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Ditty Box #1 - Antique Civil War US Navy non-Regulation/non-Issued Ditty Box, Sometimes Called Naval Sea Chests or Sea Trunks

Ditty Boxes were used by enlisted sailors and crew to store their most treasured personal possessions while at sea, as well as personal items needed on an everyday basis. Examples of these would be letters from family members, favorite photographs, other treasures found at various ports-of-call. Everyday needed items would be Forks, Spoons, Knives before the centralized mess, tobacco, smoking pipes, cups, razors, soap and tolietries, sewing kits.

It is for the above reasons why we here at The Pirate's Lair honor, respect and treasure these ditty boxes as part of our collection since we understand that they and their contents were the most valuable things a sailor possessed while at sea traveling the world over and knowingly going into harms way! We also think that many of our clients may feel the same way and as such are making some available for purchase.

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us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box

us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box

Above is a non-issued non-regulation handcrafted ditty box used by a US Navy Sailor, T.J. Devine possibly a Petty Officer, from the Civil War. The construction is of thick hand hewn pine planks with dovetailed joints, top and bottom are held in place with handcrafted wooden plugs. - This type/style of ditty box was commonly used from the 1860s Civil War thru the early 1900s and Great White Fleet era by American sailors. Note the wooden handle which would allow a rope handle to be pulled through, called a becket.

The US Navy never formally issued regulation ditty boxes to its sailors, at best during the 20th century they issued small cloth or canvas bags with a draw string. Many sailors who couldn't afford nor had the rank for a ditty box and used whatever small canvas or cloth sack that they could find. Ironically enough by WWII American Sailors were typically issued metal lockers along with small canvas or cloth ditty bags with a string knot which was used to keep small personal belongings and toiletries.

us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box



us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box

Note the simple interior without any compartments, though at one time it appears that this ditty box had a fixed half shelf approximately 3" wide and 2" in depth to the rear and flush with the top edges.

The etched name "T.D. Devine" along with the "Star" indicates that he was an enlisted Petty Officer in which case it would be reasonable that he would be afforded space in his berthing area for a ditty box. We have not yet figured out the meaning of the number "4" and initials "WN", but it must have been significant to this sailor.

us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box

Note the handcrafted dovetailed construction and wooden plugs or dowels affixing the bottom and lid which is found throughout this ditty box which was typical of the mid to late 19th century.

Of special note are the side handles which are made of handcrafted fitted wood with a bored 1/2" hole so that a piece of rope called a "becket" could be passed through which was used to carry the ditty box!

 
Ditty Box #1 - US Navy 1860s Civil War era
Handmade construction of pine wood, dovetail joints, wooden plugs or dowels, with lock and key. This is a typical non-issued non-regulation non-standard ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by American US Navy enlisted sailors from the 1860s thru the early 1900s, pre-WWI. Personalization of a sailors ditty box was left up to him. This particular ditty box is named to TJ Devine and when found contained a handblown glass whisky bottle with fouled anchor design, various navy pea coat buttons, and an enlisted US Navy issued soap and shaving kit made of gutta percha.
 
Antique Civil War Sailors Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
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14"x12"x8"
 
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BELOW YOU WILL FIND PERIOD PHOTOGRAPHS SHOWING US NAVY AMERICAN SAILORS WITH DITTY BOXES, SEA CHESTS, OR SEA TRUNKS!



ca 1870s USS Mohican sailor John King sitting on his ditty box with Old Salts spinning tales and yarns

Period photograph aboard the USS Mohican ca 1880s, sailor John King sitting far right on his ditty box with other Old Salts spinning tales and yarns! Also note the sailor to the far left also sitting on a ditty box, the rope becket can be seen hanging down from the wooden handle. Sometimes these ditty boxes are also known as Sea Chests or Sea Trunks.

photograph of sailors aboard ship playing dice games while sitting on their ditty boxes ca 1890s Spanish American War to early 1900s Great White Fleet

Above is a period photograph of US Navy American sailors aboard ship playing dice and card games passing the time away while sitting on their ditty boxes: ca 1890s Spanish American War to pre-WWI early 1900s Great White Fleet era. Sometimes these ditty boxes were also known as Sea Chests or Sea Trunks.

photograph of unknown old salt sailors standing aboard the USS Ohio ca 1870s note the ditty box (sea trunk/sea chest) on the deck in front of the sailor to the left.

photograph of old salt sailors standing aboard ship on the bow of the USS Ohio ca 1870s note the ditty box (sea trunk/sea chest) on the deck in front of the sailor to the left. There is also an enlisted spitoon sittin on the deck in the lower left of the photo.



HISTORICAL NOTE: Ditty Boxes have been carried by sailors the world over from when ships first sailed. These small wooden boxes were where a sailor kept personal articles such as sewing kits, small carving knives, razors and toiletries, items picked up in foreign ports, and later photographs.

Due to shipboard space constraints all ditty boxes were relatively small so that they could be easily stored typically where a sailor slept. Some ditty boxes were handmade with fantastic nautical carvings while others later in history were standard issue equipment for uniformity and given to each enlisted sailor for his own use where it was expected he would keep required personal items and needed toiletries.

The simple construction of a ditty box was typically of pine wood with dovetailed joints, hinged lid with lock and key, while in the case of the early German Navy the lid consisted of a sliding piece of wood which fitted into grooves. Some ditty boxes had handles made for rope beckets while many didnt have handles at all. Some had specific plates where the sailors name was to be engraved, while others did not - especially early handmade ditty boxes.

We will be illustrating on this web page specific ditty boxes found in our collection as well as period photographs showing sailors with their ditty boxes!

The Pirate's Lair has been collecting Ditty Boxes for several years as each one is unique and personal to the sailor who owned it and as such are important pieces of naval history used during time of war. However we are pleased to offer some of the ditty boxes we have found for the pleasure and use of people who appreciate and enjoy the unusual, hard-to-find nautical and naval antiques.



Below are links to other Antique Nautical and Naval Artifacts which you may be interested in.

 
OPTIONAL - Trunk Wood Engraving Examples and Prices
Custom Designed, Handcrafted, and Hand Lettered in Caligraphy on your Antique Chest
 
Personalized Burnt Wood Engravings
Click Here To Review Sample Engravings
 
Personalize Your 100+ Year Old Antique Trunk in Perpetuity!
 
Antique Trunks as a Shadow Box and Storage Chest!
Customer Photographic Examples of our Antique Trunks Being used as a Military or Naval Retirement Shadow Box and Storage Chest!!
 
Military or Naval Retirement Ceremony Shadow Box
Click Here for Sample Shadow Box Photographs From Customers
 
Why just get a shadow box or a newly made trunk with no history! One of our 100+ Year Old Nautical Antique Trunks can be used for both a Shadow Box and Storage Chest for your Uniforms, Photograph Albums, and Memorabilia!


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Stafford, Virginia 22554
Phone: 540-659-6209

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