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JimmyG's avatar

Help needed with 18th century English, handwriting, and rum...

Asked by JimmyG (122points) December 24th, 2009

“This being Christmas Day I ordered an ??? of Rum to be served to each person…”
This was written on Dec 25, 1787, by an English captain. A picture of the ”??? of Rum” can be seen here .
Any help deciphering the ??? would be greatly appreciated.

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17 Answers

Buttonstc's avatar

If it was a Navy Captain, I would say Flagon would be the most likely candidate.

I thought the photo would have been of the actual item itself, but it’s just the handwriting. Hard to know for certain.

Jeruba's avatar

@JimmyG, a larger sample of the handwriting would be helpful, and one without quite so much distortion from enlargement. The small superscript character(s) suggests that this is an abbreviation, but even so, finding the same characters in another context where they are more decipherable would help.

Someone versed in the seafaring terminology of the period would have the best shot at it, but I don’t know if we have such a person.

JimmyG's avatar

I tried more words and there it was ‘Allowance’, what else? Thanks, everyone.

Buttonstc's avatar


You’re right of course. Not enough info. My guess was based upon the fact that a Flagon is in the neighborhood of a quart. Considering it’s for Christmas, not too unlikely.

I guess I picked up the term Flagon from either reading or watching “Horatio Hornblower”

It was a short lived series based on the Forrester novels presented on A&E a number of years ago :)

For a period piece, it was very well done and it also didnt do any harm that the guy playing the lead role was majorly cute !

gemiwing's avatar

I’d need to see a larger sample- where is the full version?
The two upper marks to the right of the first mark might be oz. I’d need to reference the pen strokes further.

laureth's avatar

[deleted by me]

Mat74UK's avatar

I’d say eighth of rum due to it being “an” before it and for some reason I’ve heard it before somewhere.

Quote:“Until the grog ration was discontinued in 1970, Navy rum was 95.5 proof, or 47.75% alcohol; the usual ration was an eighth of a pint, diluted 2:1 with water (3:1 until World War II). Extra rum rations were provided for special celebrations, like Trafalgar Day, and sailors might share their ration with the cook or with a messmate celebrating a birthday.”


laureth's avatar

Actually, it’s an Allce! The smoking gun is here.

Mat74UK's avatar

@laureth – Nail on head!

That’ll be Captain William Bligh then!

galileogirl's avatar

A tot (sp tott or tutt) was the daily naval ration
A Grog of rum (g with the leading downstroke not clear) a rum grog was watered down rum served to sailors
A Glass of rum (ditto loss of stroke due to micro and photocopying
A ltr (liter) of rum

I would seriously question “Alice of rum” because I googled it and found nothing to confirm the word was ever used in this context or Alice was a drinking vessel or liqutd measurement. What we see on Bligh’s log is not the original but someone’s guestimate. Is it clearly “Alice” ln the original? Or is this handwritten scrap actually Bligh’s original in which case the transcribed journal is not proof.

janbb's avatar

So according to @JummyG’s “more words’ and @laurath’s great research, it is Allce, an abreviation for “Allowance” which makes perfect sense in the context.

laureth's avatar

@galileogirl – Allce (two Ls), not Alice.

galileogirl's avatar

What I said was the 2 upstrokes after the A looks like it could be a large cursive G that lost it’s downstroke through centuries of reproduction. The written phrase shows that kind of degradation. Is the original from Bligh’s journal?

Jeruba's avatar

Allowance! Abbreviation, as I conjectured, on account of the old convention of putting abbreviations in superscript. @laureth, @janbb, great research, you two.

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