Friday, March 1, 2013

Booty: From Far off Shores

Over at the wonderful blog of the USS Constitution Museum, last Wednesday's post told of the wartime letters of a sailors wife at home namely Abigail Chew. Abigail was married to Constitution's purser, Thomas J. Chew, who saw action in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during the War of 1812. What the post offers of their letters shows two people who are very much endeared to one another and who have that wonderful style of writing that is both personal and fluent, and that is almost completely lost in our current milieu: "C U L8R" etc. *sigh*

What caught my eye, aside from that, was the lovely set of jewelry shown above and currently on display at the museum. Known once upon a time - in Abigail's day for instance - as a parure, such sets usually included a necklace, earrings, a pair of bracelets and either a brooch or a diadem. It may be that the set above had all those things at one time or that it came to Abigail just as it is shown. The cameo jewelry is made of coral, a very popular choice in the first two decades of the 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic. Also of note are the screw-backed earrings. By this time, particularly in conservative areas of the U.S. such as New England, piercing of the ears was on the decline. Screw-backed earrings would continue in favor through the Victorian era and even make a short comeback in the 1940s and '50s. I remember my mother having more than one pair.

This lovely set was acquired by Thomas somewhere in the Mediterranean, and may very well have ended up in his hands as proper booty. Foreign sailors were a popular target for the selling of stolen goods by local thieves and pirates in many ports around the world. It's almost certain that Thomas purchased this beautiful gift for his wife, but how the seller came to have it is open to quite a bit of speculation.

Click over to Log Lines and enjoy their fascinating posts that make the history and the people of USS Constitution live on. I'll wager you'll enjoy the site as much as I do. Happy Friday!


Timmy! said...

I very much enjoyed that one, Pauline. Nice correspondence and beautiful jewelry too... I also found it interesting that Thomas lived to be 70 years old and Abagail outlived him by another 28 years (after having five children together). Impressive!

Pauline said...

Both Thomas and Abigail were long lived but I'm betting - in the style of the day - that she was considerably younger than he when they married.