Elena

Stupid question - shoes and boots

62 posts in this topic

So why don't sailors learn to swim? It is probably modern speculation that it prolongs the time needed to drown but it seems like there must be some reason. I can think of several good reasons for sailors to know how to swim.

IIRC, during that period in history, immersion in water was considered a source of disease and was avoided as much as possible.

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It is probably modern speculation that it prolongs the time needed to drown...

That's exactly the point I was trying to make. There's evidence of sailors who couldn't swim, but also evidence of sailors who could. I don't believe the inability to swim was a deliberate decision based on the desire to drown more quickly.

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I had been looking online for some good boots to go with my garb until i read this post. I had a nice pair all picked out and everything. Now, if you all can help me, I have yet to find a place that sells period shoes. At all. Do you all have any recommendations?

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In addition to Fugawee, there is also Burnley and Trowbridge, G. Gedney Godwin, and Jas. Townsend. I have shoes from all except Godwin with varying degrees of comfort. These are vendors who carry both men's and women's shoes. The market opens up a bit if you're looking for men's shoes.

http://www.burnleyan...adiesshoes.aspx

http://www.gggodwin....asp?category=22

http://jas-townsend....75247ade7026225

Jen Dobyns

Edited by jendobyns

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It is probably modern speculation that it prolongs the time needed to drown...

That's exactly the point I was trying to make. There's evidence of sailors who couldn't swim, but also evidence of sailors who could. I don't believe the inability to swim was a deliberate decision based on the desire to drown more quickly.

But a surprising number of sailors did not know how to swim. By some accounts, it was the majority. Being able to swim is handy around water, if only for when you drop something overboard while at anchor so this seems like a conscious decision. Why?

Swimming as a recreation was not popular during the GAoP and because of fears that the skin and hair would lose natural oils. Is that all there is to it? Why did this tradition survive into the 20th century?

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figure the draft of your vessel, where you might anchor to insure you were at a safe enough depth. picking something dropped overboard might mean (providing it sank) to a depth of 30-40 feet on a galleon.

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thank you for the links mark....though the new york times article...also did not open for me......i must say i would find the practice contrary to common sense, but then again, that is the common sense of today....not that of the 18th century.........i also i have come across numerous accounts of people drowning due to inability to swim...but...funny enough....on the wrecks off florida..it would seem that the local native and black populations could swim will eneough....and dive...so this make me wonder if that inability was a european handicap? mark, might you know off hand if the natives at near jamestown were capable?(i could send an email...but im being lazy and you might know lol)

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FWIW...For them that like experimental archeology...having fought as a dragoon, for AWI, I was blessed to be on the HMS Rose, "shipped out" to fight on the beach at Groton, CT. during the bicentennial.

Granted not bucket books, tighter fitting, no "cuff" instead high knee guards stitched into place. Well we sailed down past the fort, out into open water, then went over the side to the long boats, in full kit, armed with sabers and carbines...the weapons, weren't a problem... it was the damn boots, which got hung up on just about everything... not to mention kneeling to fire on the beach, only filled em up with sand...and you weren't going to easily take 'em off to empty 'em out like a pair of shoes... we marched and fought for nearly two hours with sand up to our ankles in our boots...talk about a bloody mess when you finally had the opportunity to take em off. I do not even wish to imagine what it would be like having to constantly try to maneuver on board ship with the rather large cuffs often seen in correct bucket boots...

Also I have heard Jack Sparrow's boots were drilled with holes so the actor could function in the water with 'em, so he would NOT sink...can't image folks during the GAoP drilling holes in perfectly good boots so they could function on board a ship or in the surf coming into the beach...

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17thbootva.jpg My favorite Late 17th century boot...similar to the AWI dragoon boot... still wouldn't want to wear it on board a ship...especially if I had to fight.

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"I am not entirely prepared to rule out that Cullen was in fact a horse-riding transvestite, but in that case he probably ought not to be considered typical"

See that there folks? That, my friends, is comedy!

Lookee you back on board, fighting the good fight...

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cross, plenty of documentation in smiths journal of natives swimming in our area. diving for oysters, swimming out to meet them, etc...

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Tobacco Coast states that most men in the tidewater region could swim early on or they could not survive (as getting from point A to point B almost always involved crossing a body of water and the ferry systems were not very good yet).....ahem...will see what the author bases that on...

Edited by Capt. Sterling

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thank you dutch......thats actually what i thought.......it seems so strange that sailors would not make learning to swim, a priority.......ESPECIALLY if they had seen natives and africans (who were to them unintelligible and savage) doing so.....though...perhaps the fact that they ccoouullddd swim, was used as further evidence of their inferiority.....dutch, does captain smith make any comments about his feelings on the matter?(this just proves that his book is one that i rreaalllyy should get)

Edited by Bos'n Cross

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Nice to see this topic revisited with new information and new areas of interest. Very polite discourse too! I really have enjoyed the photos too! Great images GOF!

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thank you dutch......thats actually what i thought.......it seems so strange that sailors would not make learning to swim, a priority.......ESPECIALLY if they had seen natives and africans (who were to them unintelligible and savage) doing so.....though...perhaps the fact that they ccoouullddd swim, was used as further evidence of their inferiority.....dutch, does captain smith make any comments about his feelings on the matter?(this just proves that his book is one that i rreaalllyy should get)

While it seems strange, it only takes a minute to find references from multiple periods of people saying that most sailors didn't swim.

Swimming seems like a useful skill but swimming for pleasure was not something people did very often in the 17th or 18th centuries. People worried about losing the natural oils in the skin and air so they didn't swim and washed seldom. I'm relying on Plimoth Plantation's researchers for this.

A sailor could not swim under normal circumstances. A moving ship would leave a swimmer behind.

Swimming would not be possible for much of the year in many latitudes. The water is too cold.

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cross- you may want to reconsider the swimming for leisure issue. Young Mr. B. Franklin was noted for creating paddles to fit on hands and feet then strapped on to speed one along in the water. It seems he made a correlation between large hands and feet in relation to speed. He also wrote about a trip he took across a creek on a windy day by being towed behind one of his kites. 18th century kite surfing by a founding father- go figure. This may be a case of so common it was rarely documented. But it seems to smack in the face our normal perception of the points you brought up about keeping the bodys oils and dirts to keep illness' off you.

what this has to do with boots i have no idea

*edit. cross, in answer to your query of John Smith. I don't remember any thoughts on swimming, but he was fond of watching the women bathe.

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thanks dutch...thought i wonder if this is just more proof for those who say franklin was a nutter ahead of the times......perhaps........perhaps....perhaps.....

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Ahoy! Not a stupid question, not a stupid question at all. For those of you that know me, know that I could not let this post go without chiming in. I fancy me self as a proponent or a defender of the bucket boot if you will, and I use the term “Bucket Boot “ loosely because the boot with the large folded down top had many names, from jack boot to Wellington. So grab your Bud Light, because here we go. First of let me start by saying that in no way that I am insinuating that all pirates, if any wore boots. I am just stating that it was possible and probable for them to be able to and yes the buckety jack sparrow type. I have done this research not just because I want an excuse to be able to wear them, but because for the longest time I saw pirates being portrayed in them and when I first got into this piraty thing and started to hear certain people say “ No, pirates never wore bucket boots.” I thought , the deuce you say. Why then have they been portrayed as wearing them for so long. I know a lot of people will blame N.C. Wyeth or Mr. Pyle, which the majority of their illustrations don’t have pirates wearing the bucket boot. Truth is they were being portrayed wearing these boots long before these artists and Hollywood, somewhere back to the early 19th century that would be the early 1800’s. Anyway back to my point, which is that the so called bucket boot was not just worn by horsemen but buy everyone, and well into the golden age of piracy and not just in the early 1600’s or the early 17th century as some would have us believe.

“During the reign of the first Charles,1625 ~1649, the boots (which were made of fine Spanish leather, and were of a buff color) became very large and wide at the top. “

P48

"During the whole of the commonwealth, 1649~1660, large boot tops of this kind were worn even by the Puritans, they were, however, large only and not decorated with costly lace.”

P49-50

“With the restoration of Charles II. , 1660~1685, Came the large French boot, in which the courtiers of “Louis le grand:”,1682 ~1712, always delighted to exhibit their legs.”

P50

“With the great revolution of 1688, and his majesty William III, 1689 ~ 1702 . Came the large jack boot. “

P51

“Such were the boots of our cavalry and INFANTRY, and in such cumbrous articles did they fight in the low countries, following the example of Charles XIII., 1697~1718, of Sweden. “

P52

“A boot was worn by civilians, less rigid than the one last described, the leg taking more of the natural shape, and the tops being smaller, of a more pliant kind, and sometimes ornamented round the edges.”

P52

In this section of the book it clearly states that during this time period, 1697~1718, these type of boots existed. Well within the golden age of piracy.

The Book Of Feet, 1847, Joseph Sparkes Hall

“The samples of boots given are from the time of Louis XIV and XV. Fig 40 was called the cauldron boot; this had a peculiar appendage around the ankle. Fig41, the bellows boot, has an enormous top, so that a man could hardly wear a pair without straddling. Fig 42, the postillion’s boot; these were generally made of very heavy material, so if the postilion, by chance, should fall from his horse, the wheels of the carriage might pass over his legs without doing him injury.”

P25-26

A Short Treatise On Boots And Shoes, 1884, Slater J&J

Once again I am, not trying to insinuate that all pirate wore boots. Just that it was possible and probable. I mean that if one was to raid a ship and find someone on board with the exact same shoe size would be rare. But whose to say it didn’t happen or you had enough loot to go get a pair made or buy a pair. Or perhaps they are an 18th century re-enactor of a 17th century buccaneer, :D , just kidding. Now having been to the Caribbean and sailed on a rigged ship, not at the same time mind you, I can tell you it gets really hot and I’m from southern California and that’s saying a lot and big ol bots would not be fun in that heat. But tromping around through the brush on those islands I can say that they would be beneficial. But on a ship I would actually prefer a pair of canvas topped, rubber soled deck shoes and or chukka boots. Much love to all. Hugs and kisses. I have images to go with all this quotes, but for the life of me I can not figure out how to upload them, my apologies.

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Another little problem with bucket boots: the "bucket" part.

Christopher Lee wrote about an unpleasant experience he had early in his career in a pirate movie (he made several). One scene had him and his comrades wading through a swamp. The scene was tropical, but it was shot in a studio tank and the water was frigid. To make it worse, he was wearing bucket boots for the role and they filled with several gallons of water, which weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon. He only had to walk a few dozen yards, but each step required him to lift a huge weight of water and boot. He said he was all but dead when he got out and could barely walk or even sit up for days thereafter.

As to sailors and swimming, I've read that there was an old sailor's superstition (imagine that!) that if you could swim, you were more likely to drown. Seems the spirits of the sea took it as presumption. If you were a good sailor and couldn't swim, they were more likely to throw a spar or keg or something your way should the ship founder. I could be true.

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Not meaning to sound rude, but I’m not going off of the documentations of an actor in Hollywood make and or style boots. Of course situation dictates the wardrobe and anyone with sense would adjust appropriately. As for swimming, I don’t care how good of a swimmer you are, it would be terribly hard to egg beater for the appropriate amount of time for a rigged ship under sail to turn and pick you up.

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One small datum of GAoP pirate boot use. French buccaneer Louis le Golif, while marching to the attack on Caracas, reported that "I marched in front, as was right, with my pistols in my belt, my fine high boots and plumed hat, and a sword at my side." Jenifer G. Marx, "Brethren of the Coast, " in Pirates: Terror on the High Seas from the Caribbean to the SOuth China Sea, David COrdingly, ed., North DIghton, MA: World Publications Group, 1998, p. 37-38. It does not mention the style of boot, and of course it is on land, not on a ship (but, notably, not riding). I assume this was during Grammont's abortive attack on Caracas in 1680, although the book does not say the date.

Regarding the usefulness of being able to swim (and undesirability of wearing boots if you fell overboard): Harland devotes a whole chapter to the efforts of warships to recover men fallen overboard. Navy ships did rescue crewmen who fell overboard, generally by launching a cutter. If the seas were too heavy to risk launching a cutter, the ship itself would come about and try to rescue the man by throwing him a line, but that was usually in vain. Several pictures of actual rescue attempts and one picture of a ma overboard boat-launching drill are included. All these pictures are from the 19th century; it is possible that things were different in the GAoP.

No doubt boots would be a serious handicap if you fell overboard; but then, a cuirass would be an even more serious handicap, and yet many 17th century naval officers are pictured in cuirasses.

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One small datum of GAoP pirate boot use. French buccaneer Louis le Golif, while marching to the attack on Caracas, reported that "I marched in front, as was right, with my pistols in my belt, my fine high boots and plumed hat, and a sword at my side." Jenifer G. Marx, "Brethren of the Coast, " in Pirates: Terror on the High Seas from the Caribbean to the SOuth China Sea, David COrdingly, ed., North DIghton, MA: World Publications Group, 1998, p. 37-38. It does not mention the style of boot, and of course it is on land, not on a ship (but, notably, not riding). I assume this was during Grammont's abortive attack on Caracas in 1680, although the book does not say the date.

Strongly recommend that you look a little deeper into the reliability of Louis le Golif ;)

“Such were the boots of our cavalry and INFANTRY, and in such cumbrous articles did they fight in the low countries, following the example of Charles XIII., 1697~1718, of Sweden. “

P52

First off, welcome Petee, not seen you for an age.

Secondly, I'm going to query the reliability of a book that appears to suggest that Marlborough's infantry fought in bucket boots. That's probably even easier to disprove than pirates in bucket boots.

Nobody has ever denied that boots existed, but of all the quotes, only the one I query above says anything about them being worn by non-horsey types, and none at all show them being used at sea.

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