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Veronica's Random Dose - Interesting Early 19th Century Sailor Facts.
A history buff I am not, but I've always been fascinated with historical facts of all kind.
Today I got a chance to step back in time at a local museum (The Ships Of The Sea Museum in Savannah, Georgia) and get a glimpse of what life for sailors must have been like in the early 19th century.
Though their lives were full of hardships, they were certainly quite interesting.
Here's a few interesting facts about the early 19th century sailor's life:
1. On the eve of his departure, a sailor would gift his wife or girlfriend with a rolling pin filled with salt. The rolling pin was to be placed above the fireplace and in the event it fell, it was taken as a sign that the sailor had been lost at sea.
2. In the late 18th and early 19th century, ceramic cats were placed in the windows of brothels in English ports. Interestingly enough, if the cat had green eyes, this meant that the brothel was open. If the cat had red eyes, this meant that the brothel was full or that the police was nearby. If the cat's back was turned, this meant that the brothel was closed.
3. Hung between cannons on warships, tassels were used to clean the dirty, greasy, or bloody hands of soldiers. In the spirit of resourcefulness, greasy tassels were used to make wicks for candles and lanterns.
4. The sailor's hat and jersey were specifically designed with the sailor's safety in mind. The hats were made with wide brims to protect the sailor's face from the sun, while the jerseys were deliberately made to be loose-fitting, so they could be removed quickly in the event the sailor fell overboard.
5. During calm weather, the game of nine pins was a sailors favorite recreational past-time.
6. Rats aboard a ship were not only a nuisance, they carried deadly diseases as well. Therefore, the need for rattraps like the one pictured at right, was extremely vital. →
7. Sailors often got seasick, suffered from malnutrition, fevers, or were crushed by the ships rigging. Since there usually were no doctors, one of the officers would do his best with limited knowledge available, a few medicines, and several instruments to aid a fellow seaman that had fallen ill.
Since there was an obvious lack of anesthetics, both the dentist and the surgeon had to work fast to get the work done.
Due to gangrene or other severe injuries, if a limb had to be cut off, with the aid of a sharp saw and muscles, the surgeon would try to cut off the effected limb with one swift stroke - Ouch!
8. Sailors often longed for the sweethearts they left behind. So they would make sentimental gifts for their wives or girlfriends, by using shells and other bits and pieces of scrap material found on board their ships.
Facts like these are just a "taste" of what the life of an early 19th century sailor must have been.
Filled with dangers from the sea, the natural elements, and unscrupulous seamen, they often pined after those they left behind.
Nevertheless, they still managed to make life at sea bearable, and for those who lived to tell it, provided many of their friends, acquaintances, and loved ones with hours upon hours of their awesome tales of the sea.