Napoleonic Prisoner-of-war-made Ship Model, ca. 1800
This is a, uh, prisoner-of-war model from circa 1800. And a prisoner-of-war model is a model that was made by a French prisoner of war during the Napoleonic Wars, and when they were, were thrown into the clink, they had nothing better to do, and the guys who had, had skills would make various items, and this is kind of on the top of the chart of being able to make things. So they would make these ship models or whatever it is that they might be making, and they would sell them to the jailers. I'm actually probably about the seventh generation in my family to have it.
Wow. It's about 1800. Uh, the Napoleonic Wars are, uh, going on. France is pretty much at war with everybody. Britain ruled the waves. So these French ships of war were captured by the Brits, and the sailors were imprisoned in British, uh, prisons. And there were four main prisons in, in Britain and they each had about 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners. And each ship carried technical people. They were at sea, they had to make repairs. They were sailmakers, they were carvers, they were carpenters, and these were some of the prisoners that were kept in these British prisons. Their diet consisted mostly of sheep and cattle. So you're feeding 20,000 men a day. And you could imagine the amount of what is called ration bones that were created in order to create these objects. And the bones were, were manipulated. They were soaked, they were steamed, and they became soft and they were easy to carve and easy to strip and make little delicate pieces. The technical precision used in making one of these is really extraordinary. It's really, uh, an exact model, possibly of the ship that they served on, or possibly just generic. Some of them were made by individual craftspeople. Some of them were made by syndicates, because someone was better at one thing...
...and another one was better at something else. So they got together. One of these ship models might have been able to sell for somewhere between 20 and 40 pounds sterling back in 1800. A lot of money. A lot of money because a laborer in England in 1800, the annual wage was around 30 pounds. Some of the prisoners, there's records indicated that when they returned to France, they returned with a fair amount of money, and some of it was indeed sent home to their families. We can see the technical skill is just really extraordinary, with these little hatches with the cannons, with the rigging that is so delicate. They had drill bits. They used needles to create these little fine tedious holes to do all this rigging. The rigging was silk. Sometimes they even used horsehair. Sometimes they used human hair. I love this particular element of it. You have a beautiful woman beckoning the sea here, the ship's figurehead. And that's a, an element that collectors would consider a real plus to one of these ship models. You brought in the original case that it arrived from Europe in.
I like the, uh, the label here, which says, uh, "The contents of this case being very fragile, you will oblige by unpacking with great care."
If we put a retail value on this, we'd probably value it in the $9,000 to $12,000 range, and I think because it's a family treasure, we'd put an insurance value on it of somewhere in the $15,000 to $18,000 range.
15, 20 years ago, this might have been a $25,000- $30,000, uh, model.
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