The 16th and 17th century pirate definitely existed and so did their gold, silver and gems filled treasure chest, wooden legs, eye patches, parrots, skull and cross-bones. Did they really bury their pirate treasure chest and make a map to find later?
The legendary pirate chest definitely existed: a wooden storage trunk which pirates used to carry around their ‘loot’ or ‘booty’. The reasoning was that such wooden chests were used by pirates as they were easy to move around. This was also put in place to avoid their ‘loot’ being stolen by other pirates, privateers or government troops and officials. Pirate mythology and countless films and books recount that when they feared a chest’s imminent seizure, they would bury it in a remote location, and with the aid of a treasure map, return and claim the treasure later.
The only pirate known to have buried his treasure chest was William Kidd, born in Dundee 1654. Captain Kidd was hired by the British government as a privateer. This was to hunt down pirates attacking British ships around North America and the Caribbean. When he failed to find any pirates, he became one himself. Striking it rich when he attacked a French ship returning from India. It’s believed that he buried some of his treasure on islands while sailing to Boston. Unfortunately, the law on privateering changed, he was caught, tried for piracy in London. It’s reported that he offered part of his hidden treasure as a bribe. It didn’t work. He was found guilty and hung in 1701. Legend has it he said that if he was killed, his treasure would never be found!
Rumours and legends of buried pirate treasure chests from his adventures before he returned to his home in New York are still circulating. A very large silver bar was found aboard one of Captain Kidd’s sunken ships in 2015. Since then people are still looking for his buried treasure chest.
In reality pirates rarely found a treasure chest filled with gold, silver and gems. Many plundered ships carrying: food, calico, silk, opium, tea and slaves. A looted treasure chest wouldn’t have stayed full for long. The pirates would have quickly divided it up and spent it on arrival in ports. The most likely explanation for the myth is that Captain Kidd became the inspiration for the epic pirate novel Treasure Island written by 1883 by Robert Louis Stevenson. It myth was also recounted by Edgar Allan Poe in The Gold Bug. Captain Kidd’s and other blood thirsty pirates’ exploits looting treasure chests over- flowing with gold have become more exaggerated over time. Buried pirate treasure didn’t really exist, but that shouldn’t stop us reliving their exploits and recreating their adventures.
As a result of this romantic scenario through the ages, pirates’ chests have been considered a symbol of wealth and mystery. With such positive connotations of wealth, combined with their unique design style, the pirate chest has also always been considered a thing of beauty – both back in the day and in modern times too. Typically, wooden, iron bound to keep the heavy contents from bursting out, and featuring handles and a strong padlock. The pirate’s treasure chest was probably a sea chest or travel trunk used by the captain, other officers or travellers for their clothes, personal possession and instruments. A pirate chest could also have been a very heavy wooden strong box or coffer used by governments for transporting gold coins and bars.
The travel trunk above is a late Victorian trunk from 1890s and would have been similar to the trunks pirates would have used to store their treasure. Modern day ‘treasure chests’ might come in various shapes and sizes: from smaller memory boxes or jewellery chests with lots of compartments and trays, padlocks for keeping your ‘treasures’ locked away, to larger blanket and storage chests which will make a bolder pirate-style statement. Whichever size and style suit your personal taste, Scaramanga has a wide range of antique and vintage wooden chests, coffers, trunks and boxes which look like pirates chests, for storing your own personal valuables. So, whilst there may never truly have been any buried pirate’s treasure to discover, the beauty of the treasure chest need not remain a myth – you can display one in your own home.
Scaramanga specialises in antique wooden chests, antique travel trunks, antique coffers, kists, blanket boxes and antique storage boxes. We probably have one of the widest ranges in the UK. Each antique wooden chest and trunk has been meticulously restored by skilled craftsmen to ensure it can be used for many years to come. See our range of wood storage trunks and pirate chests.