Monday, December 18, 2017

The Female Bruisers, 1768


The Female Bruisers, John Collet, 1768, Museum of London.


The Female Bruisers, engraved by J. Goldar after John Collet, 1770, Yale University Lewis Walpole Library.

Once again I am indebted to Adam Hodges-LeClaire for pointing me to this piece.

John Collet pops up here and there on this website. His A Rescue, or the Tars Triumphant is one of my absolute favorite pieces.  I had glanced at this piece in the past, but didn't put much thought into it, as it did not have an apparent maritime connection.

That is, until Adam pointed me to the right of the frame.



Two sailors, happy to take in the free entertainment of a pair of 'Female Bruisers,' restrain a madam from interfering. These mariners are the opposite for the righteous defenders of prostitutes Collet extolled in The Tars Triumphant.

The Museum of London Version is the original, but is also low resolution, so I'm pairing it with a high resolution print from the Yale University Lewis Walpole Library to tease out the details.

The sailor in the foreground wears a cocked hat bound in gold or white tape over a loose white bob wig. His blue jacket with white metal buttons is double breasted, and the mariners' cuffs are open. A closely knotted handkerchief of indeterminate pattern hangs from his neck.  It rests over a single breasted waistcoat with narrow horizontal stripes. His check shirt is peeking out from under the jacket. Red breeches are tied at the knee. His shoes bear rectangular buckles.

His mate wears a single breasted jacket over a plain single breasted waistcoat. Our mariner's shirt is open, and he is notably without a handkerchief.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An original sketch by an English officer on board of one of Adml. Howe's Fleet while at anchor in New York Harbor, 1776


An original sketch by an English officer on board of one of Adml. Howe's Fleet while at anchor in New York Harbor, just after the Battle of Long Island, Thomas Davies, 1776, New York Public Library.

Special thanks to Todd Braisted for pointing this out to me. For anybody interested in the loyalist experience during the American Revolutionary War, he's the guy to go to. His website is great, take a look!

Combined operations between the Royal Navy and the British army were crucial in the American Revolutionary War. New York was arguably the most successful of these. Tens of thousands of Hessian and British troops were carried ashore in flat bottomed boats manned by British sailors.

The brothers Howe (General and Admiral) broke the back of the Continentals, who fled Long Island in disorder. This image shows a few warships lying at anchor with backed sails in New York Harbor just after the battle. At the time, it would be easy to think that the war would be short lived, and perhaps that accounts for the simple, pacific feel of Davies' piece.

Thomas Davies was an officer of the Royal Artillery, and so had an eye for geography. This was enhanced by his inclination to natural science and reflected in his artistic skill.


Davies depicts two men rowing their boat in the foreground. The boat has an oddly high prow, but I am no expert in the historical construction or appearance of small boats. Each oarsman wears a round hat and jacket.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two young gentlemen and a sailor boxing, date unknown


'Two young gentlemen and a sailor boxing,' Robert Pollard, date unknown, British Museum.


'Three men standing by a cannon, another figure boxing to left,' Robert Pollard, date unknown, British Museum.

Robert Pollard was a painter and engraver who was especially active in the 1780's, though also well beyond. Maritime subjects were a favorite of Pollard's, and especially catastrophic wrecks like the Halsewell, Centaur, and Grosvenor. In these sketches, perhaps studies for an unfinished engraving, are in a different vein. Two officers stand casually, half watching a boxing match between a sailor and a young man in a cocked hat with cockade who wears a queue.

Given the length of the young fellow's hair and the cockade on his hat, it is possible that he is a midshipman. This is interesting, in that he appears to be fighting a common sailor, with short cut hair, in his shirtsleeves, and striped trousers. Perhaps he is also a midshipman, and wearing working clothes, but it is an odd juxtaposition. In any case, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, save for the midshipman himself, who looks rather worried.

 Boxing has a complicated history afloat. Ostensibly forbidden aboard warships, it was practiced anyway. When Christopher Hawkins was taken up as a young man by a Royal Navy warship from his American privateer in 1777, he experienced this first hand: 'Boxing was not allowed on board the frigate yet the boys would sometimes play the pugilist, and no notice would be taken of it by the officers.' Olaudah Equiano's experience with officers and pugilism was not just a benign neglect, but active encouragement:
On the passage, one day, for the diversion of those gentlemen, all the boys were called on the quarter-deck, and were paired proportionally, and then made to fight; after which the gentleman gave the combatants five to nine shillings each. This was the first time I ever fought with a white boy; and I never knew what it was to have a bloody nose before. This made me fight most desperately; I suppose considerably more than an hour; and at last, both of us being weary, we were parted. I had a great deal of this kind of sport afterwards, in which the captain and the ship's company used very much to encourage me.

Given that this is a rather aged sketch, I have taken the liberty of enhancing it a touch so that we might better see the sailors at their game.


Our hatless boxer wears close cut and wavy hair. A few lined at the back of his head give the hint of what might be a handkerchief, but I can't be sure. His plain shirt does not appear to have its sleeves rolled up, but is tucked into trousers with vertical stripes that run down to the top of his ankles.



While the nervous boxer stands in the far left of the frame, three smiling sailors watch his progress.


This mariner wears his curly hair loose and cut well above the shoulder. His jacket has a calling collar, and it appears that he is wearing a closely knotted neckcloth. His waistcoat is open to at least the center of the chest. Around his waist is a pair of petticoat trousers, with breeches perfectly visible on his right knee.


These two wear caps of differing styles. The one in the foreground appears to be wearing a knit cap, which may also be the case with his mate. Both wear the same style of jacket as the sailor to the left, and notable the sailor in foreground here wears a ruffled garment at his neck. While I cannot be sure if he wears trousers or petticoat trousers, the pocket is perfectly clear.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Barefoot

It is common in historical reenacting to assert that sailors often went barefoot when afloat, but what do the sources say?

Very few images depict sailors entirely barefoot. I have examined well over 400 images created between 1740-1790, ranging from high art to political cartoons and everything in between. Of these, only three shows sailors with neither shoes nor stockings.

The earliest depiction in my era of study is a political cartoon that includes a pair of barefoot sailors. Notably they are ashore, and the point of the cartoon is to show them dis-empowered and in the thrall of an enemy. It could be that the artist, Samuel Lyne, was intending to show a certain poverty among the sailors.

Detail from Bob the Political Ballance Master, Samuel Lyne, 1742, British Museum.
Less ambiguous is Thomas Hearne's portrayal of a sailor working on the 20 gun Deal Castle. Though painted in 1804, Hearne was present for the 1775 voyage, and based the painting on sketches taken at the time.
Detail form A scene on board His Majesty's ship 'Deal Castle'...in the year 1775
Thomas Hearne, 1804, National Maritime Museum.
Julius Caesar Ibbetson also depicts sailors afloat without shoes or stockings, but they are mixed between both men with shod feet and those without. Like Hearne, he was present for this event, and illustrated it at is happened.
Detail from Crossing the Line Ceremony on Board the Ship, 'Vestal,'
Julius Caesar Ibbetson, c.1788, Yale Center for British Art.
As with Ibbetson and Hearne, Gabriel Bray painted the below from life. Bray is made all the more reliable an artist by the fact that he was a naval officer, and more intimately familiar with sailors and their ways. In this we see that the sailors both on deck and aloft wear shoes. However, the sailor leaning on the gun is clearly without stockings.
Detail from Seaman Leaning on a Gun on the Pallas,
Gabriel Bray, 1775, National Maritime Museum.
The common sailors themselves have little to say on the matter. Like most material culture in this class, it was not considered remarkable enough to record, and no journal, memoir, or novel penned by a common sailor that I have read has yet cast much light on this. When sailors do mention going barefoot, it is only as an exception and in an unusual circumstance.

Jacob Nagle, after escaping to shore and leaving his shoes aboard, had this unfortunate experience in 1781:
I having no shoes, I could scarcely walk. He rode ahead to New Castel and bought me a pair of shoes and had a dinner provided for us all. In a few days we arived in Philadelphia, but my feet were so inflamed I could not put them to the flore.
Samuel Kelly also lost his shoes and much of his clothing in 1784:
Having neither shoes nor stockings this called my feet severely, as well as my shoulder, having nothing on it but a shirt or canvas frock.
William Williams, writing the semi-autobiographical novel The Journal of Penrose, Seaman, relates the clothing that remains on his eponymous character after a spell as a Spanish prisoner in the 1740's:
Here I shall give the reader a rough draught of my Garb as I then appear'd. (Viz) a long pair of ragged and narrow Spanish trowsers,  a fragment of an old blue Shirt not enough to pass under my waistband, a remnant of an old Red handkerchief round my head, without either shoe or stocking to my feet. I had yet my old blue bonnet.
Depictions of sailors and their own words do not provide us much evidence for working afloat without shoes. This is by no means definitive, and there is more research to be done. Working barefoot probably occurred (the evidence from Hearne's Deal Castle painting is compelling), but it is impossible to say how frequently this happened.

Monday, December 4, 2017

South Elevation of the Stone Lighthouse Completed Upon the Edystone in 1759, 1763


South Elevation of the Stone Lighthouse Completed Upon the Edystone in 1759, engraved by Edward Rooker, figures by Samuel Wale, 1763, Bonhams.

The Eddystone Light is a fixture in the maritime culture of Britain. A true marvel of engineering, this version was completed in 1759.

This 1763 print does not appear to be what the auction page is referring to. Bonhams states that this is a book about the Eddystone published in 1791. Even the engraver does not appear to be the same, with Bonhams identifying him as H. Hughes, whose name does not appear on the print.


A small crew of sailors carry a gentleman (perhaps a sea captain) to the stone. Each wears a cocked hat and shirtsleeves, with bob wigs or their hair bobbed in a seamanlike fashion. At the bow stands a fellow with a single breasted jacket, extending his boathook to the ring presumably installed for that purpose. He wears plain trousers.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

British Resentment or the French fairly Coopt at Louisbourg, 1755


British Resentment or the French fairly Coopt at Louisbourg, Louis Pierre Boitard, 1755, Colonial Williamsburg.


British Resentment or the French fairly Coopt at Louisbourg, Louis Pierre Boitard, 1755, John Carter Brown Library of Early American Images.

Copies of this cartoon can be found at Williamsburg, the Walpole Library, the John Carter Brown Early American Images collection, the Library of Congress, the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and other major institutions.

Louisbourg had long been a target of the British in their wars against French Canada. This political cartoon by Boitard was counting chickens before they hatched. It would be another three years of war between the American and French colonies of North America.

There are a good number of sailors in this print, so we'll get right into it!


Starting from the left, there is a sailor at the base of the pyramid brandishing his curved cutlass and, in the words of Boitard, "pointing to the eclipse, & leering at a French Politician trapt by his own Schemes." This sailor wears a reversed cocked hat with narrow brim, held up by a skinny loop. His blue single breasted jacket has mariners cuffs with matching buttons. The waistcoat beneath is white with narrow vertical red stripes over a white shirt. A pair of white petticoat trousers and white stockings leading to pointed toe shoes with rectangular buckles complete his appearance. Peeking from beneath the petticoat trousers on his right leg is the tie that binds the breeches beneath.


In the foreground on the far right, conversing with a soldier, another tar sits by a cannon where he "Squeezes the Gallic Cock by the throat, & makes him disgorge the French usurpations in America." He also wears a blue jacket, with its mariners' cuff open so we can see the white shirt beneath. Trousers or petticoat trousers run down to the top of his calf when he site. He wears a yellow neckcloth which is spotted, and may have red spots in the Williamsburg version, but the resolution is too low to be certain. It appears that this sailor, too, wears his cocked hat reversed.


Behind the cannon "A Gang of brave Saylors [are] exulting at the Starving French coopt up." All of them wear petticoat trousers and carry or wear cocked hats, many of them bare bob wigs as they raise their hats in rejoicing. Most of them brandish long sticks. The mariner up front wears a striped waistcoat just like that of the sailor by the pyramid. Among them, the least uniform is only differentiated from his mates by the brown jacket he wears. Interestingly, most have flap pockets on their waistcoats and jackets, and at least one on his jacket.

Monday, November 27, 2017

British Heroism at Omoa, 1789


British Heroism at Omoa, artist unkown, in The Gentleman's and London Magazine: Or Monthly Chronologer, August, 1789, Google Books.

The latest in the images I have thus far collected of the British tar at Omoa, this print accompanied a brief description of the event published in the August 1789 edition of The Gentleman's and London Magazine: Or Monthly Chronologer.

Where Humphrey, who was the first to put the British tar at Omoa into an engraving, put the coarse words of a sailor into the mouth of the tar, the author of the Monthly Chronologer is closer to the original merciful version as related by Captain Dalrymple, though still far from accurate by that account:
One brave Castilian, resolved to conquer or die, threw himself before the brave British tar, and opposed him with all the vigour and skill he was master of, but was quickly disarmed. But the generous victor, disclaiming to take advantages, took up the sword, and presented it to the owner, "Now," cried he, "we are on equal terms; defend yourself. I scorn to attack an unarmed man" The Spaniard, struck at his generosity, received his sword, and bravely defended himself; but was soon forced to yield. "Generous Conqueror!" cried he, "I am in every way your inferior. You first overcome me by your valour, then by your generosity, and now again I am forced to submit. But where such heroism is found, resistance is vain, and opposition fruitless."
The author is so bold as to go even further with this syrupy exaggeration by claiming that the sailor was given instant preferment, something not mentioned in the original dispatches.

A sailor so supernaturally skilled at combat and mercy as to make a Spaniard decry himself as 'in every way your inferior' should look uncommonly gallant. Our unknown engraver has done his best to imbue the British tar with a manful and gallant look.


The tar wears a round hat with wide brim bound with tape. From his right shoulder to his left hip is draped a baldrick for his cutlass, which is clasped in his right hand. He wears a dark jacket that ends about the top of the thigh (though it is difficult to be certain). A single breasted jacket runs down to the plain petticoat trousers where it might be tucked in. The petticoat trousers themselves have a 'broad-fall' fly and end about the top of the calf. White stockings run to pointed toe shoes with large oval buckles. The resolution isn't high enough to be certain, but the straps of his shoes might be trained in the sailor's fashion.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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, engraved by John Record after Metz, c.1785, Library of Congress.

Here is another edition of the British tar at Omoa. 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. Other copies exist in the collection of the National Maritime Museum and British Museum.

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. It is interesting to note that a straight historical narrative of the time also depicted the stereotypical Spaniard in his anachronistic garb.


The sailor wears no hat, and wears his hair short and loose. Without a neckcloth, his white shirt hangs open. The blue jacket is single breasted without pockets or collar, ending right below the natural waist. His plain trousers end just above the ankle, revealing rounded toe shoes.


Three of his mates mount a ladder over the fortress walls. They too are hatless and wear blue jackets. It appears that the engraver or the colorist has given the second tar climbing the ladder a handkerchief around the neck, or perhaps a collar of different color than the body of the jacket.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A British Sailor Offering a Sword to an Unarmed Spanish Officer, 1783


A British Sailor offering a Sword to an Unarmed Spanish Officer, engraved by John Thronton, 1783, Library of Congress.

Another copy of this print can be found at the National Maritime Museum.


In the upper left, sailors bearing cutlasses mount the parapets. All of them wear short caps, probably Dutch/Monmouth knit caps, though it's difficult to be sure. Rushing up the ladder is a jack in a jacket that ends beneath the waist, it appears to have two vents and is lined in white. His trousers end above the ankle.

Standing atop a Spanish gun and proudly waving a British flag, a sailor wears a patterned bandanna around his head, a black neckcloth at his collar, a single breasted waistcoat with cloth buttons ending at the waist, and an unlined jacket. His trousers are vertically striped. 

The gallant sailor at the front, offering a sword to his enemy, wears a round hat with a very short brim. His neckcloth is striped. Our hero wears a double breasted, lined jacket with slash cuffs. The waistcoat is double breasted, ending at his white petticoat trousers with their broad fall fly. We get a peek at his breeches beneath, and see that they are fastened with laces! It's not often we see sailor's breeches, much less a good view of how they are closed. White stockings lead down to the pointed toe shoes with oval buckles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The British Tar at Omoa, 1780


The British Tar at Omoa, William Humphrey, 1780, British Museum.

It has been 238 years since the Battle of San Fernando de Omoa. After Spain's entry into the American Revolutionary War, a British expedition was dispatched to what is today Honduras, and stormed the works with sailors and soldiers. 

The strategic effect was completely neutralized when the Spanish returned and retook the fort shortly thereafter. For this war, the numbers involved were small and the casualties light. The only real legacy of the battle is the surviving fortifications which stand as a tourist attraction to this day

For the British public, the seizing of Omoa was welcome news, but not particularly celebrated. That is, until the dispatches came back from the minor victory. Captain William Dalrymple, who commanded the small group of Irish Volunteers fighting alongside the sailors, included this in his letter describing the battle to Lord George Germain:

The Political Magazine and Parliamentary, Naval, Military,
and Literary Journal,
 Volume 1, August 1780, page 42
Here's a transcription of the above clipping:
Your lordship will pardon my mentioning an instance of an elevated mind in a British tar, which amazed the Spaniards, and gave them a very high idea of English valour: not content with one cutlass, he scrambled up the walls with two; and meeting a Spanish officer without arms, who had been roused out of his sleep, had the generosity not to take any advantage; but presenting him with one of his cutlasses, told him, "You are now on a footing with me."
Dalrymple's full letter, including the above anecdote, was included in the December 18, 1779 edition of the London Gazette. The following year, modified versions of the story started circulating in British papers.

Adams Weekly Courant, April 4, 1780, page 2

Both the Adams Weekly Courant (published in Chester) of April 4, 1780, and the Edinborough Advertiser of the same day included the same, modified version of Darlymple's original tale. It was not a sailor, but an Irish volunteer soldier named Concannen who 'flung' his dead companion's sword at the feet of a 'petrified' Spaniard. This story appears to be a (perhaps deliberate) misreading of Darlrymple's original dispatch. Mr. Concannen does appear in the dispatch as one of the first up the ladder to storm the fort, but he is a naval midshipman, not an Irish volunteer.

The Political Magazine and Parliamentary, Naval, Military,
and Literary Journal,
 Volume 1, August 1780, page 42

The elevation of the main character from a common and nameless sailor to a relative gentleman did not take hold. Conforming to the trend of depicting Britannia as a manful, violent, and strong British sailor, artists took up the image of the British tar at Omoa, offering his sword to a powerless Spanish officer.

Over the next two weeks, I will be examining different prints depicting this scene, stretching from 1780-1790.

Today I begin with William Humphrey's print. This is the earliest print depicting the British tar at Omoa that I am aware of. Humprey's sailor strides forward to offer a sword to an embarrassingly unprepared Spaniard. In the background a phalanx of bayonets drives away Spanish grenadiers, to the sound of a ship's broadside at the left.

The cowering Spaniard declares 'Ah Misericordia Segnor Inglese! me beg to be excused,' while wiping tears from his eyes.


Our hero may be gallant in his offering defense to the Spanish officer, but he insults their flag by stepping across it in his pointed toe shoes with oval buckles. His response to the Spaniard's plea is not the egalitarian 'You are now on a footing with me,' but the coarse 'Damn my Eyes, Don, take your Choice!'

The British tar's trousers are white, and end above the ankle, cinching close at the waist. His jacket is single breasted, ending at the waist, or perhaps tucked into the loose trousers. His jacket is fitted with simple, unadorned cuffs. The sailor's neckcloth is tied almost like a neckstock. Over short and loose hair he wears a round hat with a short brim.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Petticoat Trousers and Trousers

Number crunching time.

Today I'm examining trousers and petticoat trousers, and their presence in primary source art depicting common sailors from 1740-1790. For the purposes of this examination, I am working off of a pair of definitions. 

Detail from Shipping at Spithead, Francis Holman, date unknown (1770's?),
John Bennett Fine Paintings via Online Art Gallery

Trousers are long legged garments, presumably worn without a garment beneath. The legs of this garment end anywhere from the middle of the calf to the bottom of the ankle, and the end may fit close or loose to the body. 

Detail from Watson and the Shark, John Singleton Copley,
1778, National Gallery of Art

Petticoat trousers are wide legged garments that end just below the knee, though sometimes as low as mid-calf, and may or may not be worn over breeches (breeches that are usually, but not universally, blue).

There is certainly some overlap between these garments, and it is not at all clear to be that these terms were defined as such in the period. It may be that petticoat trousers were sometimes referred to simply as trousers in the period. Therefore, I have imposed a certain level of subjectivity to this examination that cannot be helped.

For this piece, I have examined 420 images that can be tightly dated. Not all of these images depict sailors where the garment they wear from the waist down can be seen. Among all images, 230 depict sailors in trousers. 158 depict sailors in petticoat breeches. 
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Of the 420 images examined, 231 of them depict sailors in trousers.

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Taken together, we can see a trend.

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Proportionally, trousers tend to be present more often than petticoat trousers, though there is a near parity until about 1770, when petticoat trousers start to become less common than trousers, with numerous exceptions in every decade.

It is worth noting that these garments often exist beside each other in a single image, and so are not exclusive of each other at any significant time in my period of study.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Leather Buttons

Illustrations, engravings, and paintings can only take us so far in the examination of common sailors' clothing. As I have often said before, art has its limitations. Most artists on this website were not sailors, and so their images are often exaggerated caricatures of what they saw of sailors ashore. Colorists could impose their own interpretations on engravings, adding stripes where the artist intended none, or changing the buttons to be white metal, yellow metal, or cloth covered.

Other sources can fill in the gaps. Archaeological excavations of ships can reveal items that would otherwise go completely unnoticed in a straight examination of primary source artwork. Take this interesting example:

Steve Rayner and Matthew Brenckle, in comparing the findings from four separate vessels stretched out over thirty years turned up a single button style present at every one. All of the following photos, save one, were provided by Steve Rayner.

From the 74 gun Invincible wrecked off the Isle of Wight in 1758:

Button, INV.135, Invincible collection, The Historic Dockyards Chatham
The naval sloop Boscawen abandoned around 1767 on Lake Champlain:

Personal Possession from the H.M.S. Boscawen, Gail Erwin, Texas A&M, 1994, page 174

The American privateer Defence burned and sunk in Stockton Springs, modern day state of Maine in 1779:

The Defence: Life at Sea as Reflected in an Archaeological Assemblage from and Eighteenth Century Privateer, Shelley Owen Smith, University of Pennsylvania, 1986, page 115

And the merchantman General Carleton, sunk in a storm off the Polish coast in 1785:

Detail of General Carleton Waistcoat, courtesy of Matthew Brenckle

The similarities are immediately obvious. These small leather buttons are present on a privateer, two warships, and a merchantman recovered in the English Channel, the Northeastern coast of the United States, the Polish coast, and one of the Great Lakes in North America. Despite being spread out over nearly thirty years, these star pattern leather buttons are present.

Such a detail is entirely absent from art alone, but undeniably present in sailors' material culture.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Rise of Striped Trousers

A few months ago I was preparing to attend Before the Siege: The British Army at Yorktown. As part of the organizing effort for the naval contingent, I compiled all the images I have collected dating to 1781 to get a snapshot of what artists thought sailors should look like in that period. I was surprised at how many were wearing striped trousers.

Detail from A Man of War Towing a Frigate into Harbour,
Carrington Bowles, 1781, British Museum.

This led me to wonder how prevalent striped trousers were over the course of my era of study. Focusing, for now, only on the art created during the time, I put together a graph showing the presence of trousers in the available art.

Out of 416 images that can be tightly dated, 231 depict sailors in trousers. I have included all images of trousers, including plain (generally prints which were not colored), white, and striped. The remaining image depict petticoat breeches, breeches alone, or the sailor's clothing below the waist is too indistinct to draw any conclusions. The orange line represents the total number of works included, and the blue represents the number of those pieces that depict a sailor wearing trousers.


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Trousers (plain, white, and striped altogether) are relatively constant in their presence in most depictions of sailors from 1740 through 1790. This is not true of striped trousers.

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Striped trousers are not present in any significant numbers until a sudden explosion beginning in 1779.

I can only speculate as to the reasons for this sudden popularity. Perhaps it was tied with the rising tide of identifying the common sailor as a personification of Britain, like patriotic bunting. Or maybe the opposite is true and it was loosely linked (as it would later be to the sans-culottes French Revolution) to a perceived democratic fervor among the lower ranks of society, as we can see in the 1781 political cartoon The Virtuous and inspir'd State of Whigism in Bristol 1781.

Detail from The Virtuous and inspir'd State of Whigism in Bristol 1781,
artist unknown, 1781, British Museum

I stress that these are mere theories, and I have not dug any deeper than pure numbers based on artistic depictions alone. Stay tuned, because I'll be examining other specific garments in the near future!