How to Rid Your Ship of Rats and Other Vermin. From the Charleston City Gazette, December 5, 1795.

by Chris Dixon

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Thanks to Josephine Humphreys, curator of the Charleston History Before 1845 Facebook Group for transcribing a fascinating short read. –CD

How to Clean a Ship.

Method of purifying vessels, and destroying the rats, and other vermin on board:

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There are three methods practiced for purifying vessels after the men have been removed out of them. The first by burning of tobacco. A quantity of tobacco is spread on several fires, made with such pieces of ropes as are called Junk. These are dispersed in different parts of the ship, and their heat and smoke afterwards closely confined below for a considerable time.

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The second method is by charcoal fires, strewed with brimstone. The heat and steam of these burning materials must be also long and closely shut up. But although this steam has been found by experience to purify the most effectually tainted apartments, ships, clothes, &c., yet there are some kind of vermin which it will not destroy, particularly lice.

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The third method of purification is performed by the addition of arsenic to the materials of the second process, in the following manner.

• After carefully stopping up all openings and every crevice of the ship, (as was necessary in the preceding processes) a number of iron pots properly secured, are to be placed in the hold, gun deck, &c. &c. Each of these are to contain a layer of charcoal at the bottom, then a layer of brimstone, and so alternately three or four layers of each, upon which arsenic is to be sprinkled, and on the top of it some oakum dipped in tar is to be laid to serve as a match.

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• The men upon setting fire to the oakum must speedily leave the place, shutting close the hatchway by which they came up. I have seen the second method made use of on board a vessel in this harbour to kill rats; – when the hold was opened, above forty rats were found lying dead round about the pots the fires had been made in. The last method, which requires prudence, will effectually kill not alone rats and mice, but also cockroaches, and other insects destructive to cloathing,etc.

— Humanitas. October 29, 1795. 

 

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