Notorious pirate Benjamin Hornigold once attacked a merchant ship only to steal the crew’s hats

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Most depictions of pirates in contemporary popular culture are based on the actions of pirates who operated during the golden age of piracy, which lasted from the beginning of the 1650s until the late 1730s. The period between 1650 and 1680 is known as the “buccaneering period”: during that time, English and French pirates on Jamaica and the famous island of Tortuga attacked Spanish colonies and merchant ships in the Caribbean.

The 1690s were known as the “pirate round”; many pirates from the Caribbean and the Americas ventured to the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea to attack Muslim merchants and the supply ships of the East India Company. The final wave of booming piracy, which lasted from 1716 to the late 1730s, was triggered by the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. After the war, many English and American sailors were left unemployed and turned to piracy, usually targeting ships in the Caribbean, the North American eastern seaboard, the Indian Ocean, and the coast of West Africa.

Some of the most famous pirates, including Edward Thatch, known as “Blackbeard,” Bartholomew Roberts known as “Black Bart,” “Black Sam” Bellamy, and John “Calico Jack” Rackham, operated in the final years of the golden age.

Another notorious pirate of that period was Benjamin Hornigold, who started his brief yet prolific pirating career in the winter of 1713.

In the beginning of his career, Hornigold was a low-level looter who organized small raids off the coast of New Providence, the most populous island in the Bahamas. He and his gang used sailing canoes and a small ship to attack merchant’s vessels. Hornigold progressed quickly: by 1717 he was in command of a 30-gun sailing ship named “Ranger” that was at the time the most heavily armed in the Bahamas. Also, he gathered a gang of around 350 tough men who were all eager to wreak havoc and pillage merchant ships.

Hornigold was the captain and his second-in-command was none other than Edward Thatch, the notorious pirate who later became known as “Blackbeard.” The two of them organized thoroughly planned raids during which they seized several cargo ships and formed a small pirate fleet that became the scourge of the Bahamas. At one point during 1717, the Governor of South Carolina sent a heavily armed ship to find and capture Hornigold. The pirates attacked the ship so fiercely that she ran aground on the island of North Cat Cay and her crew fled for their lives.

Also in 1717, Hornigold and his crew attacked a merchant ship off the coast of Honduras. As terrified merchants begged for their lives, Hornigold’s crew explained that they had gotten drunk the night before and had thrown their hats into the sea, so they had attacked the merchant ship only to steal the hats of her crew. After they took the merchants’ hats, Hornigold and his crew allowed them to continue with their journey. Some historians believe that this curious endeavor was nothing more than Hornigold’s and Thatch’s wish to display their power.

 Hornigold never attacked British ships and claimed that he defended British economic policies by attacking the ships of the enemies of the British Empire. However, in November of 1717, Hornigold’s crew decided to overthrow him and attack ships sailing under any flag. Since Thatch was in command of his own ship at the time, he wasn’t around to help Hornigold quell the mutiny. Hornigold was overpowered and forced to flee for his life with a small ship and several of his most loyal men.

Several months later, he sailed to Jamaica and received a pardon for his criminal activities from the then governor of Jamaica named Woodes Rogers. In 1717 and 1718, King George I issued proclamations known as the “King’s Pardons,” which granted an official pardon to all pirates who surrendered to any colonial government under the domain of the British Empire. Governor Rogers granted Hornigold’s request for a pardon, but he also recruited him as a pirate hunter.

In his final years, the once powerful and feared Hornigold was forced to try and hunt down his former associates, including Blackbeard. Although he sailed around the Bahamas for 18 months, he never managed to catch any of his former allies. During one particularly severe storm, his ship crashed into an uncharted reef between the Bahamas and New Mexico, and Hornigold and his new pirate-hunting crew were never seen again.

 Domagoj Valjak

Black Pirates and the Tale of Black Caesar

Model Pirate Ship with fog and water

During the ”golden age” of piracy in the late 1600s and early 1700s, a pirate ship was one of the few places a black man could attain power and money in the Western Hemisphere. Some of these black pirates were fugitive slaves in the Caribbean or other coastal areas of the Americas. Others joined pirate crews when their slave ships or plantations were raided; it was often an easy choice between perpetual slavery and freedom through lawlessness. It is estimated that up to one-third of the 10,000 pirates during the golden age of piracy were former slaves. While many were still mistreated and forced to do the lowest tasks aboard ship, some captains established revolutionary equality among their men, regardless of race. On these ships, black pirates could vote, bear arms, and receive an equal share of the booty. Back on the mainland, however, justice for black and white pirates was not equal. White pirates were usually hanged, but black pirates were often returned to their owners or otherwise resold into slavery—a fate worse than death for some.

One of the most famous black pirates was Black Caesar, who raided ships in the Florida Keys for almost a decade before joining Blackbeard aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Like many pirates, his life is shrouded in legend, but he was apparently a very large and very cunning man. Many accounts state that he was an African chieftain who had evaded capture by slavers several times before succumbing to a cruel deception. Aboard the slave ship, he was befriended by a sailor who gave him food and water. As they neared the Florida coast, a hurricane provided the confusion the two needed for an armed escape on a rowboat, and they were evidently the only survivors of the storm. For several years thereafter, the pair amassed a considerable fortune by posing as shipwrecked sailors and violently robbing vessels that offered them assistance. They allegedly buried their bounty on Elliott Key. Black Caesar was eventually able to hire on more crew and began attacking ships on the open sea. It is said that he kept a prison camp and possibly a harem of kidnapped women in the Keys but often failed to leave his captives with provisions during his voyages, and many starved to death. In the early 1700s he joined Blackbeard‘s crew as his lieutenant and was there for Blackbeard’s death at the hands of Lieutenant Robert Maynard. Following this defeat, Black Caesar was captured with the surviving crew by Virginia colonial authorities and was hanged in Williamsburg in 1718.

WRITTEN BY:  Melissa Petruzzello 

The People of Ellis Island- Portraits of immigrants arriving in the U.S.A from the early 1900’s

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Ellis Island was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. Between 1905 and 1914, an average of one million immigrants per year arrived in the United States.

Immigration officials reviewed about 5,000 immigrants per day during peak times at Ellis Island.Two-thirds of those individuals emigrated from eastern, southern and central Europe. The peak year for immigration at Ellis Island was 1907, with 1,004,756 immigrants processed.

The all-time daily high occurred on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants arrived. After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, which greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were those who had problems with their immigration paperwork, displaced persons, and war refugees.

Today, over 100 million Americans—about one-third of the population—can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country. Here are some photos of immigrants from the early 1900’s. All photos by  New York Public Library

A Bavarian man


A Danish man

A Dutch woman


A Greek Orthodox priest


A Greek woman

A Guadeloupean woman


A man whose descent was not identified, possibly Russian


A Romanian man


A Ruthenian woman


A Slovak woman with her child

During World War I, the German sabotage of the Black Tom Wharf ammunition depot damaged buildings on Ellis Island. The repairs included the current barrel-vaulted ceiling of the Main Hall.

During and immediately following World War II, Ellis Island was used to intern German merchant mariners and “enemy aliens”—Axis nationals detained for fear of spying, sabotage, and other fifth column activity.

In December 1941, Ellis Island held 279 Japanese, 248 Germans, and 81 Italians removed from the East Coast. Unlike other wartime immigration detention stations, Ellis Island was designated as a permanent holding facility and was used to hold foreign nationals throughout the war.A total of 7,000 Germans, Italians and Japanese would be ultimately detained at Ellis Island. It was also a processing center for returning sick or wounded U.S. soldiers, and a Coast Guard training base.


An Albanian soldier


An Indian boy


An Italian woman


Another man whose descent was not identified, possibly Russian


Several Romani people


Several Romani people


Three Dutch women


Three Russian Cossacks


Three Scottish boys


Two Romanian women

Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried.

It was important to the American government that the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started. The average the government wanted the immigrants to have was between 18 and 25 dollars. Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island’s hospital facilities for long periods of time.

More than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered “likely to become a public charge.” About 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity.

Ellis Island was sometimes known as “The Island of Tears” or “Heartbreak Island”because of those 2% who were not admitted after the long transatlantic voyage. The Kissing Post is a wooden column outside the Registry Room, where new arrivals were greeted by their relatives and friends, typically with tears, hugs and kisses.

Annie Palmer: The Jamaica mistress of the Rose Hall mansion, Jamaica


The story of The White Witch of Rose Hall is a Jamaican fictional version about the controversial life of a beautiful English plantation owner named Annie Palmer. The frequently retold story about Annie Mae Patterson goes back to 18th century England where the notorious beauty was born. Little Annie spent the first decade of her life in England before she and her family moved to Haiti where she would spend her formative years.

Her parents died of yellow fever, and she was raised to adulthood by her Haitian nanny, a well-versed practitioner of voodoo ritual. She brought her up, teaching her witchcraft in the process. Annie was 18 when her nanny died. After her death, she decided that it’s time to get away from the wretched island. She packed her bags and moved to Jamaica, hoping to find a wealthy husband. Annie was supposedly quite beautiful and very petite (4′ 11″ tall), and she probably didn’t have difficulties with finding a spouse.

After a while, Annie met John Palmer, the owner of the Rose Hall estate, one of the largest plantations in the country that allegedly had around 2,000 slaves at the time when the 17-year-old girl arrived. The two of immediately liked each other, and soon got married. Things start to go darker from this point – but first, a few words about the estate.

Engraving from James Hakewill’s A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica (drawings made in the years 1820 & 1821), it shows the Rose Hall Estate.

Built sometime towards the end of the 18th century, Rose Hall is nowadays a major tourist attraction in Jamaica, attracting thousands of visitors mostly because of its haunted past and association with Annie Palmer, who arrived there in 1820. It was John Palmer who completed the construction of the mansion and his grandnephew John Rose Palmer inherited it at the beginning of the 19th century.

John hadn’t ever suspected that his wife Annie, and her knowledge of black magic, could harm him in any way. Things soon started to get weird. After a few months, she grew tired of him and began to bring male slaves into her bedchamber. On one occasion, John caught her in the act and beat her up. Soon after, John Palmer was found dead, and one of the main suspects was his wife. This was never proven, but according to some stories, she wanted to take revenge and poisoned his coffee, probably with some voodoo concoction.

Rose Hall, Jamaica today. Author:  Urban Walnut – CC BY-SA 3.0

After the tragic events, Annie inherited Rose Hall and all of John’s property. Apparently, she spent very little time grieving. Being the absolute ruler/mistress of the mansion meant that she could do whatever she wanted so she freely continued to make love with the slaves. John was her first but not her only husband. She got married twice more, and both marriages ended up with the husband’s death. Again, there was a suspicion that Annie killed them. She treated the slaves terribly, shouting orders from her balcony, torturing them, and killing them when she was not satisfied. There are stories that they are buried in unmarked graves around the mansion, together with Annie’s husbands. All of this led to people calling her “The White Witch of Rose Hall.”

The widely accepted story tells us that Annie was brought to an end by a slave named Takoo. Allegedly, she put a curse on the granddaughter of Takoo, the local “obeah” man (black magic practitioner). Annie was trying to win the love of an Englishman called Robert Rutherford, but he was in love with Takoo’s granddaughter. The curse she used is called “Old Hige” – a visit from a ghost whose presence causes the victim to slowly wither and die. After his granddaughter had died, Takoo gathered an army of slaves and strangled his mistress.

This tomb at Rose Hall, Jamaica is allegedly the one in which Annie Palmer is buried. Author: Urban Walnut – CC BY-SA 3.0

The slaves then buried Annie and all of her possessions in fear that remnants of her spirit might still exist within them. They also performed a voodoo ritual during the funeral to prevent her ghost visiting the living world. It is said that the ceremony wasn’t completed successfully, and her spirit still haunts Rose Hall and terrifies people to this day. There have been sightings of a figure in a green velvet riding a black horse across the property. Screams and sounds of somebody running in the mansion have also been reported.

The story about Annie Palmer sounds unbelievable, and its authenticity is questionable. After an investigation of the legend in 2007, it was concluded that the mysterious story was based on Herbert G. de Lisser’s novel The White Witch of Rosehall. Although a real Annie Palmer existed, she was not related to Rose Hall, and all the evidence shows that she wasn’t sadistic or evil. Another investigation states that Annie Palmer may have been confused with Rosa Palmer, the real mistress of Rose Hall. Rosa had four husbands, but she is far from the evil Voodoo Queen, mentioned in the events above.

Rose Hall before it was restored in the 1960s. Author: Jasonbook99 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Wherever the legend is true or not, the White Witch of Rose Hall is a major attraction on Jamaica, and it has been referred to in pop culture on a few occasions.

The legend even caught the interest of Johnny Cash once! He wrote a song about it called The Ballad of Annie Palmer.

 Boban Docevski