Thomas Chew’s Sea Bag
This decorative sea bag belonged to Thomas J. Chew, who served as purser on USS Constitution during the War of 1812. Although the United States Navy issued sea bags to sailors, none of the government-issued bags from the early 19th century are believed to have survived as a result of regular reissues and heavy usage. However, some sailors and officers also carried their own personal bags, which they sometimes painted or embroidered to suit their tastes. Whether Chew decorated his own bag or had it done by someone else is unknown, but his choices reflect his sense of style. His name and the designation “U.S. Navy” are painted in sharply rendered lettering with two-tone shading. Black piping highlights the seams between the panels, and small sewn grommets allow for a drawstring, which is missing. Chew may have carried this bag while on Constitution during the battle with HMS Guerriere, for which he was awarded a Congressional Silver Medal.