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Hello, everyone!

So after much research and looking over this forum, I have been unable to find an example of a complete period manifest, circa 1720. Everything I try to pursue ends up being a list of names but what I am searching for is an accurate account of what cargo a ship of the period might have on board. Both for goods of business and crew rations [apologies if the latter is called something different]. I am writing about multiple types of vessels; a royal navy 6th rate frigate with a complement of 149 and equipped in a warlike fashion, an English sugar merchant sloop with a compliment of 80, a pirate brig with a complement of 163, and a pirate sloop-of-war with a complement of 127. The manifests don't need to be as specific as I have listed but close would be phenomenal. Of course any books or references are greatly appreciated, even to just give me a nudge in the right direction.

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This may exist, but I've never really seen all of this information in a succinct form. There are mentions of cargo on this forum, but I don't recall seeing a complete list of goods hauled here. (You could search for 'cargo' or 'bill of lading' to see what is here. There are probably actual manifests somewhere in the all the British records. The question is whether they are accessible on-line for free.) I do recall there being a cargo list in the book Journal of the voyage of the Sloop Mary, from Quebeck, together with an account of her wreck off Montauk Point. Don't know if that will help. You can also look at the ever-fascinating Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 on the British History Site and construct your own bills of lading.

Food is actually trickier to pin down. I literally have hundreds of references from GAoP books on things that were eaten shipboard. I know David Fictum was working on an article on food relating to pirates but I haven't seen it published yet. For the navy, the BRN spelled out a menu for their sailors in the 1731 Regulations and Instructions Relating to His Majesty's Service at Sea which you will find here on page 61 (That is the 1757 edition, but I checked it against my 1731 copy and the chart is the same.) Of course, this was first published about 6 years after the golden age of piracy, but it should give you an idea.

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Thank you so much for this information! After searching through it, this is definitely what I needed! And if there are no widely known source documents then I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if I did just make up my own bill of lading from the source you supplied. And, if you wouldn't mind telling me, what is the difference between a "manifest" and a "bill of lading"? Just so I don't use the terms inaccurately.

The table in RaIRtHMSaS is perfect! I doubt there would be much change in their food supplies considering the massive overhaul of the navy didn't occur until midway through the century. But if you can find the time, I would love to know just a couple of the references that talk about food eaten shipboard. If it's as difficult to pin down on pirates ships as you say, then I find no harm in making up my own menu.

Also, is there any information out there about what a pirate ship would be supplied with or a navy ship in times of war? For example, barrels of gunpowder, shot, muskets, flint, pistols, etc.

Again, much thanks!

Edited by Able Seaman

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The food section of my notes is over 100 pages long in word and it's not organized in any way. The liquids section is close to that long. I had always intended to write about food on my web page but there's so many references in there now that I usually use the search function to find food-related things in my notes these days. (I wrote articles on Pork, Eggs, Pumpkins and Goats in that way.)

For food they would have stored on the ship, you can use the BRN calendar is a pretty good thumbnail guide. But when they were in port, they ate anything and everything and brought some of it on-board to have fresh provisions for as long as they lasted. Somewhere I have notes on sailors eating monkeys. (From Dampier if I remember correctly.) You name it, they probably tried it. However, there are two pretty decent threads here on the forum for food and drink: the food sailors ate (I think I saw some ship's documents in there while glancing through it) and Water, beer and rum. Many other specific foods are discussed in The Way to a Pyrate's Heart forum - although you'll have to expand the range of thread shown by selecting a custom date range in the maroon-colored bar at the top of that forum to see them. Most of the threads are pretty old and I think the default is the last 90 days.

'Manifest' first appeared in print in reference to ship's cargo in 1706, which is smack in the middle of the golden age of piracy. However, 'lading' dates back to the 15th c., so it is probably slightly more likely to have been used. (Things generally changed more slowly 300 years ago than they do today. There was less opportunity to share new ideas.) I've found when I am searching for a concept, it's best to try various different words because what is common today may not have been at all common in the docs written then. However either word is good for your writing. To be honest, when I write my articles, I try to use different words so I don't sound like a parrot repeating the same thing over and over. (Although sometimes it's unavoidable. There's only so many ways to put the concept of bloodletting across...)

I can't help you out with weapons, I don't pay the least bit of attention to them when I am researching. They've been discussed ad nauseum on this forum, though. Check out the search function.

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Thank you so much for all your help! And for all of your inadvertent help from piratesurgeon.com. Your web page is a gold mine! It's both impressive and very well organized.

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It's not exactly what you're looking for, but might be of interest. Here's a list of goods shipped from New York to Adam Baldridge's trading post on St. Mary's Island, Madagascar, in 1691:

August 7th 1693. Arrived the Ship Charles, John Churcher master, from New York, Mr. Fred. Phillips, owner, sent to bring me severall sorts of goods. She had two Cargos in her, one Consigned to said Master to dispose of, and one to me, containing as followeth: 44 paire of shooes and pumps, 6 Dozen of worsted and threed stockens, 3 dozen of speckled shirts and Breaches, 12 hatts, some Carpenters Tools, 5 Barrells of Rum, four Quarter Caskes of Madera Wine, ten Cases of Spirits, Two old Stills full of hols, one worme, Two Grindstones, Two Cross Sawes and one Whip saw, three Jarrs of oyle, two small Iron Potts, three Barrells of Cannon powder, some books, Catechisms, primers and horne books, two Bibles, and some garden Seeds, three Dozen of howes.

And the following good were recovered from a captured pirate ship in 1718

10 Great Guns & Carriages,

2 Swivle Guns,

3 Pateraroes,

4 Chambers,

80 Musketts,

5 Blunderbusses,

5 Pistols,

6 Old Pateraroes,

4 Old Chambers,

20 Guns Tackles,

10 Breechins,

2 Guns, Worm and Ladle,

4 Spunges,

2 Crows,

10 Organ Barrels,

7 Cutlasses,

5 Great Gun Cartridge Boxes,

8 Cartridge Boxes for small arms.

53 hand Granadoes,

200 Great Shot,

2 Barrl. Powder,

4 Caggs of Patridge,

2 Powder Horns.


1 Main sail,

1 Fore sail,

1 Jib,

2 Flying Jibbs,

1 Top Sail,

1 Sprit Sail,

1 Square Sail,

1 boat Main Sail & Fore Sail,

22 Spare Blocks,

1 main Sheet,

1 Topmast Stay,

1 Fore halliards,

1 Jib halliards and Down hall,

1 Topping Lift,

2 Grinding Stones,

24 Water Casks,

1 barl. of Tar & a peice,

30 barr. of Powder,

7 Dead Eyes,

1 Kittle,

2 Iron potts,

3 Anchors,

1 Cable,

1 old peice of Junk,

13 planks,

2 Top Sail Sheets,

1 Boom Tackle,

18 bbr. of Beef & pork.

2 Runners & Tackles,

a Small Quantity of tallow, and Tobacco,

3 Compasses,

1 Doctors Chest,

1 black flagg,

1 Red flagg,

2 Ensignes,

2 pendants,

1 Jack,

8 Stoppers,

1 fflying Jibb halliards,

1 Top Sail Halliards,

1 main Halliards,

1 main Down hall,

1 Jib Sheet, the other for Bow fast.

1 Flying Tack,

1 Fish Hook & Pendant,

2 pump Spears,

1 Broad Ax,

1 Wood Ax,

1 hand Saw,

1 pair of Canhooks,

1 hammer,

1 Augur,

1 plain,

Some Iron work and Lumber.

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Thank you for the compliments!

Hey, Ed, aren't there bills of lading out there somewhere? I seem to recall PoD saying he printed them up in period style.

While I'm throwing ideas around, didn't a lot of ships carry a limited or even a single cargo? For example, I seem to recall reading in the sailor's narratives (probably Barlow) about how this ship carried wine or that one hauled pepper or another contained sugar, or logwood etcetera. I suppose it would vary just like it does today, but I had the impression a lot of ships just transported one primary cargo with possibly a limited amount of another cargo to fill in spaces not used by the primary cargo.

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Beef 50 bb. at £7. 10 per bb. £375
Pork 18 bb. £12 per bb. 216
Flowr 64 bb. £8 per bb. 512
Bread 50 C. £4 per C. 200
Beans 10 bus. 8
Rum 100 Gall. 10s. per Ga. 50
Sugar 1C.2[13] £8 per C. 12
Hogs fatt a Cagg[14] 7

This was taken from the forum the food sailors ate and I wasn't sure what the shorthand ("bb.", "bus.", etc.) meant. Even the list Fox just gave me contains "18 bbr. of Beef & pork". So "bb." and "bbr." must be used to measure meat but even looking over "beef" and "pork" in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 I was still unsure. Suggestions?

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Welcome to researching 17th/18th c. documents. I did a little digging with Google to find bb. as an example. (I don't know what such abbreviations mean since they aren't a part of my research interests). I found it with "per bb." because "bb." is too generic and will turn up a lot of unwanted results. From that search, up came the 1850s Parliamentary Papers which say the b.b. means "barrel bulk". This is almost meaningless today, so I looked it up and found it on my favorite dictionary site listed as "a measure equal to five cubic feet, used in estimating capacity". Of course, neither of these sources are contemporary so they may be wrong for the period. (I doubt the definition of b.b. (or bb. as written shorthand in those docs) is wrong, but accuracy of the size estimate is anyone's guess.)

And that's how you have to do it.

Personally, when I am researching irritating things like this for my surgical articles such as abbreviated (not to mention often misspelled) Latin medicinal ingredients, I start comparing the effort required to the result produced and how important that is to the core my article. I have spent hours trying to untangle all the ingredients in a single medicinal recipe on occasion.

BTW, I found another interesting thread in the 15 minutes I spent trying to figure out how to find this for you. (I didn't give you the whole process, I only gave you the steps that worked.
) Check out Barrels, Bales and Bags.

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