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Cat-O-War: 1898

1898. "U.S.S. Nahant. The ship's mascots." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Photographic Company. View full size.

1898. "U.S.S. Nahant. The ship's mascots." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Photographic Company. View full size.


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The flat hat was authorized in 1852, and remained in use long after white headgear – sometimes called the “Dixie cup hat” – was introduced as an alternative in 1886. The Navy retired the flat hat in 1963.

I have a photo, circa 1943, of my father, wearing a woolen flat hat. I can't imagine that he wore it often in the South Pacific.

Flying saucers

Those caps must have been fun in the sea breeze. The later style was better.

Every ship needs a scapecat or two

These sailors look poised to break into song. Maybe a chorus of Carefully on Tiptoe Stealing.

Left, right, left right

Naturally the uniforms correspond to the date posted of the photograph. Regulations specified petty officers of the starboard watch were to wear rating badges on their right sleeves. The left sleeve was to be used for those on the port watch. In September 1894, the rating insignia changed the eagle's wings from pointing to the sides to pointing upward, and the eagle continued to face to the left (from the wearer's point of view).

In January of 1913 the regulations changed the location of rating badges so ratings badges were no longer worn on the sleeves corresponding to assigned watches. Right arm rates were to signify men of the Seamen Branch; left arm rates were to be used by personnel of the Artificer Branch, Engine Room Force, and all other petty officers. The eagle continued to face left on all rating badges. This uniform regulation continued until 1941 when once again uniform regulations specified that the eagle was to face to the left in the rates comprising the Seaman Branch: Boatswain Mate, Turret Captain, Signalman, Gunner's Mate, Fire Controlman, Quartermaster, Mineman and Torpedoman's Mate. All other rating badges were to have an eagle facing to the right.

Right arm rates were abolished in 1949. All rating badges were to be worn on the left sleeve with the eagle facing to the right.


A word to pardon the less-than-crisp uniforms: coal. It doesn't explain the non-uniform jumper cuffs.

Pale face

The use of a flash gives the otherwise tanned Jack a ghoulish look.

[A Photoshop flash, applied 124 years after the fact. The side-eye adds to the effect. - Dave]


The lesser punishment, for when they were feeling playful.

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