Embroidered Seabag

Commemorating the War of 1812

Original content by: Macy Kleinfelder

zoomable artifact image here

About This Artifact

Seabags are used by the US Navy to carry clothes and personal belongings. Generally, they are plain, white canvas or linen, and tend to be a duffel-bag style. This seabag is unique in that it is adorned with embroidered scenes mostly relating to the War of 1812 . The original owner of the bag was Seth Gibbs (1791-1840) who served in the Fifth Division of the Militia of Massachusetts beginning in June 1814. He was part of a detachment infantry led by Samuel Savery Jr. (a cousin). Gibbs did duty as a guard in the town and harbor of Wareham, MA. It is unknown whether the bag was embroidered by Gibbs himself or perhaps his wife, Delia Perry.

The scenes embroidered on this exceptional seabag seem to represent wartime in general, rather than refer to any specific event during the war. You can scroll through the seabag scenes to see each vignette in more detail. What do you notice?

The seabag came to Mystic Seaport from a donor in 2000. Before our curatorial staff received the object, it went through conservation treatment at the American Textile History Museum Textile Conservation Center. There, the bag was cleaned, lined, and patched.

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Symbolism is used throughout the scenes embroidered on the bag. What symbols do you notice? What might these symbols stand for?
  2. Why do you think the artist who created the embroidered seabag chose these particular scenes? What meaning must they have had at the time?
  3. How do you think that this seabag was used? What evidence supports your theory?