Sunday, May 31, 2015

His Royal Highness Prince William Henry, 1779

"His Royal Highness Prince William Henry," book illustration for Hervey's Naval History, 1779, British Museum.

As the note on this engraving states, Prince William was the third son of King George III and Queen Charlotte. He was destined to become King of England for seven short years, and his service in the Royal Navy earned him the moniker "the sailor King." Here he is portrayed in his youth, a mere boy at 14, serving under Admiral Digby as a Midshipman aboard the Royal George. Digby illustrates the finer points of navigation to the young prince.

Despite his royal blood, William was treated the same as any other midshipman...mostly. Following a plot to have him kidnapped by the American rebels, he was assigned a personal guard. In 1779, those days were yet to come. Until then, the royal midshipman was busy learning the ropes.

Looking over his shoulder are a pair of sailors leaning over the rail of the sterncastle, watching his lessons with interest.

The fellow on the right is probably an officer. His hair is tied in a queue (which is difficult to see in this low resolution detail), his hat would be abnormally large for a common sailor, and its cockade is big.

On the left is a common Jack. He wears a jacket with scalloped mariner's cuffs bearing three buttons on his right and two on the left. Beneath is a single breasted waistcoat which appears to be open. His cocked hat is reversed with a somewhat smaller cockade on the right.

There is the real possibility that we are looking at a fellow midshipman. He stands on the sterncastle surrounded by officers, without another common sailor in sight. Given his slouching posture in the presence of another officer I lean toward the original assumption, but stress that this is an assumption and not definitive. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pipe Lids

Here and there, I am known to partake in some pipe tobacco. This was far from uncommon among sailors of the eighteenth century. Take this tobacco label from the mid eighteenth century by way of example.

"Newman's best Viginia" tobacco label, British Library.

The issue with smoking aboard ship is an obvious one: open flame does not mix well with tar, wood, and canvas. Interestingly, this problem was addressed in the eighteenth century with pipe lids. The Wreck of the General Carleton has turned up many artifact, and not least among these are a pair of brass pipe lids.

"The General Carleton Shipwreck," ed. Waldemar Ossowski, Polish Maritime Museum in GdaƄsk, 2008, p. 243
Keen eyed observer, follower of this blog, and sailor on the fabled Hermione, Adam Hodges-LeClaire, also noticed these lids. A fellow pipe smoker, Adam pointed these lids out to the chief mechanic of the Hermione. As a surprise, the "chef" presented Adam with this reproduction just this week:

Are there any sailor's tools or pleasures that you have had the opportunity to acquire? Share them and your stories of the sea!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Gisbal Triumphant, 1763

"Gisbal Triumphant: a New Song to the Tune of Chevy Grace," artist unknown, 1763, Lewis Walpole Library.

Atop the lyrics for "Gisbal Triumphant" is a political cartoon bearing every symbol a diehard Tory of the eighteenth century would dread. A Jacobite stands atop the yoke that anchors Britannia. He holds the rope to her bound wrists, while bearing a staff topped with a phyrgian cap and a banner proclaiming the "Magna Charta." In his opposite hand he holds a flapole with French colors flying over the British, a symbol of surrender and defeat. In the pails that weigh down Britannia's yoke sloshes cider, a reference to the cider tax imposed to pay for the Seven Years war.

Among the onlookers are shocked gentlemen, sobbing women, and one sailor.

His hat is irregular and difficult to define. It may be a ragged round hat, or a cocked hat that has been crumpled through use. One may even interpret it as a poorly engraved attempt at hair. He wears a plain neckcloth bound close to the neck, and a smock without cuffs, buttons, collar, or pockets.Plain trousers run down to the top of his calf and are somewhat loose, but not so loose as petticoat trousers. His stockings are also plain and apparently white, ending at relatively pointed toe shoes. In his right hand is the ever present friend of the sailor ashore: his walking stick.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

TOMORROW: Sail on the Woodwind!

I apologize for the delay in posting, but here's an update I hope you'll enjoy.

Detail from "The Naval Nurse," R. Attwold, 1750, Walpole Library.
Note the octant and spyglass above his blunderbuss and pistols.
Tomorrow at 6:30 PM, I will be giving a talk aboard the Annapolis, Maryland based schooner Woodwind! On behalf of Historic London Town and Gardens, I will be demonstrating recreated navigational instruments as part of my talk "Navigation on the Colonial Chesapeake!"

Buy your tickets here and climb aboard to try your hand at the lead line, chip log, traverse board, quadrant, alidade, compass, and buy yourself a drink to boot! A portion of every ticket benefits Historic London Town.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The departure of Captains Gore and King, accompanied by Major Behm, Governor of Kamschatka, c.1780

"The  departure of Captains Gore and King, accompanied by Major Behm, Governor of Kamschatka," Johannn Eckstein, c.1780, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection.

As one of a pair illustrated by Eckstein, these prints depict events that occurred in 1779, and were printed shortly thereafter. This piece depicts the continuing voyage of the Resolution following the death of the famous explorer Captain James Cook. The surviving officers of his crew were greeted by the Russians of Kamchatka and were given the aid and assistance that would allow them to complete their voyage.

To the far left of the frame are a small crew of sailors who are loading up the boats for the return to Resolution.

The boat crew wear blue jackets and close fitting white trousers with black round hats with tall cylindrical crowns. Standing at the bow of one of the boats is a man wearing trousers and what appears to be an apron. On the boats themselves, the tars are dressed for the remarkably cold weather. Long brown overcoats lined in fur are coupled with thick knit caps,  which may also be lined with fur. The figure amidships in the middle boat wears a long blue overcoat, the fabric of which is crossed with long, thin, vertical lines of slightly darker blue. It is also lined with fur.

Manhandling the cargo are a few more tars. Tow of them appear hatless, but wearing the same blue jackets and close fitted white trousers as their mates. The man in the center wears striped trousers with faded, but thin vertical grey lines.

It is worth noting the man in the black round hat in the background embracing a Russian. It appears they are exchanging a kiss, though the precise nature of their relationship is not clear. I will leave that to experts on Russian culture of the eighteenth century, a field far beyond my reckoning!