Friday, 23 January 2015

What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

It’s true. We've asked the question; "What do you do with a drunken sailor?" more than a few times here at the Kings County Museum. 
No, we don’t get a lot of inebriated visitors. The problem stems from this odd little artifact – brass knuckles.


This glittering bit of danger originally belonged to Captain Solomon Davis, a sea captain from Hatfield Point. Born in 1840, Captain Davis made his living aboard the wooden ships that followed the Saint John River to the sea. During this period, brass knuckles were as common on board a ship as the strap was in the village classroom. Like the strap, the use of the knuckles depended in great measure on the behaviour of the crew - and the discipline style of the captain.  

Solomon Davis was a well-respected man of the community and an able captain. But, when far from the securities of shore, he was also the point of justice for his small floating community. Did Captain Davis ever actually use these brass knuckles? Possibly not. Their mere presence may have been all the deterrent needed in times of trouble. 
Simple. Effective. And a little bit terrifying. 
Let's hope there was never an issue with a drunken sailor to bring the matter to a head.

Captain Davis’ journeys took him around the globe and we are fortunate to hold a number of artefacts from his travels; a large painted fan from a trip to China in 1870, a feather cape from India in 1872, and a quilt made by Solomon and his wife during a passage from Bombay in 1875. It's a wonderful selection of objects revealing a unique snapshot of the work and global experiences of men like Captain Davis. But, the object that might speak loudest about those days of sail, present on all voyages, is the brass knuckles.

Drunken sailors take warning.

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