Any sailor knows that being in the service involves maintaining a veritable wardrobe of diverse uniforms for various contingencies and conditions, and that sartorial fact of Navy life was as true for the stalwart jack-tars of old as it is today. These paintings, which interchangeably mount in the slot-sided frame at center, are believed to date from the 1830s to 1840s and to have been used on a U.S. Navy ship to indicate the Uniform of the Day. The sign would have been hung outside the captain’s cabin.
This unusual collection of functional naval art, a gift to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, came from the estate of famed Old Navy Captain John “Mad Jack” Percival, who circumnavigated the globe in the frigate Constitution (her only circumnavigation ever) in 1844–46. Did this Uniform-of-the-Day set actually hang on Old Ironsides? It’s possible, even likely, as she was Mad Jack’s main command during the period in question.
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