Last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review ran reviews of a couple of new children’s books on colonial North Carolina’s most famous temporary resident: Blackbeard. I couldn’t help but notice that the illustration that ran with the reviews showed the one of the most notorious and curious aspects of the pirate’s appearance — the matches under his hat. This legend may have originated with a description from Charles Johnson’s General History of the Pyrates, first published in London in 1724:

“. . . In Time of Action, [Blackbeard] wore a sling over his Shoulders, with three Brace of Pistols, hanging in Holsters like Bandaliers; and stuck lighted Matches under his Hat, which appearing on each Side of his Face, his Eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a Figure, that Imagination cannot form an Idea of a Fury, from Hell, to look more frightful.”

The picture shown here is a detail from the Johnson book. Read more about Blackbeard in This Month in North Carolina History.

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