Jack Tar's Story examines the autobiographies and memoirs of antebellum American sailors to explore contested meanings of manhood and nationalism in the early republic. It is the first study to use various kinds of institutional sources, including crew lists, ships' logs, impressment records, to document the stories sailors told. It focuses on how mariner authors remembered/interpreted various events and experiences, including the War of 1812, the Haitian Revolution, South America's wars of independence, British impressment, flogging on the high seas, roistering, and religious conversion. This book straddles different fields of scholarship and suggests how their concerns intersect or resonate with each other: the history of print culture, the study of autobiographical writing, and the historiography of seafaring life and of masculinity in antebellum America.
"If historians are detectives, Myra Glenn is a super-sleuth who pursues her facts with the seriousness of Joe Friday of Dragnet. She is interested in more than `just the facts,' however, and uses her research to illuminate both manhood and memory as they relate to the common seaman. The result is a book which goes beyond Jack Tar and even the nineteenth-century American past, and informs all of us about both the process and practice of history." -Paul A. Gilje, University of Oklahoma
"Sailor autobiographies, tales of adventure at sea and debauchery in port, were popular with nineteenth-century readers-popular enough that many fake sailor autobiographies, masquerading as the genuine article, were published to take advantage of this market. Some fakes were so cleverly done that they have deceived even twentieth-century historians who have cited them as though they were authentic sources. Myra Glenn spent many years in assiduous archival search to discover the true narratives of real lives among these often-deceptive texts and has decoded the hidden messages about nineteenth-century masculinity and patriotism that the authentic autobiographies hold. Jack Tar's Story is absolutely first-rate in its scholarship and its critical acumen." -Christopher McKee, Grinnell College
"No other occupation has generated as much personal recollection as seafaring. Jack Tar's Story takes these, the richest sources in maritime history, and treats them not a mirrors of reality but as as texts. So this is not a history of the sailor's condition but rather a subtle investigation of how sailors understood their condition-and one of the best of these we have." -Daniel Vickers, University of British Columbia
"...a well-written, scholarly, and highly informative assessment of how seamen viewed the world in which they lived and worked based on their life experiences." -Cindy Vallar, Pirates and Privateers, The History of Maritime Piracy
"...Myra Glenn provides us with scrupulously researched and compelling account of the personal narratives written by US seamen." -Hester Blum, International Journal of Maritime History
"...a modest but important book that asks fresh questions about the value and meaning of antebellum sailors' memoirs and autobiographies. Clearly written, persuasively argued, well organized, and impressively researched, the book admirably achieves the author's goal of making an important contribution to the 'rapidly growing historiography of autobiographical narrative' (p. 10)." -John H. Schroeder, The Journal of American History