Did you know that a pirate roamed the Eastern Seaboard as late as the 1870s, and lived into the 20th century? Edward Owens haunted the lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay after the economic crash of 1873 wiped out his living as an oyster fisherman. Owens robbed but didn't kill his victims, and when the economy picked up, he gave up piracy for good. He died in 1938.
Owens's exploits might have been lost to the mists of time if not for an undergraduate student named Jane Browning, who stumbled on the story in a cafe in Gloucester County, Virginia, and tracked down the man behind the legend. You can read more about Owens in his Wikipedia entry and on Ms. Browning's blog, The Last American Pirate. On YouTube, you can watch Ms. Browning visit the site of Owens's house and interview a couple of historians about his historical status.
It's a good story. None of it is true.
Friday, December 19, 2008
A Pirate Hoax (and a good one)
There's an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about a class project that is worth some attention, especially as it relates to historiography, archives, and what you can get away with on the Web. Here's the opening of the article: