Friday, October 31, 2014

Vuë de Philadelphie, c.1770

Vuë de Philadelphie, Balthasar Frederich Leizelt, c.1770, Library of Congress.

The German artist Leizelt has clearly never been to Philadelphia. The architecture, trees, and dress all suggest a continental European city, not an American provincial capital. As we should be suspicious of his depictions of Philadelphia, we should also be a bit suspicious of his depictions of sailors therein.

A few gentlemen and ladies crowd into the stern of this boat as the happy oarsmen lead them out to one of the ships at anchor. None of the sailors wear short jackets. Instead, they wear a variety of waistcoats in red, green, and blue. One wears a round hat, the other a reversed cocked hat.

Another sailor stands in his boat, beckoning the gentleman and lady ashore to climb aboard. He does wear a blue short jacket, and a pair of slops. Underneath the slops we can see a pair of breeches and white stockings. He wears a barge cap as well.

At the bow of some massive vessel at the far right of the frame are a pair of sailors conversing. They both wear round hats and short jackets. One jacket is blue, the other red. They both wear breeches, one of which is bright red. The tar in the red jacket motions toward the boats beneath them, in which a few more sailors ride.

The sailor in the blue jacket appears to be African American, but I can't be sure. the others are largely unremarkable, save for the green jacket in the foreground.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Political Strugle, 1762

The Political Strugle, 1762, Walpole Library.

This cartoon is in the same category as Hogarth's "The Times." It appears to be addressing the debate in England over the cessation of hostilities during the Seven Years/French and Indian War. There are many figures doing a lot of different things (like a politician who for no discernible reason is putting a boot on the lion's head), but we're concerted with the sailor who tugs at the line tied to the lion's chariot wheel.

Jack's hat is lined with white tape, and appears to be point forward, though the perspective means that I can't be certain about that. His hair is loose and curly, cut short well above this short jacket. The jacket itself hangs down to the top of the thigh, and is double vented. The top of each vent is marked with a button. His mariner's cuffs are buttoned shut. Plain trousers hang down to above the ankle, and we get just a peek at his shirt at the trouser's waist. His stockings are dark, but could simply be shaded. Rectangular buckles are affixed to his shoes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A North View of Fort Royal in the Island of Guadaloupe, 1764

A North View of Fort Royal in the Island of Guadaloupe, when in Possession of his Majestys Forces in 1759, Lieutenant Archibald Campbell, 1764, John Carter Brown Library.

This print is taken from a hand drawn sketch by Lieutenant Archibald Campbell of the Royal Engineers in 1759. A later edition of this print is in the collection of the National Army Museum. According to their collection entry, Guadaloupe was a haven for the privateers that had long harassed the British in the Caribbean, and so became a prime target for the British efforts to defeat the French in the Seven Years War. Like many campaigns in the Caribbean, disease killed many, reducing British forces by hundreds of men. The sacrifice of the regulars ensured the reduction in privateer attacks that followed. Perhaps this is why Campbell decided to include a lobsterback and a tarpawlin shaking hands beside the road to Fort Royal.

Jack Tar wears a short jacket that ends at about the top of his thigh. Beneath he wears his shirt and no waistcoat. Around his neck is a neckcloth of indeterminate pattern or color. We can say a bit more about his hat, which has a tall crown and rolled up brim. I'm inclined to say it is a knit cap or Dutch cap, rather than a round hat. His slops end just below the knee, revealing white stockings, and rounded square toed shoes. In his left hand he holds a walking stick.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Destruction of the Randolph Frigate, 1789

Destruction of the Randolph Frigate, 1789, John Carter Brown Library.

Taken from the book The History of North America by the Reverend Mr. Cooper, this image portrays the death of the Randolph. She was a 36 gun frigate in the service of the Continental Navy under Captain Nicholas Biddle. On March 7, 1778, she was sailing with a small squadron when spotted by the 64 gun HMS Yarmouth. Being late at night (the engagement began around 11:00 PM), Biddle apparently mistook the much more heavily armed ship for a sloop, and opened fire after Yarmouth demanded Randolph hoist her colors. Though the Continental tars handily worked their guns, the battle lasted only fifteen minutes before Randolph's magazine exploded. Over three hundred men went down with her. The very few survivors endured remarkable hardship. Cooper puts it best:
Four men saved themselves upon a piece of her wreck, and subsisted for five days upon nothing more than rain water which they sucked from a piece of blanket they had picked up. On the fifth, the Yarmouth being in chace of a ship, happily discovered them waving. The captain humanely suspended the chace hauled up the wreck, got a boat out and brought them on board. 
The printer who created this plate for The History of North America chose to include two different scenes in one: the death of the Randolph, and the rescue of her few survivors. In truth, the Yarmouth was so close to the Randolph that she was significantly damaged by her explosion, not distant as shown in the plate.

All three of the survivors that we can see wear trousers that end about the ankle. The Jack at the center gives us a fuller view of their length, showing that they fit fairly close to the leg. It also appears that his trousers have a single vent at the bottom. Our sailors also wear short jackets that are double vented with buttons at the top of the vent. The jackets are also fitted with mariner's cuffs that are buttoned shut.

As a side note, I find it fascinating that this piece also includes the Randolph's flag! It is a banner that includes only stripes: no snake, lettering, stars, or canton.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Sailor's Fleet Wedding Entertainment, 1747

The Sailor's Fleet Wedding Entertainment, M. Cooper, 1747, Lewis Walpole Library.

Among the most garish figures of the wedding celebration is a dandy tar who dances for the entertainment of the crowd. His cocked hat has an extremely short brim, and is decorated with a red bow on the left side. The perspective of the viewer is such that it is difficult to tell whether the hat is turned backward or merely cocked very far to the right. Either way, his neckcloth matches the color of his cockade. His blue short jacket flies up behind him as he dances around, making it impossible to tell if it is vented. We can say that it is single breasted. Beneath is a yellow waistcoat that is slightly brighter than the yellow striped breeches. The breeches are bound at the knee with both cloth covered buttons and a tie. White stockings finish off his slop clothes.

Behind him another sailor happily displays his vices: a tall glass and a long pipe. His cocked hat is reversed and his coat is (unsurprisingly) blue.

Off in the corner, a tar kisses his lass despite the shipmate losing his lunch beside them. The romantic sailor wears a reversed cocked hat, light brown short jacket with waist pocket flaps, and slops. The sick mariner wears a somewhat darker brown jacket and reversed cocked hat. Slumbering in his chair despite what is clearly a raucus party, another sailor wears a white neckcloth and single breasted brown jacket.

The groom holds both his wife and his glass. His cockade is the largest of the lot, and matches the color of his mates. The cocked hat is turned point forward. A blue jacket without collar, but with buttoned mariner's cuffs is the central garment of his wedding suit, though it appears he is wear a double breasted white waistcoat beneath. His cravat is also white.

Behind him and gesturing to the admiral on the wall is a shipmate carelessly clutching his pipe. Unlike the others in this scene, he wears his cockade on the right and the point on his cocked hat over his left eye. His jacket matches the hue of the sailors on the far right, and his mariner's cuffs are also buttoned. Behind him is a chap in a jockey style cap and darker brown jacket with cloth covered buttons.

To the far left of the scene is another sailor. His cocked hat is without a cockade. A long waistcoat with pocket flaps rests beneath his unusually long jacket. The blue jacket is also with waist pocket flaps and buttoned mariner's cuffs. In his hand is the ever present stick we so often find sailors carrying.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Commemorative Medal, 1769

Commemorative Medal awarded to Jonas Hanway by the Marine Society, 1769, National Maritime Museum.

This pure silver medal was given as "a token of the high sense" the Marine Society held John Hanway in for his efforts to clothe and train youths in the Royal Navy. As with many images of the Marine Society, it features a female Britannia guiding a ragged child to clothing and a future of glory.

At the feet of Britannia are the signature garments of ships' boys: a short jacket with at least one vent and mariner's cuffs, and a short brimmed round hat with a light ribbon around the crown.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Here's a mystery. I came across this illustration on an Australian website, but the author of the site fully admitted that he did not keep track of his images, and could not say where he drew this from. I am at a loss as to its origin.

With reservation, I include this image, as it appears to be an original. Even so, I am somewhat reluctant. If you have any information regarding the origins of this image, I would be greatly appreciative!

In this image, a merchant officer swings a colt or cat at the back of a sailor tied to the rigging. The merchant officer, interestingly enough, is dressed in a largely unremarkable suit, save for the mariner's cuffs.

His victim wears a cap, a striped shirt, and dark trousers that end at his ankles. Further aft stands a Jack with his hands outstretched as his implores the officer to cease his beating. He wears a round hat with a short brim, a black neckcloth, no waistcoat, a double breasted short jacket with lapels and mariner's cuffs, and a pair of trousers. His shoes have rectangular buckles.

EDIT: Mystery solved! Check back for an examination of the original print: "Captain James Lowry flogging and murdering Ken'th Hossack."

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Disconsolate Sailor, date unknown

The Disconsolate Sailor, artist unknown, date unknown, National Maritime Museum.

With a crooked cane over one shoulder, complete with a bag tied about its end, it appears the Disconsolate Sailor is a wanderer. His face betrays a certain look of sadness, though his pose suggests a confident man. An enigmatic portrait, to say the least!

The Disconsolate Sailor wears a round hat with very short brim, a sky blue neckcloth, a peach or light red short jacket that ends at the waist with two rows of cloth covered buttons, open mariner's cuffs, and a pair of slops. Just beneath his slops are a pair of light brown breeches with buttons along the knee, and finished with a pair of ties. White stockings lead to pointed toe shoes with simple white metal rectangular buckles.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Landing of Captain Roger's Men at California, 1765

The Landing of Captain Rogers's Men at California, artist unknown, 1765, Internet Archive/Getty Research Institute.

This is the second print of the pirate Woodes Rogers adventures as detailed in the book
A new universal collection of authentic and entertaining voyages and travels... by Edward Cavendish Drake. California, as a far flung and somewhat backwater holding in the Spanish empire, is not the location of any other contemporary image of British sailors. The location alone makes this an interesting piece.

Two sailors are examined closely by the Native Californians, who feel their faces and inspect their clothing. Each wears an oddly double breasted jacket and loose trousers. Neither wears a waistcoat, and both have solid colored neckcloths. The tar in the foreground holds his cocked hat in his left hand.

Like their mates ashore, these jacks on the raft wear double breasted short jackets with open cuffs that lack any buttons. The sailor who rows is wearing a pair of slops with his breeches poking from beneath. All three wear cocked hats, with the two forward most 
wearing theirs reversed, and the tarpawlin further aft wearing his with the point forward.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Charity Begins at Home, c.1780

Charity Begins at Home, Robert Sayer, c.1780, British Museum.

Echoing the parable of the Good Samaritan, a pompous reverend turns his nose up at a begging sailor and ignores the needy woman and child beyond them, all while raising a flask to his lips. Such a message hardly requires any further reading. The metaphor is surface level and effective.

At the center of the piece, and drawing the first tug of sympathy, is a ragged sailor.

Jack holds out his round hat with a very narrow brim for a few spare coins. Interestingly, the tar's head is not bare; he wears a workman's cap. His single breasted short jacket ends just below the waist, is lined in white, with open mariner's cuffs. Beneath is a waistcoat without a cutaway that ends at the waist. Our tarpawlin's slops are torn to shreds, but enough to cover him all the way to below the knee. From there we see his peg leg, and a black stocking on his one good leg. In his opposite hand he holds a cane or cudgel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Earl of Cornwallis Bound to Bengal, 1783

Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Newport News, VA

Earl of Cornwallis Bound to Bengal, William Gibson, 1783, Mariners Museum.

Here's a fun piece! It depicts the ship Earl of Cornwallis, which was launched the same year this image was made. She was a 774 ton merchantman that made several voyages for the East India Company, before conveying convict servants to Australia beginning in 1800. Aside from the Earl, there are a series of small vignettes along the bottom of the image, mostly depicting the disastrous fate of other vessels, like the Amity and General Barker.

A well dressed sailor dabs his eyes, holding a scroll that I (unfortunately) cannot read. This sailors is the artist: William Gibson, third mate of the Earl. This is indicated by his fine dress and the instruments surrounding him. By his feet is a compass bearing his name, speaking trumpet, octant, quill, parallel ruler, and other items associated with navigation and command. Gibson wears a round hat bound in white tape, a white shirt without waistcoat, a blue coat with sky blue facings, and white metal buttons. His trousers are broad fall with narrow stripes (which appear to be blue, but I can't be sure) and a black neckcloth. Normally I wouldn't detail the uniform of an officer, but the dress of merchant officers is little represented in the art of the time, so this offers us a wonderful glimpse!

These heavily armed merchant sailors, standing over the red ensign flown by merchant vessels of the time, show how dangerous times were for British commercial vessels. On the right is a tar with a cocked hat bound in white tape, a yellow neckcloth dotted in red, a blue jacket, red waistcoat, and slops. White stockings are just barely visible between his slops and the ensign. Wrapped about his waist is a brace of two pistols, and slung over his back is a musket.

His mate at the left is in a round hat with a cylindrical crown and edged in white tape. A black neckcloth hands down over his double breasted blue jacket with mariner's cuffs and double breasted red waistcoat, both of which have cloth buttons. Just like his mate, he wears slops and white stockings. This tar's armament is a bit different from the other, in that he carries a musket and cutlass.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Captain Roger's People stripping some Ladies of their Jewels in the Neighbourhood of Guaquil, 1765

Captain Roger's People stripping some Ladies of their Jewels in the Neighbourhood of Guaquil, 1771, Internet Archive/Getty Research Institute.

Taken from the 1771 edition of A new universal collection of authentic and entertaining voyages and travels, from the earliest accounts to the present time... by Edward Cavendish Drake, this plate also appears in earlier versions, dating back to 1765. It represents the pirate Woodes Rogers and his crew of scalawags pillaging helpless ladies in Ecuador. Though the image is meant to represent an event from decades before, the fashion of Roger's suit and the ladies clothes are more in line with the time it was printed.

The first batch of nefarious pirates strides through the door behind Rogers, enjoying the day and admiring their plunder. All wear cocked hats, and all of them wear those hats at different angles. Their short jackets are single breasted but with an odd set of double buttons on one side. Perhaps this was the artist's nod to an older style of mariner's clothing? They all wear the same white trousers and white neckcloths.

These scoundrels are enjoying themselves. They rob the Spanish colonists by searching their dresses, something the women are clearly distressed by. Dressed the same as their mates, the major difference is that these tars do not show any buttons on their coats. It is also worth noting the hat on the ground bound in tape beside the walking stick.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kenelm Dawson Salesman, date unknown

"Kenelm Dawson, Salesman," trade card, date unknown, Spitalfields Life.

Spitalfields Life attributes this image to the Bishopsgate Institute, but a search of their website did not turn up a match. The date is hard to pin down, but Kenelm Dawson wrote a will in 1758, placing himself well within our era of study.

Dawson's trade card is rather similar to another trade card examined on this page: Rich'd Kilby at the Jolly Sailor. In fact, the posture, dress, and accessories of the Jolly Sailor are remarkably similar!

Dawson's Jolly Sailor wears a short jacket without buttons, collar, cuffs, or pockets, over a half open single breasted waistcoat. His cocked hat is turned with the point forward(ish), and he wears a plain neckcloth. Slops hang loose over white stockings and pointed toe shoes. As usual, the sailor carries a walking stick.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Americans throwing the Cargoes of the Tea Ships into the River, at Boston, 1789

Americans throwing the Cargoes of the Tea Ships into the River, at Boston, artist unknown, 1789, Library of Congress.

Americans throwing the Cargoes of the Tea Ships into the River, at Boston, artist unknown, 1789, John Carter Brown Library Archive of Early American Images.

Taken from the book The History of North America by E. Newberry and published in 1789, this print illustrates the tipping point of the American Revolutionary movement: the Boston Tea Party. Colonists in both Indian and sailor's garb climb aboard one of the three tea ships in Boston Harbor (a bay, not a river, as the print states) to toss the cargo into the waves. It is unclear if the ship is the Dartmouth, Eleanor, or Beaver, but the details of the ship itself are less of interest than the clothing of the sailors in this mob.

The tars in this piece are dressed mostly in round hats. One exception is seen in the back, where an "Indian" grabs a sailor, perhaps to restrain him from interfering. That sailor wears a cocked hat with the point forward. Our mariners all wear jackets, mostly in brown, though at least one in blue. The details on their trousers, breeches, or petticoat trousers are too sketchy to make any definitive statement beyond their color: brown and blue.

The sailors rowing to the ship, in a boat loaded with parcels for some reason, are similarly attired. The coxswain appears to be wearing a bob wig and cocked hat, one oarsman is hatless, and the other wears a round hat.

We should always be careful in taking any one image at face value, but the engraver gives us another reason to doubt.

Boston is not well known for palm trees.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Modern Harlot's Progress, 1780

The modern harlot's progress, or adventures of Harriet Heedless / Harriet being discarded for her infidelity, takes lodgings, turns common, is attended by rakes and gamesters, and furnished by the millener, with dresses to continue her prostitution, Carington Bowles, 15 May 1780, British Museum.

This plate was taken from a book warning of a fall into immorality. Such novels were salacious and popular, widely imitated in art and literature throughout the late eighteenth century. In this image, Harriet Heedless (seated with a snuff box by an open hand of cards across the table from a sailor) has joined a bawdy house.

He wears a black round hat with an upturned brim bound in white tape. His neckcloth is black and is tried in a right fashionable way, with a large bow right at his neck. Jack also wears a red waistcoat with vertical stripes, though the colorist did not bother to differentiate the color of the stripe from the body of the fabric. His double breasted jacket is interesting in that the cuffs are buttoned right at the wrist, but otherwise open to reveal the shirt beneath; something I've not seen before. The upper part of his jacket lapels are buttoned back. In our tar's right hand is a long and narrow walking stick.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Times, 1762

The Times, Plate 1, William Hogarth, 1762, Wikimedia Commons.

Hogarth did not shy from political messages in his prints. In this piece, he takes the side of the King in ending the Seven Years/French and Indian War. A metaphorical conflagration consumes houses of the Spanish, French, and Germans, and threatens the as yet standing British house. Standing on stilts is the figure of Henry VIII (in later versions Pitt), fanning the flames with a bellows. In the streets below, soldiers of the highland regiments, regulars, and grenadiers work the pumps of a fire engine bearing symbols of the King to extinguish the blaze.

The soldiers are not alone in their efforts. A highland Scot and a sailor carry buckets of the much needed water.

The firefighting tarpawlin wears a backward turned cocked hat, a short jacket without buttons or cuffs, trousers with wide legs ending about the mid calf, no waistcoat, and a white neckcloth tied in a broad knot at the neck.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Sailor's Joyful Return, date unknown

The Sailor's Joyful Return, artist unknown, date unknown, National Maritime Museum.

I've been holding on to this image since this blog began. The provenance on this piece is so imprecise, I really wasn't sure that I could include it. Sailors clothing, as I'm sure you've noticed by now, changes very slowly. A tar in slops, a round hat, no waistcoat, and blue jacket would be just as at home in the 1730's as the 1790's or later. Thankfully, sailors aren't the only ones in this image.

The print is a "sailor's return" cliche, and no such return would be complete without women!

Based on the sleeve length and style of headwear, my wife gave me the tentative date of 1780's for this piece, which would place it within our study.

The sailors are variously dressed: round hats and knit caps; green, blue, and red jackets; slops and trousers. The sailor who sits on the far right of the above detail has his back turned to us, and appears to be wearing turnbacks on his jacket! This style is more familiar in regimental uniforms than on a common tar. It is also worth noting that the sailor in the green jacket with white lining carries a cudgel of some sort. Both he and the sailor who reaches for his lass wear single breasted white waistcoats with a slight cutaway.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Court Conversation, 1760

A Court Conversation, artist unknown, 1760, John Carter Brown Library.

A pair of animal faced gentlemen discuss the conflagration beyond the door, where an effigy of Admiral Byng is being burned by a drunken rabble of sailors and soldiers. The text below the image implies that the vilification of Byng is unjustified, and lays the blame on heads higher up. The crowd does not know or care. Among the lot of riotous men are a small group of sailors cavorting about a cask of some spirituous liquor.

At the right are a pair of tar, one of whom gestures over the blaze with his tankard. Both wear jockey style caps (possible barge caps) and wear short jackets that end just below the waist with a double or triple vent in the back. Both are dressed in trousers that end at the calf, though at slightly different lengths.

At the cask and working the spigot is another tarpawlin. He wears a low crowned round hat with a wide brim, and his jacket is similar to those of his mates to the right. Unlike them, he wears slops. Just behind the cask is a sailor in exactly the same outfit.

The artist may be trying to imply that these are two separate messes or crews. The two on the right and the two on the left are dressed distinctly as sailors and in the same slop clothes as the sailor closest to him, but still wearing a visibly different garb from those across the small gap in the print.