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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hannah Willson, a Woman in "Sailor's Apparel"

One of my fascinations in sailors of the eighteenth century is the unfortunate crew that was sent deep into the wilderness along with General Braddock.

With the outbreak of war in America in 1754, Britain dispatched Braddock with a sizable army to remove the French from the Ohio country. Departing from his headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, Braddock brought along a huge battery of artillery, regiments of regular soldiers, American provincial units, camp followers, and (most surprisingly) a small unit of tarpawlins.

The sailors were drawn from the Royal Navy ships that had carried the soldiers across the Atlantic, and were intended to rig block and tackle to move the cannon and supplies over rough and steep areas, as well as to pilot boats along the rivers over the wilderness. 

This expedition led to the creation of Braddock Road, quite a bit of which still exists today. Unfortunately, that's all it accomplished. On approaching the French Fort Duquesne, just after crossing the Monongahela River, Braddock's force was ambushed by a contingent of French regulars, militia, and Native American allies. The British suffered a stunning and decisive defeat, one that ensured the war in America would continue into the 1760's. 

In a future post, and as part of a paper I've only just begun to organize, I will talk a bit more about the experiences and character of the sailors who fought and died alongside their lobsterback comrades, but for now we know all we need to know for this absolutely fascinating document:

Virginia Gazette,  September 5, 1755, page 4
Here's a transcription to make it easier to search:
RAN away from the Subscriber, living in Winchester Town, Frederick County, on Tuesday the 12th of August, a Servant Woman, named Hannah Wilson, about 30 Years of Age, of a middle Statue, good Complexion, born in Denmark, but speaks Low Dutch, and pretty good English ; and, it is supposed, she went away with some Sailors that were in the Battle on the Monongahela, and were going to their Ship at Hampton : She had on when she went away a blue quilted Petticoat, a white Flannel ditto, a red flower'd Jacket, and a white ditto, but no Shoes : it is suppos'd that she has dress'd herself in Sailor's Apparel, in Order to go to London with the said Sailors. Whoever will apprehend and secure the said Runaway, so that she may be had again, shall have Three Pistoles Reward, besides all reasonable Charges, paid by        Henry Brinker.
Among those sailors that survived the Battle of Monongahela (and the casualties were remarkably high) it appears discipline was lacking. Hannah willingly attaches herself to their mess and makes her way toward the sea to join them across the Atlantic. Whether she made it or not is unknown, but it is fascinating nonetheless that a woman in sailor's clothing was not confined to fiction.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Patriotic Soup for Poor Old England, 1780


Patriotic Soup for Poor Old England, Thomas Cornell, 1780, British Museum.

A metaphorical fire burns a soup of ingredients contributed by a number of figures all around a large pot. The King himself stands over the gathering, and seems none too bothered by the sailor who defecates into his soup.


He wears a wig with curls and a queue. His jacket has a single vent in the back and mariner's cuffs. The close fitting striped trousers our tar wears are parted in the back, allowing him to contribute to the stew.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Trade Card, c. 1756-1760


Trade Card, artist unknown, c. 1756-1760, British Museum.

Today I continue my examination of images from the Marine Society. The British Museum does not have a date for the trade card, but we can reasonably assume that it would fall into the same date range as the bowl. Keen eyed followers of this blog may recognize the figures on the left as the same from a bowl in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.



They are three boys receiving new slop clothes so that they can be sent to sea. Though the bowl has the boys themselves naming the charitable Marine Society, the trade card shows them out front of a brick and mortar building that bears the name of the Marine Society


The image is almost exactly the same, and gives us little to add to the previous post. They still wear short jackets that end at the top of the thigh, petticoat trousers and trousers, no waistcoats, round hats, and the figure in the center has a stick. Of particular interest in the lad on the far right pulling on his petticoat trousers over his breeches.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Frontispiece, 1758


Frontispiece, Giovanni Cipriani, 1758, British Museum.

The next few posts will deal with prints from the Marine Society. This charitable organization was founded to take children off the streets and give them professional training at sea. It was a popular organization through the latter half of the eighteenth century, and continued so into the nineteenth. No less a personality than Lord Nelson gave it his hearty approval and support. In fact, the Marine Society still exists today as the largest non-profit in the United Kingdom.

The poor boys on the right are directed to the pile of clothes on the left, where gentlemen help fit them out for sea. Thankfully, the boys are turned front and back to give us a good view of their slop clothes.

Uniformly dressed, they all wear round hats with a ribbon around the brim. This is a particularly interesting inclusion. Most round hats are depicted as very plain, and ribbons hanging off the back is more common of nineteenth century depictions. Clearly, this was also present in the eighteenth century, if far less common.

Their jackets are short, without waist pockets but with collars. The sailor lad in the foreground shows us a triple vent to his jacket, while his future shipmate to the right gives us a good view of the front, demonstrating at it is single breasted. Only two of the boys are turned far enough over for us to see their waistcoat, which are single breasted. None of them wear neckcloths.

In the background stand two adult sailors. One wears a wide brimmed round hat trimmed with white tape and sporting a cylindrical crown. He also carries the sailors' trusty stick.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

For Our Country, 1758


For Our Country, Samuel Boyce, 1758, British Museum.

I have taken some liberty with the title for this piece. This image might be the coat of arms for the Antigallican Society, or for William Blakeney himself in the role of president of that society. "For Our Country" is presumably the motto for that organization or that role.

Either way, the coat of arms features St. George the dragonslayer driving his lance into the symbol of France, flanked by a lion with an imaginative mane, and a sailor with cutlass and pistol at the ready.


The tar wears a single breasted short jacket that ends just below the top of his thigh with waist flap pockets but no collar. A round hat with short brim sits atop his head, beneath a blade that more properly resembles a scimitar than it does a naval cutlass. He has a solid color neckcloth that appears to be tied over his collar, and wears no waistcoat. His trousers are belted at the waist, along with a large pouch. I've never seen a pouch like this in any other image of eighteenth century British sailors, and so its purpose is beyond my knowledge. Perhaps it was a cartridge box? What do you think?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Bachelor's Fare" Revisited, 1777

Back in January I featured this post addressing the clothing of sailors in the 1777 John Collet print "Bachelor's Fare."

Recently I revisited the online collections of the British Museum and found colorized versions of some of the images I've featured on this blog in the past. I was particularly intrigued by the versions of Bachelor's Fare that were available partly because I love the print, but also because they present two sides of the same coin.


The above is the original I examined, from the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

Two separate colorized versions are in the collection of the British Museum. What makes them valuable to our examination is the stark difference in their coloration.


In this first copy, the sailor in the foreground wears a blue jacket with brass buttons, a yellow neckcloth, blue checked shirt, a gold or yellow trimmed hat with matching cockade, and a pair of trousers with a slight blue hue. His mate in the background has a brown jacket with cloth covered buttons, a white neckcloth, and a yellow waistcoat with brown or black stripes.


The second copy is entirely different. The tarpawlin in the center wears a red jacket with white metal buttons, a black or brown checked shirt, a blue neckcloth dotted with white and yellow. His cocked hat is trimmed in white and fitted with a blue bow. The jack sticking his head through the doorway now wears a blue jacket with brass buttons, a red neckcloth, and a yellow waistcoat with horizontal red stripes.

I have also turned up a third copy that you can buy for yourself over at RareOldPrints.com.


Bachelors Fare, or Bread and Cheese with Kisses, John Collet, printed by Carrington Bowles, 1777, RareOldPrints.com

The Jack in the doorway wears a blue coat with white metal buttons over a white waistcoat with horizontal stripes. His black hat is untrimmed like the others. The seated fellow wears a red jacket with white metal buttons, a blue check shirt, and red striped waistcoat.

Let this be a warning to us! As much as I nitpick at the details, these prints are not photographs. They are completely subject to the artists', engravers', and colorists' interpretations and choices. It is impossible to know what these subjects really looked like, if indeed they are even based on actual individuals. The best we can hope for through this examination is to come to an idea of what the general appearance of a sailor in the time was.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Love and Constancy Rewarded, 1785


Love and Constancy Rewarded, George Morland, 1785, British Museum.


Perhaps retreading the cliche of "The Sailor's Return," Morland's piece (as engraved by Philip Dawe) depicts a sailor sharing a peaceful moment with a beautiful young lady. In his hand he holds a miser's purse, and resting beside him is a walking stick. His jacket is somewhat longer than is typical of this late a period, but certainly not unheard of. The slash cuffs are buttoned shut, perhaps with brass buttons, though it is difficult to be certain. Our tar's neckcloth is dotted, and tucked into his waistcoat. Striped trousers complete his garb.

The title of this piece is interesting. I take it to be a call to sailors to mediate their notoriously loose morals when away from home. One wonders how effective such a call would truly be to the men who spent so long aboard ship and on foreign shores!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Small Craft Model, c.1758


"Small craft; Service vessel," maker unknown, c.1758, National Maritime Museum.

In my last post, I questioned the dating of a model very similar to this one. Made by the same maker, both of these vessels use the same officer and sailor models. Interestingly, the first model uses marine grenadiers, while this vessel is clearly using infantry grenadiers. The cloth mitre caps are definitely in line with the Clothing Warrant of 1751, and help us more reliably date this model to the 1750's or 60's.

The sailors are still wearing the same outfits as in the last: colorful waistcoats, barge caps, and blue jackets with open slash cuffs.

Fascinating models!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Landing Craft Model, c.1758

"Passenger Vessel; Landing Craft," maker unknown, c. 1758, National Maritime Museum.

The particular date on this model is somewhat questionable. This type of vessel certainly was used in the late 1750's and into the early 1760's, but there is no indication that they were abandoned shortly thereafter. The marine grenadier uniforms contribute to my doubt. 


The marines are clearly wearing bearskin caps. The symbol you see on the back there is a smoking grenade, indicating that these are indeed grenadiers. British marine grenadiers are rarely depicted in art, which makes this piece interesting. The reason this contributes to my doubt is that marine grenadiers of the mid-eighteenth century are depicted wearing cloth mitre caps, rather than the bearskin seen here. This example, The Shooting of Admiral Byng on board the Monarque, by an unknown artist in 1757, shows marine grenadiers wearing those cloth caps.


The Royal Clothing Warrant of 1768 stipulated that the British army would equip its grenadiers with "black bear-skin" caps, as their highland grenadiers had done since the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751. Granted, the Royal Clothing Warrant did not regulate the clothing of the marines, who were under the Admiralty, but the influence of the Clothing Warrant on the marine uniform is self evident.

Though I cannot be sure, I would venture to say that this model, based solely on the uniforms of the marines, is late 1760's at the earliest. If you can offer any insight on Marine uniforms and the possible date of this piece, please comment below.

Of course, it still falls within our examination regardless of the precise decade. And we're not here to look at redcoats, we're here to look at bluejackets!


The sailors all wear the same short blue jacket with open mariner's or slash cuffs. Though not all of them appear to have waist pockets, the fellow furthest aft here (on the far left) does. Their caps are small, and quite similar to those worn by other seamen working barges and oars. There does not appear to be a metal badge on their caps, perhaps indicating that none was worn when they were transporting soldiers, rather than specific officers.

Their waistcoats are a surprising variety of colors! Stripes and spots decorate the lot of them, in white, blue, and red.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that the British Marines weren't called "Royal Marines" until 1802. I've edited the piece to reflect that.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bowl, 1756-1760


Bowl, Worcestershire Porcelain Factory, 1756-1760, National Maritime Museum.

Out of the frame in this photo is a series of poor boys making their way to Britannia. She beckons them to join the three young tars we see to the left. The National Maritime Museum puts it best:
[The] three boys change into new seaman's clothes, one with a speech bubble: 'Marine Society'. The engraving appears in Jonas Hanway's 'Three letters on the subject of a Marine Society'. The Marine Society was founded in 1756 by the philanthropist Jonas Hanway and others. It provided funds to kit out poor boy volunteers for sea, thereby both recruiting them for the Navy and removing them from the streets.
This means we get to see three sailors not in the clothes they have been working in for weeks or months, but a whole brand new set.


On the far left is a lad without a shirt, wearing a pair of slops, a tall crowned round hat with short brim, and a jacket that ends just at the top of the leg. A black neckcloth appears to be fitted under his collar, but the angle of this photo makes it difficult to be certain. His mates both wear jackets of the same cut, and slops not unlike his. The fellow on the right can be seen pulling his slops up over his white breeches! Though dressed the same as the other two, the fellow in the center has a stick tucked under his arm.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!



"John Paul Jones said, 'I have not yet begun to fight' : fight with war stamps & bonds," James Daugherty 1942, University of North Texas Digital Library.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ville de Paris, sailing for Jamaica, or Rodney triumphant, 1782


The Ville de Paris, sailing for Jamaica, or Rodney triumphant, Thomas Colley, 1782, British Museum.

The victory of Rodney over the French fleet in the Caribbean was a much needed boon for the morale of the British people in the final years of the American Revolutionary War. His image, and those of the brave Jack Tars that made it possible, appeared in numerous political cartoons at the time, many of them as crudely illustrated as this.

While cutting down the French colors, Rodney holds of the stereotypical long queue of a Frenchman, here helpfully labeled "Count de Grasse," forcing him to carry a boatload of captured French soldiers under the watchful eye of a British sailor. The jack shouts aloud: "Down with the French ; Georgey." Typical of satirical images, there's plenty more symbolism here: the Catholic cross dragging on the sea, the bowspirt with English colors protruding from the Count's rear, and the distant British fort on Jamaica.


At the bow of the boat stands our sailor. In his right hand he wields a cudgel threateningly over the French prisoners. In his left hand he waves a round hat. At his neck is a neckcloth, but too small of us to draw any conclusions about its color or pattern. A single breasted brown jacket is fit over his red striped trousers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bowcock Bowl, 1759



Bowcock bowl, Bow Porcelain Factory, 1759, British Museum.

Chinese porcelain was widely popular in the eighteenth century, both in America and Britain. This trend inspired mimicry of Chinese styles. The Bow Porcelain Factory represented one such effort. Established in the appropriately named New Canton, the factory churned out a wide variety of ceramics that can be found in collections around the world: the Victoria and Albert Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, and, of course, the British Museum.

This punch bowl is decorated on its interior surface with a small mess of sailors enjoying themselves around a bowl of punch. Each carries a walking stick, just all of them wear short jackets and trousers. None of them wear waistcoats. The fellow at the center, supporting the bowl in his right hand, wears a cocked hat, though it is difficult to tell precisely how it is cocked. To the right of him dances an overly excited tar, who waves his round hat in one hand.