "hot spic'd gingerbread." There are plenty of other men in the image (including a reverend in the background on the right), but there is only one sailor.


Though he is featured prominently in the title, our sailor is wedged behind a pair of women to the left. He wears a cocked hat with the point forward, a dotted neckcloth, and a single breasted jacket. Behind the skirts of the prostitutes, we can make out the legs of his trousers or slops. It is difficult to say which it is precisely, and could be very wide legged trousers.

Monday, May 12, 2014

ANTICIPATION; or, the CONTRAST to the ROYAL HUNT, 1782


ANTICIPATION; or, the CONTRAST to the ROYAL HUNT, Viscount Marquis Townsend, 1782, Colonial Williamsburg.

Following Britain's devastating 1781 defeat at Yorktown, this political cartoon expresses confidence in the ability of the empire to endure. While a naval battle rages in the background, sailors defend and hold upright a temple on the right, which is held up by the columns of Gibraltar, Jamaica, and Barbadoes. A third column entitled Tobago is being erected to replace the lost columns of America, Virginia, Charles Town, Rhode Island, and another that I can't quite make out.

There are a lot of figures spouting a number of word balloons that are only tangentially related to our exact study, but among them is King George III (having his eyes checked) and Lord North. You can read more about them in the catalog entry linked above.


For our study, we'll focus on the tars around the temple to the right. In the foreground, wrestling with the collapsed columns, there are two jacks aided by a gentleman in a yellow frock coat. The tarpawlin to the left wears a blue jacket with short skirts, ending just above the thighs, and appears to have two or three vents. He wears a round hat with a flat topped cylindrical crown, and white trousers. Beside him is his shipmate in a flat hat with a narrow brim and a round topped crown, a light purple jacket, and a pair of trousers. 

Behind them are a pair of sailors erecting columns representing the Caribbean Islands that the Royal Navy had secured from their opponents during the war. The tar on the left wears a blue jacket just like his mate further forward, a round hat with a narrow brim, and a pair of slops with white stockings. To his right is a sailor on a ladder, wearing a light purple jacket, round hat, and either a pair of white breeches or a pair of white slops. Either way, his stockings are likewise white.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Louisbourg Captured" Medal, 1758


"Louisbourg Captured" award medal, Thomas Pingo, 1758, Colonial Williamsburg.

During the French and Indian War, the Americans and British struck a stunning victory against their French adversaries in Canada with the successful Siege of Louisbourg. Through the strategic use of hot shot, and combined land and sea operations, the Royal Navy and the British Army increasingly wore down the French stronghold. In the scene depicted on the medal here, a British cutting out expedition captured one French warship, and burned another, effectively ending any French resistance on the St. Lawrence River. With this action, the defenders had no choice but to surrender, opening the way to Quebec and the end of the war.

To commemorate this event, the medal above was created. As Colonial Williamsburg states:
Dies for a dual-purpose medal were almost immediately prepared by Thomas Pingo, with specimens struck in time to be exhibited at the Royal Society of the Arts in the Strand, London in 1760. As some specimens were fitted with a suspension loop while others weren't, it can be assumed it served as both a military award and a commemorative medal.
This medal marks a significant departure from the norm in that it illustrates not only an accurate scene from the event, but it depicts a common British soldier and sailor, not in allegorical or classical garb, but in the costume worn during the siege.
The tar depicted opposite the British grenadier (the fellow wearing a tall mitre cap) is waving his round hat in victory. He wears a single breasted waistcoat under a jacket with welt pockets. Around his waist is a belt with a pair of pistols, angled butt forward. Trousers ending well above the ankle finish off this very typical sailor's garb.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The North Star, 1769


The North Star, artist unknown, 1769, Yale University Lewis Walpole Library.

In a typically crowded political cartoon, Pitt sits above the Altar of Baal where judges burn "Habeus Corpus" and "Rights of the Subject," while a Jacobite prepares to slay a bare breasted Britannia, and politicians kneel and praise their new pagan god. And we thought modern political pundits were paranoid!

Among the characters in this piece is a tar playing a fiddle astride boxes or blocks entitled "English Constitution."


He wears a backward turned cocked hat and a grotesque grin. His short jacket with open mariner's cuffs is tattered which doesn't give us much idea of where precisely it would have ended, but perhaps at the top of the thigh. Equally worn slops run down to about the top of the calf of his good leg, but are tied up above his peg leg. About his neck, though largely hidden from view is a plain neckcloth.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Slave Ship (?), c. 1780


A slave ship (?), William Jackson, c. 1780, National Maritime Museum.

I usually avoid images of ships themselves, as the detail on sailors is slight, and they are painted so small they are often indistinguishable from passengers or officers. This image would have been the same were it not for a detail of the image expanded by the National Maritime Museum itself.


By far more important to historians is the slaves seen on deck. This is almost certainly a painting of a slave ship from Liverpool. As the National Maritime Museum states:
The precise circumstances of this painting are not clear, and it may have been commissioned for the Liverpool offices of a bank or merchant involved in slavery to present an acceptable view of the trade.
We may be looking at early pro-slavery propaganda.

This blog's focus has been as narrow as they come: the representations of common sailor's clothing in original eighteenth century images. Usually these images depict sailors drinking, cavorting with women, or acting as personifications of the British nation. These topics are connected to the slave trade, but not as directly as images like this one. It is not that I have been avoiding the slave trade, but rather that the type of images I have been examining (political cartoons for example) simply didn't address it.

What is somewhat disturbing about this image, in our case, is that the sailors of the slave trade were virtually indistinguishable from those of other services. I've mentioned before the privateers, naval sailors, and merchantmen were largely interchangeable. This is equally true for slave trade sailors.

In the center of the image and climbing the ratlines are a pair of sailors. In the foreground and slightly to the right just beside the blue ensign stands a tar in a longer blue jacket, ending about the mid thigh. His black round hat has a taller crown, and his slops end just below the knee. Really, there's nothing exceptional about this sailor. The tar behind him and to the left is similarly average. He wears a black knit cap, a brown jacket of equal length with a single vent in the back, and a pair of white breeches. There are other European figures in this  image, some of whom could be sailors, but there's no way to be sure.

This sobering painting is a reminder that it was average men who made up the slave trade, and engaged in one of the greatest and prolonged atrocities in human history.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Fleet of Transports Under Convoy, 1781


A Fleet of Transports Under Convoy, Carington Bowles, 1781, British Museum.

Another in Bowles' series of using nautical language metaphorically, this one is not referencing anything to do with Bowles' affinity for depicting sailors as womanizers. Instead, a tar leads a group of ne'er-do-wells for "transportation." Among the punishments on hand for British judges to mete out to offenders was a sort of banishment. Convicts could be shipped overseas to a colony. North America had received a goodly number of these (much to the consternation of many American colonists), but with the outbreak of war these convicts are bound...somewhere else. The Crown did not begin to send convicts to Australia until 1787, so I'm not really sure where these poor fellows are headed.

Though beyond the scope of our focus, it is worth noting that this image is an antisemitic one. The two convicts in front, with thin beards, are identified by the British Museum's website as Jews. With a scowl the sailor looks back to the crowd, but his eyes seem to be fixed on the two Jews in front. 

The next few images I will be examining are going to touch on some very sensitive topics, and antisemitism is among them. Much more prominent in depictions of sailors, however, is the slave trade. These should not be excluded from our examination, but they should also not be handled lightly. It is beyond question that human suffering on an unprecedented scale arose from racism, much of which had its roots in the period we are examining. It is with utmost sensitivity that I approach these images.


Leading the captives for transportation is a sailor bearing a cudgel in his right hand. Atop his head is either a cap or a round hat with a very short and upturned brim. His hair is a bit baffling: it has white curls along the sides, but short brown bangs at the front. Is Bowles trying to suggest that our tar is wearing a cheap and ill-fit wig?

Jack tar's blue jacket is single breasted and fitted with brass buttons, and has a collar and cuffs. The waistcoat is a single breasted piece with waist pockets and a cut-away, much more common among other professions than among sailors. The waistcoat buttons match the buttons on the jacket. A dotted neckcloth of yellow and red is tied over his white shirt, hiding any sign of a collar. Yellow breeches are buttoned over blue and white striped stockings. The buckles on his shoes are large and brass.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

More on Weatherproofing

"Loss of HMS Ramillies, September 1782: Before the Storm Breaks" by Robert Dodd, Wikimedia Commons.
The more I contemplate the topic, and the more I research, the more I become convinced that there was indeed a good deal of weatherproofing among British and American sailors' garments.

Further evidence comes from the 1760 book The Wooden World Dissected
[The sailor] looks most formidable when others would appear most drooping; for see him in bad weather, in his fur cap and whapping large watch coat, and you'd swear the Czar was return'd from Muscovy; yet he's never in his true figure, but within a pitch'd jacket, and then he's as invulnerable to a cudgel, as a hog in armour.
The reference to a "pitch'd jacket" confirms the use of pitch on sailor's clothing, but this is doubly proven when we go even earlier in time. In the April 1740 edition of the Gentleman's Magazine is included a humorous exchange between a soldier (Thomas Lobster) and a sailor (John Tar). In it, Thomas Lobster professes himself a gentleman soldier, and accuses sailors in general of being an ill-kempt sorts who are "call'd nothing but Tarpawlins at best." More relevant to our topic, he continues:
Why, look ye here, Jack; does not this new red Coat, laced Hat, and Sword by my side, look more genteel than your old pitch'd Jacket, and dirty'd Pair of Trowsers? 
We then have a number of sources, referring to the last post and to this, of tarred clothing. In Wooden World Dissected, the anonymous author even goes so far as to state that the jack is "never in his true figure without" it. Why then do we not see more representations of this?

Speaking materially, the physically objects almost never survived. What little we have from the General Carleton is the exception to the rule, and cannot be considered representative of tarred clothing, as she sank in a storm and her crew would have been wearing them.

Visual sources, the focus of this blog, can almost never be considered to be reliable for the sake of determining whether a piece of clothing is tarred, pitched, or not. This is because the images do not convey fabric texture, only color. We know for certain that eighteenth century sailors wore hats of felt and, far less often, leather.

Here again we run up against the limitations of our primary sources. Most were drawn, painted, engraved, and colored by printers ashore. Their exposure to sailors was mostly that of observing those sailors on land. There would be little reason to wear foul weather gear when walking around Liverpool.

Returning again to the General Carleton, we should perhaps use this as a model. Numbers of felt hats were found below decks, but only one weatherproofed hat. This leads me to believe the sailors switched out their standard gear for a foul weather rig. We may assume, then, that during all other times, they were wearing the more typical sailor's clothing that we see in a vast majority of images.