Cloth and Piracy

What? How could these two disparate topics be connected? Well, in the early 1700s, there was a pirate called ‘Calico Jack” Rackam. A lesser known and not very successful pirate, Calico Jack and his crew plied their trade in the Caribbean. In 1719, during one of the many wars between France and England, they accepted a pardon from Britain. Privateering was really piracy under another name, but on the right side of the law. However, this war ended in February of 1720. Rackam and his crew, which now numbered two women among them, went back to their old ways. With the ship ‘William’, they started capturing ships again and were soon declared ‘Pirates”.

The two women, by the way, were Anne Bonney and Mary Read. Anne Bonney left her husband to sail with Calico Jack. Mary Read, also on board, had disguised herself as a man to join the crew.

They were captured and in November tried and convicted. Anne Bonney and Mary Read were spared from hanging due to pregnancy. Mary Read and her unborn child died in prison but Anne Bonney and her child (probably fathered by Calico Jack) were released and disappeared.

Now, where did Jack get his unusual nickname? Well, in 1700 the import of calico into England and the Colonies was forbidden. (See previous post). One of the theories is that Jack got his name from smuggling the popular cloth.

Who would have guessed that cloth could be so interesting and have such a checkered (ha, ha) history.


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