Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A New Way to Pay the National-Debt, 1786

A new way to pay the National-Debt, James Gillray, 1786, British Museum.

King George III, accompanied by Queen Charlotte, smiles broadly as money pours from his breeches. He is heralded by musicians who are likewise festooned with gold guineas, and a gentleman who offers a fat sack of cash. This is juxtaposed against a quadriplegic sailor who sits with his empty round hat between wooden legs.

Unlike virtually every other sailor featured on this blog, this poor tarpaulin wears a beard. Beards were generally frowned upon in the eighteenth century, with the English in particular being opposed to any facial hair. The fact that this destitute man sports a full white beard is a testament to his helplessness.

The sailors wears a yellow and red plaid neckcloth over his double breasted blue jacket, which ends at his waist and sits over the plain pair of slops/petticoat trousers that cover his thighs. Blue breeches run down to his wooden legs.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Opposition Defeated, 1780

Opposition Defeated, artist unknown, 1780, British Museum.

This is a dense political cartoon in which Lord North rides a bull, blowing with such ferocity that he swings a sign with a crown out of reach of the Prince of Wales, who stands atop Charles Fox's shoulders.

There's a lot going on here, including a dog, the King, and Satan. Let's focus on the sailor.

He sits atop the trade sign in the upper right of the cartoon, clutching to it and shouting "D------n my eyes Huza Boreas and John Bull have don for them!" I presume, though do not know, that he is referring to Boreas: the mythical Greek god of the north wind.

North. Wind. Get it?

Our sailor waves a round hat over his head, and wears a jacket that ends at the waist. His trousers have narrow vertical stripes widely spaced. His shoes are round toed.

It is worth noting that this pose and character are not new to political cartoons. Both the 1740 European Race for a Distance and the 1741 What's All This! The Motley Team of State have a sailor straddling a pole in a political cartoon.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Virtuous and inspir'd State of Whigism in Bristol, 1781

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

This cartoon references the special election for a Member of Parliament for Bristol. The figure holding the striped American flag with the words "The Voice of Rebellion is a Supreme Law which passeth all Understanding" is Henry Cruger.

Born in New York, Henry Cruger was one of a very, very few American born politicians to actually attain a seat in Parliament. A radical supporter of the American cause during the Revolutionary War, he lost his seat in Bristol in 1780. According to the catalog entry for this piece at the British Museum, Sir Henry Lippincott, another Member of Parliament for Bristol, died shortly after the election. Special elections were called, and so Cruger ran again. His outspoken support for American independence is lampooned in this cartoon, and is only barely exaggerated. The British Museum states that Cruger ran up American flags on churches in Bristol during the election.

A sailor sits astride a decorated bull in a procession of Whigs, proclaims "You English Scoundrels hers the American Flesh & Blood of a Bull." He waves a pendent with thirteen stars, and sits in front of a bundle labeled "Secreted Copies." This bundle probably refers to the secret correspondence that Cruger was suspected of carrying on with his American counterparts.

Our mariner's outfit is clearly that of a sailor. A single breasted jacket that ends about just below the waist over a single breasted waistcoat is fitted with a short collar and plain cuffs. The sailor's round hat is bound with tape around the brim and the crown with a large rosette on the front. Beneath the hat is a bob wig with a queue. His trousers fit close to the leg with narrow vertical stripes.

In the end, Cruger lost his election bid. The people of Bristol elected him mayor that same year. He moved to the newly independent United States in 1790 and served in the New York State Senate. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Print, 1784

Print, Samuel Ireland, 1784, British Museum.

Ireland's piece may more properly be called a sketch than a print. It shares in a cliche of political cartoons that include common sailors: that of a common tar engaging with the stereotypical figures of a Dutchman and Spaniard.

The sailor wears a cocked hat with the point forward, His single breasted jacket ends at the waist, and appears to be lined in a lighter material. Lacking a waistcoat, we can see his plain shirt and plain neckcloth. Close fitting, long legged trousers run to just above his ankles and fit fairly close to the leg, with a broad fall fly. Pointed toe shoes finish his slop clothes. In the sailor's left hand is some difficult to identify accessory. It might be a tankard, or perhaps a sand glass, which was commonly paired with images of death at the time as a memento mori. Any thoughts?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Proclamation of Peace, 1783

Proclamation of Peace, William Wells, 1783, British Museum.

Mocking the alliance of America, France, Spain, and the Dutch during the American War of Independence, this political cartoon nevertheless welcomes the end of the war. An angel flies over the party, heralding the peace. At the head of the small group is an America, holding aloft a tomahawk and gleefully exclaiming their lack of loyalty to both Britain and the alliance. France is nonplussed (though happy for the steady supply of tobacco), while both Spain and Holland are intimidated by Britain, in the person of Jack Tar.

Our Jack wears no hat, and sports short curly hair. His neckcloth is striped and tucked into the single breasted waistcoat. His dark jacket is without collar or cuffs, and ends about the top of the thigh. Wide legged petticoat trousers run down to his calves, allowing us to see his white stockings and round toed shoes with rectangular buckles. In his right hand, Between he and Holland is a short sword with an eagle headed pommel.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

S (Sailor), 1781

"S (Sailor)," Thomas Bewick, 1781, British Museum.

Taken from the book Reading Made Very Easy and Diverting, this illustration of a sailor represents the letter "s." Given that this book is intended to get the concept across as quickly and easily as possible to the reader, we can take this image as an effort to capture the stereotypical appearance of sailors.

He wears a cocked hat witht he point forward, a double breasted jacket without cuffs that ends at the waist, long and close fitting trousers made with a broad fall fly, and a sword at his waist. And what sailor would be complete without a rather large tankard or a glass in his hand?

To the right of the sailor is what appears (at first glance) to be a keg or barrel. According to the curators of the British Museum that is intended to be the rear of a cannon.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Murder of Kenith Hossack by Captain Lowry, date unknown

The Murder of Kenith Hossack by Captain Lowry, Samuel Wale, date unknown, Yale Center for British Art.

Captain Lowry is the notoriously brutal captain who was hanged for the beating death of a sailor aboard the Molly merchantman. I've featured an image of his crime before, and later found out the print was part of the popular Newgate Calendar. The Yale Center for British Art appears to be in possession of the original drawing from which the print was taken. Samuel Wale drew a number of works, some of which closely match the crimes featured in the Calendar, including this. Given the date of the crime (1750) and the date of Wale's death (1786) we can certainly place the date of the drawing within our period of study, if not more exactly.

Hossack's wrists are bound to the shrouds while Lowry lays into him. Hossack wears a work cap, His jacket bears two vents at the back, and if made with scalloped mariner's cuffs. Given that the right lapel of his jacket bears only buttonholes and not buttons, we can reasonably conclude that it is single breasted.

The fellow beside the unfortunate Hossack is presumably James Gadderar, the chief mate of the Molly and star witness in Lowry's trial. Gadderar wears a round hat with a remarkably short crown and brim. His black neckcloth is tied neatly about his neck, and hangs down over his shirt, as he clearly lacks a waistcoat. Just like Hossack, Gadderar wears a single breasted jacket without collar and scalloped mariner's cuffs.

Both sailors wear slops/petticoat trousers with dark stockings and round toed shoes.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

An English Sloop and a Frigate in a Light Breeze, date unknown

An English Sloop and a Frigate in a Light Breeze, Francis Swaine, exhibited between 1762 and 1782, Yale Center for British Art.

Both vessels painted here by Swaine in the third quarter of the eighteenth century are ship rigged. Sloop, as a naval designation at the time, did not refer to the number of masts or arrangement of sails, but rather to how many guns she carried.

The first vessel here mounts nine guns to each side, rating her at 18 guns. This makes the vessel at the right of the frame our sloop.

Her crew are not highly detailed. We can say their wear jackets of brown and blue hues, knit caps, and at least one cocked hat. Interestingly, the men on the bow wear trousers, and at least one of them is wearing blue trousers. This may be intentional, or it may simply have been to avoid having the small figure interfere with the pallet of the sail and ship.

The titular frigate mounts eleven guns to each side of her gun deck, and three smaller guns per side on her poop, bringing her up to 28 altogether. This places her well within the sixth rate frigate category.

Her crewmen are muddled with even less detail than those of the sloop. Swaine was not illustrating the common men, but the seascape. So the best we can say is that some of them wear blue jackets. It doesn't leave us with much, but the painting as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Landing of the Sailor Prince at Spithead, 1765

"The Landing of the Sailor Prince at Spithead," Francis Swaine, 1765, Art Gallery of South Australia via the Google Art Project.

Though neither the Art Gallery of South Australia nor the Google Art Project give us any indication of who the sailor prince is, a simple glance at the royal family of 1765 turns up the answer fairly quickly. Prince Edward, the Duke of York and Albany, was the only immediate relative of the recently ascended George III to serve in the Royal Navy. The Duke climbed quickly to the position of Vice Admiral of the Blue, a position he would hold until his premature death in 1767.

The Duke is heading ashore on a barge bearing the royal colors, to a salute fired from a ship of the line festooned with the royal colors, king's colors, and a red flag with a gold fouled anchor.

Watching with only a passing interest, a few fellows ashore relax with their dog, pipes of tobacco, and a few drinks. Given the short brims on their hats, the lack of collars on their short jackets, the walking stick held by the chap on the far right, and the petticoat trousers/slops that most of them wear, it is with confidence that I label these men sailors. One of them is clearly wearing breeches, which appear to be brown. The sailor sleeping beside the dog wears a red jacket or smock.

Two sloops sit in the calm water. One bears the red ensign (used by both the red squadron of the Royal Navy and merchantmen), and the other a flag with thirteen alternating red and white stripes. This ensign was later used by the Continental Navy, but in this case probably represents the East India Company, whose colors are almost indistinguishable from those of the rebel fleets early in the American Revolutionary War.

The sailors aboard the sloops wear short jackets of brown, blue, and red, knit caps and round hats, and petticoat trousers/slops.

With a solid red ensign at the bow, the barge in the foreground is manned by oarsmen in white shirtsleeves and jockey style barge caps. Interestingly, the barge caps are bright red.

Astern of the barge is another, this one bearing the Sailor Prince and his entourage, including what appears to be a marine officer in redcoat and untrimmed black cocked hat. The oarsmen here wear shirtsleeves just like their counterparts ahead, but their barge caps are the more traditional black.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Men Loading a Boat with Barrels, date unknown

Men Loading a Boat with Barrels, Samuel Scott, date unknown, Yale Center for British Art via Google Art Project.

Beside a goodly number of barrels, a pair of tarpawlins haul a rectangular package aboard. Both wear short  jackets that end about the top of the thigh with long slit cuffs. Though one has his back to us, the single vent on his jacket is wide open, and suggests that he wears no waistcoat, just like the sailor helping him. Both of them wear breeches with white stockings, but their headwear is quite different. One wears a colorful knit cap, and the other a cocked hat.

At the oar is a hatless man with a jacket not unlike that of his mates. It appears to be tucked into petticoat trousers, but I couldn't swear on it.

A single unfinished sailor is in the bow of the small boat. He wears his sleeves rolled up past the elbows, and bends over the cask. It appears our jack is wearing a pair of trousers, and a small workcap or knit cap.

There is considerably more detail on the fellow stepping out of the small boat. He wears a blue waistcoat with a single vent at the back, red breeches, and white stockings. Atop his head is a cocked hat with the point forward.

The cox takes a break to smoke his pipe and lose himself in contemplation. He wears a red or brown waistcoat, light colored breeches, stockings, and a cocked hat with the point forward.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Con-g-ss embark'd on board the ship Constitution of America, 1790

"Con-g-ss embark'd on board the ship Constitution of America bound to Conogocheque by way of Philadelphia," artist unknown, 1790, Library of Congress.

American independence did not free political cartoonists from the tradition of crowding their works with people, difficult to read word balloons, and meaning that is difficult for a modern audience to interpret.

Thankfully, the Library of Congress provides the context:
In July 1790 Congress decided to move the seat of the federal government from its original site in New York to Washington, with Philadelphia as an interim capital. The unidentified satirist gives a cynical view of the profit opportunity which this presented for Philadelphians. A three-masted ship with a smaller boat in tow sails toward a fork in a river. It is being lured by a devil toward the lower fork (eventually leading to Philadelphia), which falls precipitously in a rocky cataract, and away from the fork which leads to the "Potowmack" river. A devil beckons them on, saying, "This way Bobby" (referring to Robert Morris, the alleged instigator of the move).

Steering toward the falls from its opposite side, a small boat with three men plows upstream. They express their mercenary attitudes toward the impending destruction of the Constitution of America. "If we can catch the cargo never mind the Ship," says one. "Keep a sharp look out for a majority and the treasury," says another. Their mate, apparently replying to both of them, agrees: "Ay, Ay that's what we are after."

The men wear round hats with short brims, but are perhaps meant to be gentlemen in gentleman's suits, rather than sailors. The coxswain has the tall collar and long hair of a landsman. While the oarsmen do not exhibit either the cut of coat or long hair of their cox, they may well be interpreted as gentlemen as well.

The men crowded on the Constitution of America are likewise dressed in the style of congressmen, rather than tars. Drop down collars, cravats, and cocked hats are scattered throughout. The only detail that seems to match the clothing of common sailors is the lack of cuffs on their coats, and the tall crowned round hats. Being no expert on gentleman's clothing of 1790, I leave it to the experts to interpret these clothes further.