Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lacing in Style, 1819

"Lacing in Style". London: 1819. Royal Museums Greenwich.
Today we jump forward in  time to 1819 with this great satirical T. Teagg print from 1819: "Lacing in Style, or A Dandy Midshipman preparing for Attraction". A parody of the exaggerated genteel male fashions of the late 1810s, this print shows a midshipman getting his fashionably-waspish waist by having sailors on a capstan winching him tight. The fashion was much-mocked: as the Marine says, "Stays!!! Well, I've a good mind to get petticoats!"

While their officer follow the vagaries of civilian fashion, the Royal Navy sailors on deck reflect the slow, steady change in nautical fashion as well. Closing out the era this blog covers, these sailors are beginning to show many of the signs of the modest revolution sailor fashion undergoes after the end of the Napoleonic Wars: long queues, Guernsey frocks, long trousers that drag on the ground at the heel, and tie shoes.

The sailor sitting on the gun smoking a pipe wears little black pumps, white socks, striped red and white trousers, a blue jacket, and a shapeless black round hat. His queued hair was left uncolored by the artist, making it look blond with a white queue tie.

The four sailors at the capstan are dressed in a motley of clothes: red and white striped trousers, blue trousers, white trousers; a red and white striped Guernsey frock, blue jackets; a tightly-tied white cravat, a loosely-tied red handkerchief. Their little black pumps are tied. The sailor with his back to the viewer has a long, thick brown queue, and the other three sailors look like they have short hair. Two wear black round hats, one wears what looks like a brown "carpenter's cap", and the fourth man is bareheaded.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rating's Trousers, c. 1810

Today I'm tackling my first artifact, a pair of striped linen trousers dated to c. 1810 in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK. I had the pleasure of seeing this garment in person when I visited Greenwich in 2016 and oohed and ahhed over it for some time, taking many indifferent photos with my camera phone. Unfortunately, the exhibit label and "Nelson, Navy, Nation" exhibit catalog didn't offer much more information about the provenance of this garment, or what the back looks like. Perhaps an email to the curator and a follow-up post is in order!
"Rating's trousers". English, c. 1810. National Maritime Museum.

Striped red or blue trousers are closely linked with the portrayals of sailors in art, from the early 18th century to the end of the period I study and beyond. An early example of sailors with striped trousers comes in a detail the 1746 painting "The Royal Family" - screencap courtesy of British Tars: 1740-1790.
Detail from "The Royal Family", c. 1746. Richard Green Fine Art.

Artists from caricaturists to serious painters continue to depict sailors with striped trousers throughout the 18th century, and into the 19th. For more examples, I recommend looking at the "striped trousers" tags for both my blog and British Tars.
Detail from "The Embarkation", c.1760's. NMM.
 The exact nature of the stripe varies depending on the artist, from the broad stripes of a cheap colored caricature to the narrow stripes of a serious painting or more expensive mezzotint. Stripe patterns can even change from different copies of the same print, as in the 1807 caricature "Sailors in a Calm".

Detail from "A story of a little parson and the sailor, 1797"

However, this particular pair of trousers is made of linen with a blue stripe in two different, very narrow narrow widths. Like many other surviving striped linens of the 18th century the fabric is largely white instead of evenly-sized stripes.
Trouser detail. Visit the NMM page to see the high-resolution original photo.

The buttons are horn; the fall relatively shallow and narrow and bound at the edges, closed by two corner buttons and a central button, and the waistband by three buttons, including the center one that goes through the fall. These trousers also have buttons for holding up braces - an extremely useful detail, as sailors are usually depicted wearing jackets and waistcoats in artwork, and when in their shirtsleeves are inconsistently shown wearing braces. The waistband closes at the back with gusset cut on the diagonal and laced shut with small lacing-holes, a detail seen recently on this blog in  John Augustus's Atkinson's 1807 print "Sailors".

The garment looks like it's pieced at the top of the leg and fly - perhaps the fabric was not long enough, or it's a construction detail I'm unfamiliar with. The legs are cut narrow and straight. It is difficult to tell where they might have fallen on the leg without knowing the inseam of the man who wore them, though artwork of the c. 1810 time period shows trouser hems around the ankle.

As always, though it's possible to make informed generalizations about sailor clothing from how artists depicted them, their prejudices and conventions can make it difficult to determine the details what sailors were actually wearing. The rareness of extant artifacts creates its own survival bias, but having a garment like this to compare to artwork is a great treasure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Heaving the Lead, 1807

"Heaving the Lead". London: 1807. British Museum.
My third image from John Augustus's Atkinson's print series "A picturesque representation of the costumes of Great Britain"is one many of you might be familiar with: "Heaving the Lead". This 1807 print shows a sailor standing in the chains, using a lead line to measure the depth of the water.

The simple depiction of a sailor performing a mundane, omnipresent part of shipboard life have made this image a popular one for reuse, and it has been reproduced in numerous books covering the time period from the 18th century throughout the late 19th. Its clear composition also makes it a popular candidate for being copied by different engravers for books throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries - for example, this plate in the 1913 book "Ships and Ways of other Days".
Colored versions of this image are the most popularly-used for reproduction, so for my close analysis of  this image I'm using this copy in the collection of the British Library. The colored version also makes it clearer to see the two sailors working inboard.
"Heaving the Lead". London: 1807. British Library. 
The sailor heaving the lead wears black shoes with square white buckles. His white trousers, cut tight around the knee, are long and come down to the heels of his shoes, with a broad fall. He wears a double-breasted blue jacket worn shut, with small yellow buttons. His mariner's cuffs have three buttons, and one on his left wrist is worn undone. His neck cloth is red with white spots, tied up close to his neck with the ends hanging out. From underneath his blue jacket a checked shirt with a narrow cuff can be seen at his wrists.

On his head he wears a straw hat - far less commonly portrayed by artists than black round hats. A pipe is stuck into the band. The hat has a slightly-rounded top and a tightly-curved brim. It is of medium height, neither a low like a modern "Amish" style hat nor as tall as a "top" hat. Glimpsed under the hat is a bit of short, curly brown hair
In the background one sailor wears white trousers cut full in the lower leg and tight around the knee, with a checked shirt, a neck cloth of indiscriminate color, and a black round hat,
The other sailor wears white trousers, a blue jacket, and a black hat.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Getting up a kedge anchor, 1807

"Getting Up a Kedge Anchor." London: 1807. British Museum.
Today's post is another one from John Augustus's Atkinson's series of prints on "A picturesque representation of the costumes of Great Britain", published from 1807-1808. This engraving from 1807 shows four men in a small boat pulling up an anchor.
Two of the sailors have their backs turned to us, showing long, thick queues. They're both wearing trousers, and the queued man on the left has what looks like a belt on around his waist. The two men facing the viewer wear knotted neck-cloths. Three of the sailors look to be wearing jackets, while the man with his belt visible is both bare-headed and possibly in his shirt.

Two of the sailors wear low-crowned round hats with curled brims. The man getting up the kedge anchor has on the same sort of split-top cloth cap spotted in Monday's post "Sailors" from the same series of engraving, which reader CS suggested might be a carpenter's hat. His jacket has mariner's cuffs, worn closed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sailors, 1807

"Sailors". John Augustus Atkinson, London, 1807. British Museum.
This weeks posts will look at some plates containing sailors as portrayed in John Augustus's Atkinson's series of prints on "A picturesque representation of the costumes of Great Britain", published from 1807-1808. The series is more serious than caricatures, but at the same time it does rely on romantic imagery, which might not be wholly accurate to life.

Today's post shows four sailors on the shore talking, two talking in the foreground and two pushing a boat into the water in the background.
The man with his back to the viewer wears a low-crowned round hat with a curled brim. His hair is worn long in a thick queue that reaches to mid-back, clearly tied with a thick tape or ribbon. His jacket, with a turned-down collar and mariner's cuffs worn unbuttoned, is cut short, showing a gap of shirt between his jacket and the waistband of his trousers. His trousers rest slightly above his hips and are tied in the back, cut tight in the leg but loose at the ankle. They're long, reaching to his heels and covering his shoes.

The seated man he's speaking to is smoking a pipe and wearing a hat style I'm unfamiliar with. He wears a very large handkerchief tied loosely around the neck, and a voluminous smock that reaches almost to his knees. On his legs he wears tight trousers or what might be sea boots - it was hard for me to tell. His shoes are tied.
In the background two more sailors push a boat into the water. One of them wears long, queued hair and a jacket with a high-cut waist.  They both wear round hats and trousers that are tight in the leg and loose at the ankle.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sea Horses of Icy Cape, 1790 (British Tars)

Today's post is shared with permission from British Tars: 1740-1790:

Sea Horses of Icy Cape, M. Brown, 1790, John Carter Brown Library.

"Taken from the book Captain Cook's Voyages Round the World, this engraving depicts a group of tars laying fire into a tightly packed group of walruses (here named "sea horses") in Alaska. Setting aside the humorous expressions on the faces of the seamen and the walruses, we'll dive right in to examining the seamen's clothes.
All of our tars wear plain trousers and close fit short jackets. For those who have their backs turned to us, we see their jackets are without vents or cuffs. The oarsmen amidships show that the jackets have white lapels, and one of them has matching white mariner's cuffs. Though most are without hats, a pair (at the least) wear knit caps, and one rather tall man in the back wears a round hat bound in tape and turned up on one side. It is possible the hat is turned up on both sides, but the perspective here only allows us to speculate."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A true & lamentable Ballad, 1804

A True & Lamentable Ballad. Royal Museums Greenwich.
Today's image is another illustrated ballad from the London publishers Laurie and Whittle: "A true & lamentable Ballad call'd Billy Taylor". This song is an early 19th c. ballad (Roud #158) with many variations, about a woman whose lover is pressed into service, dresses in men's clothing him, has her gender revealed by an accident, is questioned by the captain and learns that her lover is about to marry another, shoots them both, and is promoted as a result. This version is as follows:

Billy Taylor was a gay young fellow, Full of mirth, and full of glee ; 
And his heart he did diskiver To a lady fair and free.
Four-and-twenty stout young fellows, Clad they were in blue array, 

Came and press'd young Billy Taylor, And forthwith sent him to sea.

Soon his true love follow'd arter, Under the name of Richard Carr ; 

And her lily white hands she daub'd all over With the nasty pitch and tar.
When they came to the first engagement, Bold she fit amongst the rest, 

Until a cannon-ball cut her jacket open, And diskivered her lily white breast.

When the Captain com'd for to hear on't, Says he, "Vat vind has blown you here?"
Says she, "I come for to seek for my true love, Whom you press'd and I love so dear."
"If you come for to seek for your true love, Tell unto me his name I pray!"
"His name kind sir is Billy Taylor, Whom you press'd, and sent to sea"

"If his name is Billy Taylor, He's both cruel and severe:
For rise up early in the morning, And you ll see him with a lady fair.
With that she ros'd up in the morning, Early as by break of day,
And she met her Billy Taylor, Walking with a lady gay.

Forthwith she call'd for Sword and Pistol, Which did come at her command,
And she shot her Billy Taylor, With his fair one in his hand .
When the captain com'd for to hear on't. He werry much applauded her for what she d done
And quickly he made her the first Lieutenant, Of the gallant THUNDER BOMB.

Carrying her pistol in one hand, our cross-dressing deadly lady tar is drawn dressed like any other sailor portrayed in caricature. Only the curve of her bosom, revealed by her open blue jacket, shows her to be a woman instead of her alias Richard Carr.

She wears small pointed-toe buckled black pumps, white high-waisted trousers that end above the ankle, a double-breasted waistcoat painted yellow in this version, a white shirt with the collar turned up and a small black handkerchief tied tightly around her neck. In her other hand she carries a round hat with a flat brim and a buckle on the black hatband. Her hair is drawn a little differently from the way sailor hair is usually drawn: longer than usual, and combed forward.
Off in the background the faithless Billy Taylor lies dead on the ground next t o his bare-bosomed lover, in a blue jacket buttoned shut, white trousers and stockings, and black shoes. Also glimpsed in the background is a tavern sign that could possibly have three sailors on it, in round hats, short dark jackets, and white trousers.