Monday, July 31, 2017

Scenes from the American Revolution, Plate 12, 1784

Ende der Feindseeligkeiten. Die Engländer räumen den Americanern Neu-Yorck ein 1783, Daniel Chodowiecki, 1784, Library of Congress.

The final in a series of prints by Daniel Chodowiecki depicting scenes from the course of the American Revolution, this print depicts the evacuation of New York by the British army. Chodowiecki depicts a family of Native Americans looking on, or at least Native Americans as he imagines them. He clothes the woman and child in diaphanous robes as though they were in ancient Greece, and the man wears a waist cloth and a quiver of arrows over his shoulder.

To the left of the frame are another pair of onlookers: a woman in European dress, and a sailor.

The sailor wears a round hat with brim slightly upturned. His hair is well kept, and hands above the collar of his horizontally striped waistcoat, which is triple vented. Clean petticoat trousers end just about the knee, where dark stockings (or stockings that are just in shadow) run down to shoes that might be mules or slips.

It is worth noting that the artist is clearly drawing inspiration from Central Europe, rather than from America or Britain. His depictions of others in this print and the other eleven plates, along with the architecture shown there, are all derived from European inspiration. Chodowiecki's depiction of this sailor may be more accurate for a German Matrose than an American or English sailor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Virtual Representation, 1775

Virtual Representation, artist unknown, 1775, British Museum.

Virtual Representation, artist unknown, 1775, Digital Commmonwealth.

Threatened by a Scot, a Jesuit, and others, an American wielding a cudgel is backed by a sailor who declares, 'I will be wounded with you.' Beside them, a blindfolded Britannia wanders dangerously close to 'The Pit Prepared for Others.'

Our tar wears a reversed cocked hat under which is a bob wig. His neckcloth is checkered or plaid, but the color has faded to where I can't be sure what color it was meant to be. There is little detail on his jacket and much of it is hidden from our view. His trousers are blue (though perhaps originally intended to be white, ending at about the middle of the calf, showing off white stockings, pointed toe shoes, and oval buckles.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Carte detaillée des possessions angloises dans l'Amerique Septentrionale, 1777

Carte detaillée des possessions angloises dans l'Amerique Septentrionale, engraved by Etienne Claude Voysard, 1777, Library of Congress.

Published the year before France joined America in a war against Britain, Voysard's map was intended to give a wide view of the seat of war. In the cartouche to the upper left are implements of artillery, including grape shot, solid shot, and chain shot. Leaning on the wheel of an old fashioned cannon is a sailor. In this context, before France is involved in the war, the sailor is almost certainly intended to be English or American, but his dress is rather like a French sailor.

Atop his head and over a bob wig is a battered round hat with a tapering conical crown. His jacket ends at about the natural waist and he wears a sash around his mid-section (an accessory distinctly French). His petticoat trousers run down to below the knee, where baggy stockings run to his pointed toe shoes with their oval buckles.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Seaman's Wages in the Revolution

The Human Passions, Thomas Sanders, 1773, Walpole Library

Timothy Boardman, a carpenter's mate on the Connecticut State Navy ship Oliver Cromwell, kept a journal of his travels that were later transcribed and published as the Log-Book of Timothy Boardman. It is a largely unexceptional and very short piece, but does have a few interesting gems. Among them is this dialogue recorded by Boardman when his term of service neared a close on July 6, 1778. The following is his account of the conversation between him and Captain Parker in Charlestown, South Carolina:
Pr. What are you Doing a Shore.
My Sf. I wanted to See you Sir.
Pr. Very well.
My Sf. The Term of my Inlistment is up & I would be glad of a Discharge Sir.
Pr. I cannot give you One, the Ship is in Distress Plumb has been trying to Get You away.
My Sf. No Sir, I can have Good Wages here & I think it Better than Privatiering I can't think of Going for a Single Share I had a hard task Last Cruise & they all Left me.
Pr. You have had a hard task of it & I will Consider you. & You Shall have as Much again as You Expect. Ranny & those that Leave me without a Discharge will Never Get anything you Better go aboard Boardman. I will Consider you & you'll Lose Nothing by it.
My Sf. I am Oblig'd to you Sir.[1]
As nearly all maritime and naval historians have argued (from N.A.M. Rodger in The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy tp Marcus Rediker in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), sailors did exercise some agency in their life and were not merely passive subjects to the whims of tyrannical captains at all times.

Boardman, despite being a common sailor, was able to go ashore without permission, directly confront his captain, and negotiate the terms of his continued employment.

This was normal in the eighteenth century. Sailors on merchantmen, privateers, and letters of marque negotiated their wages and had the conclusion of these negotiations codified in a contract. These 'Articles of Agreement' were so common that they could be set in type and printed as a pre-made form ready for the captain, owners, and crew to sign their names to.

Articles of Agreement signed by the crew of the Newport Packet
October 1765, Newport Historical Society
Articles of agreement signed by the crew of the Salley,
September 1764, Brown University.
Acticles of Agreement for the Revolution, printed by
John Dunlap, 1780, Winterthur Collection

What exactly sailors were paid was subject to the cargo of the vessel, the length of the voyage, the time of year, and the skills of the individual sailor. However, there was a certain base level expectation of pay regardless of the port one set off from in Britain as Adam Smith, in his famous book The Wealth of Nations, writes:
As they are continually going from port to port, the monthly pay of those who sail from all the different ports of Great Britain is more nearly upon a level than that of any other workmen in those different places; and the rate of the port to and from which the greatest number sail, that is the port of London, regulates that of all the rest. At London the wages of the greater part of the different classes of workmen are about double those of the same classes at Edinburgh. But the sailors who sail from the port of London seldom earn above three or four shillings a month more than those who sail from the port of Leith, and the difference is frequently not so great. In time of peace, and in the merchant service, the London price is from a guinea to about seven-and-twenty shillings the calendar month. A common labourer in London, at the rate of nine or ten shillings a week, may earn in the calendar month from forty to five-and-forty shillings. The sailor, indeed, over and above his pay, is supplied with provisions.[2]
The Royal Navy was not subject to articles of agreement, nor to the ebb and flow of the economy. Sailor's wages were remarkably low. The wages of Royal Navy seamen had been set in 1653 and hadn't be adjusted for inflation. It remained so throughout the eighteenth century, changing only after the Spithead Mutiny in 1797. The pay was so bad that it was the number one issue raised by the mutineers, even above corporal punishment and bad officers. This poor pay discouraged skilled sailors from enlisting, and contributed to 'The Evil Necessity' (as Denver Brunsman puts it) of press gangs.

Jacob Nagle relates the case of 'a stout young sailor' named Luke Arvour volunteering to join his brig the St. Lucia, despite the fact that "we ware dreaded as a man of war and cruel usage.' That such a skilled seaman would voluntarily join the navy 'apeared strange to both men and officers.' In fact, Arvour was using the navy to secure pay by an indirect route. He had sailed with a merchantman and his captain had withheld pay. Whether volunteering or pressed, a sailor was legally entitled to back wages from previous voyages in civilian vessels, and the navy would secure it for him. Once he had 'received 70 odd guineas,' Arvour deserted.[3]

Sailors leveraged what weight they could to secure pay, but officers could also use pay as a tool for control. When Christopher Prince, mate on the American merchant schooner Polly, arrived in Nova Scotia in 1775, he was surprised to learn that a full blown war had broken out between the American colonists and the British. He negotiated his way out of a prison camp or hulk by vowing to help sail the vessel for equal pay to what he was promised prior to its seizure, that he would not declare himself a British subject, and that he would not help work the guns or arms. As the Americans swept up the St. Lawrence River toward Montreal, where Prince's brig Gaspee was stationed, he was sorely tempted to desert to the American lines. One of the reasons he chose not to was that he 'had very considerable money due to me which I was unwilling to lose.'[4]

The Royal Navy would use money for both carrot and stick. While the base pay of a sailor was dismal and far from competitive, there was always the possibility of prize money. Seizing enemy vessels and selling them along with their cargo entitled the officers and crew to a portion of the money raised by them.

Ha! Ha! hah! - I've got the Chink, Carington Bowles, 1770's, British Museum

Well within living memory was the Anson Expedition of 1740-1744, in which the Centurion seized a Spanish galleon filled with the unbelievable sum of £2,813,586.[5] Common sailors may have received about £300 in prize money, over and above their meager pay.[6] While American vessels offered nothing close to this astronomical prize, they did supplement the pay of the navy, and offered an excuse to put off a general pay raise until the sailors of Spithead forced the Admiralty's hand a generation later.

Sailors received their prize money from naval agents, set up ashore to distribute the cash to the deserving crew. Money being sparse as it was, this was an opportunity for unscrupulous or desperate men and women to defraud the naval agents by posing as sailors or their widows to claim money due to them. Doing so risked death.

The Sailor's Return, Francis Wheatley, 1786, National Maritime Museum
Once sailors had their money, they might spend it fast and free, or their might carefully manage it. If artistic depictions of the time are any indication, many carried their coins in a miser's purse or a more simple pouch acting as a purse. John Nicol writes that when he was paid off from the Surprise in 1783 he kept 'the money that was due me in my hat.'[7] As you can see above and below, this may not have been uncommon.

The Sailor's Pleasure, Bowles and Carver, c1793-1800, British Museum.

[1] Boardman, Timothy, The Log-Book of Timothy Boardman, edited by Rev. Samuel W. Boardman, Albany, New York; Joel Munsell's Sons, 1885, page 115. The nineteenth century editor of Boardman's book misidentifies the Oliver Cromwell as a privateer.
[2] Smith, Adam, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Volume One, London: W. Strahan, 1776, page 135. Via Google Books.
[3] Nagle, Jacob, The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841, edited by John C. Dann, New York: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1988, pages 60-61.
[4] Prince, Christopher, The Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution, edited by Michael J. Crawford, Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2002, page 54.
[5] Heaps, Leo, Log of the Centurion, London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1974, page 254.
[6] Williams, Glyn, The Prize of All the Oceans, New York: Viking, 1999, page 218.
[7] Nicol, John, The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner, edited by Tim Flannery, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997, page 55.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Seaman with a Man of War's Barge, 1777

A Seaman with a Man of War's Barge, Dominic Serres, 1777, National Maritime Museum.

Dominic Serres largely focused on marine art in the more traditional mode: seascapes at enough of a distance to include the ship from waterline to masthead and well beyond both. Sometimes you can pick out sailors here and there, but they are incidental to his paintings, and not as integral to his art as the Cleveleys.

In November 1777, Serres parted from his usual practice and etched and painted a series of images depicting the uniforms of the Royal Navy. These climbed the ranks of the navy from the seaman seen here through the midshipman, post captain, and other officer ranks to that of admiral.

The sailor's short jacket is the typical blue and single breasted with a row of cloth covered or thread buttons. The short jacket has neither lapels nor collar, but does have scalloped mariner's cuffs with a three button closure which is open at least on the furthest button out. Our seaman's neckcloth is tied close and hanging loosely over his waistcoat. The hair of our subject is loose and short. His waistcoat is plain white and single breasted, without pockets and with cloth covered buttons. The cutaway of his waistcoat is very short, ending above the petticoat trousers. The petticoat trousers themselves are a plain white, stretching from the seaman's natural waist to the top of the calf. It is bound by a single button at the waist. His stockings are plain white, though of a slightly lighter hue than the petticoat trousers. His shoes are held by rectangular buckles of white metal.

His hat is a barge cap, with a silver insignia on its face not unlike that described by Nagle and depicted in the portrait of Arthur Phillip in 1786.

The barge is interesting for the mobile ramp affixed to its bow. This may be the same sort of landing craft used to shuttle troops ashore during the New York campaign, a variation of which is depicted in the 1780 print A View of Gravesend in Kent, with Troops Passing the Thames to Tilbury Fort.

Detail from A View of Gravesend in Kent, with Troops Passing the Thames
to Tilbury Fort
, F. West, 1780, Brown University.

In the barge is a tiny figure of a second sailor, likewise wearing a blue short jacket and white waistcoat. His waistcoat appears slightly longer, but the figure is obscured by distance.

Friday, July 14, 2017

'HMS' and 'USS': Not a Thing?

In secondary sources, the use of 'HMS' and 'USS' to describe ships of the British and American navies in the eighteenth century is almost a given. Both serve as abbreviations: His/Her Majesty's Ship, and United States Ship respectively. Is that what people used in the second half of the eighteenth century?

There are a myriad of examples in primary sources for the use of 'His Majesty's Ship' before the actual vessel's name. Sometimes it is more specific: His Majesty's Frigate, or His Majesty's Sloop.

The New-York Evening Post, April 20, 1747, page 2

As to the use of an abbreviation, there is no evidence I have yet uncovered. The memoirs written by eighteenth century American sailors Ashley Bowen, Timothy Boardman, Christopher Prince, and Christopher Hawkins, the enslaved Olaudah Equiano who spent years aboard Royal Navy vessels, and British sailors William Spavens, James Wyatt, and Samuel Kelly are all devoid of the abbreviations. Granted, many of these men served in a time before there was an American navy, and so USS would necessarily be absent, but HMS is entirely missing as well.

Word searchable databases make the job of sussing out this myth quite a bit easier. Using America's Historical Newspapers, the Newspaper Archive, Accessible Archives, and Google Books, I dove into the search for HMS and USS. Unfortunately, I am not satisfied with the results. Many of these platforms rely on transcriptions that are unreliable. The false positives for HMS and USS numbered in the thousands between all of these.

Given that I haven't found a definitive reference yet, I am inclined to think that the abbreviations came along later, or that they were very, very sparsely used. I should emphasize again, this applies only to my period of study, and not to later use.

Have you found a source I've overlooked? Is there a reference that changes this? Leave a comment and start the discussion!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Saint George for England, 1781

Saint George for England, Carrington Bowles, 1781, British Museum.

At the base of this print is a poem, surmounted by a bowl of punch:
Behold your Saint with Glorious English Fare,
Noble Sirloin, Rich Pudding and strong Beer.
For you my Heart's of Oak, for your Regale,
Here 's good old English Stingo Mild & Stale.
This Porter is by Famous Calvert made,
Justly Renowned of all the Brewing Trade.
Such cheer as this will make you Bold & Strong,
Who'd not on such a Noble Saint, Rely on.

Lifting his foaming tankard with a smile, our jolly tar is Saint George himself, patron of England. He is the first in a series of seven "Tutelar Saints" (meaning guardian saints) produced by Bowles. Each represents a different nation, riding a different mount, and carrying a different indulgence. Patrick on a horse with wine for Ireland, Andrew on a unicorn with snuff for Scotland, and David on a goat with leeks. The remaining three are for Spain, France, and Italy, but I have not yet found the images nor the saints connected with those.

I have often pointed out on this blog that the British nation was increasingly personified in the image of a common sailor as the eighteenth century progressed. Here we see that trend at its logical conclusion. Saint George is no longer a knight on horseback lancing a dragon, but is a sailor with a comically oversized sword driven through the white flag of France and raising a good Calvert & Co. porter to his victory.

His reversed cocked hat is festooned with a large badge bearing the cross of Saint George, and topped with acorns. Beneath it he wears a bob wig. George's dotted neckcloth is draped over his checked shirt, jacket, and sword.

Bowles couldn't decide on which pattern to make George's single breasted waistcoat, so he alternates between plaid, horizontally striped, and vertically striped. His jacket is piped in a plain tape, around the cuffs, lapels, and pocket. George's trousers end above the ankle and are remarkably wide bottomed. Plain stockings run into shoes with oval buckles.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Mahogany Jones Voyage

Plans are being developed for a unique adventure on the waters and shores of Northumberland Strait, between Prince Edward island and Nova Scotia in August of 2020.

Titled The Mahogany Jones Voyage: Return Of The Privateers, the project consists of a voyage under sail and oar of replica 18th century longboats, with an accompanying traditional-rig 'mother ship,' from Summerside, PEI to Pictou, NS. Carried out in dress of the 1770s, the voyage and parallel period encampments will commemorate the career of Loyalist privateer John 'Mahogany' Jones, who left the garrison of Fort Edward on PEI to go privateering off the New England coast. The shore encampments will take place in historic locations along the Island coastline, joined each night by the longboat flotilla’s crews. The final event of the two-week project will be a Grand Salute to the replica of the 1773 Scots settlement ship Hector at Pictou, Nova Scotia, and a Concluding Encampment there commemorating the Scots settlement of Nova Scotia. Grants are being sought to allay costs of all participant units and boats, and military, naval and civilian re-enactors of the Revolutionary War period will be sought to take part in all or some of the activities they can manage. Dress standards will be high for what promises to be an unforgettable adventure on one of Canada’s most historic and beautiful areas. Fort there information contact:

Hon. Captain(N) Victor Suthren CD MA RCN (Ret)
The Mahogany Jones Voyage: Return of the Privateers
Box 668
506 St Lawrence Street
Merrickville, Ontario
Canada K0G 1N0

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bostonians in Distress, 1774

The Bostonians in Distress, attributed to Philip Dawe, Robert Sayer and J. Bennett, 1774, Library of Congress.

The Bostonians in Distress, attributed to Philip Dawe, published by Sayer and Bennett, 1774, New York Historical Society.

Quick note: the New York Historical Society version was attributed to a dead link, and may be misattributed. Please let me know if you have any information on this colorized piece.

In this political cartoon Dawe addresses the closing of Boston harbor and the effort by Boston's fellow American colonists to supply the town with the food and goods needed to survive. The other colonists are represented by three sailors standing in a jolly boat, shoveling piles of fish to the caged Bostonians.

Dawe's piece is a companion to his more famous Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring and Feathering. Here he has converted the mob into a caged and starving rabble that fight each other to eat the raw fish provided for them. Significantly, the noose in the first print has been converted into a chain by which the cage now hangs from the Liberty Tree.

The sailor on the far left wears a round hat with a band around the crown (which gets colored out) and without trim, turned up a bit on the front and back. His red jacket is single breasted, and he wears a white shirt without waistcoat. The blue striped trousers end above the ankle, showing his white stockings and rectangular buckles.

In the middle stands a sailor in a wider brimmed round hat with a shorter crown. His neckcloth is a solid color, and again he wears no waistcoat. Notably, this tar's white neckcloth is tucked into his shirt, which is darker than the white shirt most sailors are portrayed wearing. His jacket is a bit odd: there are no buttons at all, and the fabric is vertically striped. Beneath his petticoat trousers you can see the legs of his breeches.

This mariner has got petticoat trousers as well, and you can see the legs of his white breeches fairly well. His stockings are white, and he has rectangular buckles on his shoes. The blue jacket is a bit shorter and without any vents. The cocked hat atop his bob wig is worn point forward

Monday, July 3, 2017

Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring and Feathering, 1774

The Bostonian's Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring & Feathering, attributed to Philip Dawe, published by Sayer and Bennett, 1774, John Carter Brown Library.

The Bostonian's Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring & Feathering, attributed to Philip Dawe, published by Sayer and Bennett, 1774, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

The Bostonian's Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring & Feathering, attributed to Philip Dawe, published by Sayer and Bennett, 1774, Library of Congress via Lapham's Quarterly.

Philip Dawe's image, as printed by Sayer and Bennett, is a popular one. Original copies exist in many museum and private collections. The image of an American mob attacking a government official with a noose around his neck, a club by his side, tarred and feathered, with tea poured into his mouth is a shocking one.

While this image has endured, it is only half of the story. Sayer and Bennett published it as 'Plate I.' An accompanying piece, The Bostonians in Distress, was meant to accompany it. Plate I depicts Americans behaving badly, Plate II shows the consequences of their actions.

In March of 1774, the Boston Port Act was passed in Parliament. Created as a punitive measure in response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament decalred with the Port Act that Britain would 'discontinue, in such manner, and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, shipping of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour, of Boston.'

Dawe was answering critics of the Port Act by demonstrating that the mobs of America had this coming. For his central subject he chose to portray John Malcolm. A known informant, he was targeted in 1773 by a large mob of sailors for a tar and feathering.

Newport Mercury, November 29, 1774, page 2

Undeterred, Malcolm became a customs commissioner. After an altercation with a shoemaker, Malcolm was tarred and feathered again in January of 1774, mere weeks after the Boston Tea Party. Obstinate, he refused to give into the mob's wish that he renounce his position, even after they strapped a noose around his neck (as Dawe depicts).

Malcolm's posture, pleading while being restrained with a kettle of tea poured into his throat, is a direct answer to the unidentified English artist of The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught. Published in October, Dawe's Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man came fully six months after The Able Doctor.

The able Doctor; or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught, artist unknown,
1774, American Antiquarian Society.

Given that sailors gave Malcolm his first drubbing, and that (in the words of John Adams) 'outlandish jack tarrs' formed the center of America's 'motley rabble,' it was natural for Dawe to put a sailor in the foreground. The inclusion of a sailor, standing prominently on the right edge of the frame and wielding a weapon, also appears to be an answer to The Able Doctor. 'Sure,' he says 'our sailors shut down the port, but your sailors made us do it.'

Gilder Lehrman Copy

John Carter Brown Library Copy

Library of Congress Copy
The colorists for these prints are fairly consistent. All portray him as wearing a blue jacket (white metal buttons, except the John Carter Brown copy with cloth covered buttons), white petticoat trousers, and white stockings. His cap is a shade of brown, except for the John Carter Brown copy where it is a sort of purple, matching the breeches that peak from beneath his petticoat trousers. The sailor in the Library of Congress copy wears white breeches that match the shade of his petticoat trousers, which might be the same as the Gilder Lehrman copy. The neckcloth is different between all three versions, vacillating between striped and patterned, spotted or perhaps floral, orange and yellow or blue and red.