Pirate Imagery in the Rare Book Collection – Day 5

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lewis
We are all gearing up for Pirates Pack the Park this weekend at The Mariners’ Museum and so I thought I’d share some of the Pirate treasures we have in the Library for each day leading up to the big event. In The Pirates Own Book or authentic narratives of the lives, exploits, and executions of the most celebrated sea robbers, I’ll be sharing some of the illustrations and bits of history that still make the pirates from long ago so intriguing. Here’s one for today: The Pirate Banister, hanging at the Yard Arm There are a couple of interesting stories here. I promise… Watching the execution of  the pirate Banister as a boy didn’t keep Captain Lewis away from the pirate life. As he grew into a young man, he took vessels here and there until he suddenly found himself with a crew of 40 men. Upon seeing a fine brigantine of 10 guns owned by Captain Tucker, Lewis sent him a letter offering 10,000 pieces of eight for the vessel, but if he did not comply, he would take the vessel “either by fair or foul means”. Very pirate-like! Capt. Lewis giving a lock of his hair to the Devil Throughout his career, Lewis plundered and “did an abundance of mischief”, but his crew believed him to consort with the devil as they were in a chase to capture the ship of Captain Smith. The fore and main top-mast had been carried away, so Lewis went up to the main-top and tore off a handful of his hair saying, “Good devil, take this till I come”. Afterwards, his vessel gained speed and was successful in capturing the ship of Captain Smith. In time, he stated that he, “could not withstand his destiny; for the devil told him in the great cabin he should be murdered that night”. And he was killed after the sinking of his last French ship. In the dead of night after this last conquest, the French boarded his vessel, went into his cabin and killed Lewis. So there it is! A whole week of pirates for you to get you into character and costume for The Mariners’ Museum Pirates Pack the Park event on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 10am – 5pm. We hope to see you there! It would be ARR-ible for you to miss. Sorry everyone… But hey, I made it the whole week without a pun! See you tomorrow.

Pirate Imagery in the Rare Book Collection – Day 4

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We are all gearing up for Pirates Pack the Park this weekend at The Mariners’ Museum and so I thought I’d share some of the Pirate treasures we have in the Library for each day leading up to the big event. In The Pirates Own Book or authentic narratives of the lives, exploits, and executions of the most celebrated sea robbers, I’ll be sharing some of the illustrations and bits of history that still make the pirates from long ago so intriguing. Here’s two for today: Captain Mackra and the Pirate with a Wooden leg An honorable pirate? That’s not the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking about them, but Captain Mackra did meet a crew of honorable pirates in 1720. In service to the East India Company, Mackra sought out to kill a group of pirates when he found out that they were rebuilding a vessel for their captain and 40 other mates. As the fight went on, he soon found himself outnumbered, exhausted and wounded as more and more pirate adversaries arrived. After hiding out for a few days, he learned of a $10,000 ransom offered by the pirates so he quickly spread rumors of his death. Upon realizing his increasingly dismal situation, Mackra accepted the assurance that he would be safe if he boarded their pirate ship to negotiate.  He soon realized that he had sailed with many of the pirates in the past (which goes to show that connections matter if you happen to kill 90-100 pirates like Mackra). This quote was also an interesting : “A singular incident was also very favorable to the unfortunate captain. It happened that a pirate, with a prodigious pair of whiskers, a wooden leg , and stuck round with pistols, came blustering and swearing upon the quarterdeck, inquiring, “Where was Captain Mackra”. He naturally supposed that this barbarous-looking fellow would be his executioner; but, as he approached, he took the captain by the hand, swearing “that he was an honest fellow, and that he had formerly sailed with him, and would stand by him; and let him see the man that would touch him”. The even funnier part? “England now pressed Mackra to hasten away, lest the ruffian, upon his becoming sober, should not only retract his word, but give liberty to the crew to cut him and his men to pieces”. The Algerians in the act of firing off the French consul from a mortar at the French fleet This resource states that Algerian history features a constant stream of piracy. In one example, the Algerians made their way along the coast of Province and committed the most dreadful ravages, killing, burning and destroying all that came in their way. In a flurry of bombs and fires that were destroying the city, Father Vacher, the French President, is shown above being bound by his hands and feet to a mortar as it is about to be fired off like a bomb against a French fleet. Once you take in the examples of a good pirate vs. bad pirate, take a close look at the clothing and accessories that they are wearing. At The Mariners’ Museum Pirates Pack the Park event on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 10am – 5pm, we are attempting to break the world record for the largest gathering of pirates but it’s not enough to talk like one, or feel like one… You have to dress like one. Here’s how to do it: 1. Wear a pirate hat or bandana 2. Wear a plain white t-shirt 3. Roll up your pant legs 4. Adorn yourself with an accessory (eye patch, jewelry, toy sword, etc.) 5. Be counted and in the park by 2PM-2:10 to be included in the count!  –  The current record is held by Hastings, England at 14,231.

Pirate Imagery in the Rare Book Collection – Day 2

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We are all gearing up for Pirates Pack the Park this weekend at The Mariners’ Museum and so I thought I’d share some of the Pirate treasures we have in the Library for each day leading up to the big event. In The Pirates Own Book or authentic narratives of the lives, exploits, and executions of the most celebrated sea robbers, I’ll be sharing some of the illustrations and bits of history that still make the pirates from long ago so intriguing. Here’s two for today: Captain Roberts’ crew carousing at Old Calabar River. Read about Captain Roberts and you’ll find out about his many tales of marauding, but in this book, you will learn of one way that pirates came across so much alcohol. Captain Bartholomew Roberts was introduced to the pirate life in 1719 when he was taken by the pirate Davis off of the Guinea Coast. From there he began capturing vessel after vessel, taking their goods and seizing, burning or sinking their ships. From Surinam to the Barbadoes and Tobago, Captain Roberts was a skilled pirate. In one case, he knew of a Dutch custom where you are to hoist your jack in order to signify that you wish to trade with the inhabitants of an island. Knowing this signal, many flocked to Captain Roberts with the hopes of a good trade only to find that his intent was to take their goods and destroy the vessel. This quote is great because it summarizes the success of his exploits well: “Roberts and his crew were so fortunate as to capture several vessels and to render their liquor so plentiful, that it was esteemed a crime against Providence not to be continually drunk” (page 92). Gibbs and Wansley burying the Money Instead of being robbed of your goods by Captain Roberts, some pirates buried their valuables. Charles Gibbs was an “atrocious and cruel pirate” who once boarded the brig Vineyard as one of the crew. With William Thornby as Captain the crew was set to sail from New Orleans to Philadelphia with a wealth of cargo. It sounds pretty like a pretty ordinary voyage… Up until five days into the voyage when Gibbs heard about the 54,000 dollars in specie that was on board . With this information, he conspired with three other crew members, killed the captain and mate and overhauled the vessel. The next day, they divided several kegs of the specie ($5,000 each), made bags and sewed the money shut. At a location about 15 miles S. S. E. of Southampton Light, they got into their boats with the money, scuttled and set fire to the vessel. Gibbs learned that the money belonged to Stephen Girard, went on the shore of Brown Island and buried the money very lightly in the sand… They were eventually tried and Gibbs was sentenced to death by public hanging for piracy and murder. If you want to celebrate with your crew Captain Roberts-style, come on out, have a refreshment, and see what’s going on at The Mariners’ Museum Pirates Pack the Park event on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 10am – 5pm. I don’t think that there will be any buried bags of money, but free admission to the PPP event is just as good nowadays.

A Very Fond Farewell

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A new voyage awaits. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome once more to the Library blog. Sadly, today is my last day writing for you fine readers, and I want you to know what an honor it has been. When I arrived at the Library in June, I knew nothing about the SS United States, but with some guidance and access to the Library’s archives I was able to discover her very real and very poignant story. In my mind’s eye, she is not only AN ocean liner – she is now THE ocean liner, and still fastest in the world. I likewise new little about piracy, save that it was a problem off of Somalia. Through investigation of the Library’s resources and rare book collection, I found out where our modern conception of pirates came from and how much of a problem it still is even in the modern day. For the past six months, these topics have been the focus of my blog posts, but there in truth they only scratch the surface of what the Library has to offer.

For every photograph, book or document featured in my posts, dozens more exist in the archive. I could spend a lifetime documenting, organizing and analyzing the sources available here – nevertheless, I’m grateful for the six months I HAVE had. It has truly been a pleasure to work on the Library blog. The staff members have been universally kind and helpful, and I am still surprised at how much I learned. My deepest thanks go out to Jay, Jenn, Tom, Bill, Patti, and all the rest of The Mariners’ Museum Library family that made me feel welcome and helped me discover a whole new world hidden in the archives. Thanks for reading, and farewell.   Read more

Pirates in Anglo-American Culture

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A Jolly Roger flag flown by the USS Ranger. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello again, readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. A quick look at modern popular culture will make it clear even to the most casual of observers that the Caribbean Pirates of the 17th and 18th century are icons in family entertainment. Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series has been immensely successful, and the 20th century is full of films about swashbuckling heroes and adventures at sea. And yet, a sampling of our news headlines paints a very different picture of piracy: container ships are ransacked, crews held for ransoms, and tourists are kidnapped or killed. Indeed, the world recognizes this problem and has deployed dozens of warships to counter the pirate threat to commerce and personal safety. Why is there such a dichotomy on the subject of piracy?

As a historian, it seems to me that the issue of piracy meets its natural response in the modern headlines: piracy has been reviled and combated since time immemorial, as it should be. The catch is that people also like stories of adventure, romance and rooting for the underdog. English (and by extension, American) culture especially has always had a bit of a rebellious streak, with heroes like Robin Hood robbing the superfluously rich and thumbing their noses at a corruption. For the Anglo-American world, pirates served as an excellent source of rebellious fun once they had faded into the past a bit, and books like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island capitalized on this fun in the late 1800s. About two centuries had passed since the buccaneers had last prowled the Caribbean, and it seemed safe to feature pirates as a source of adventure.   Read more