St. Augustine's Pirate and Treasure Museum


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Published: June 7th 2015
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Piracy has been around as long as men have gone to sea, and it still exists in one form or another around the world, in every ocean wherever valuable goods are transported in ships. Westerners tend to think mainly in terms of those who plundered and murdered around the “Spanish Main”, the treasure route from the New World to the coffers of the Spain when it was the world’s super power. We have also tended to romanticize piracy: think of Treasure Island, Peter Pan, “Jack Sparrow” and other Hollywood creations. Of course they don’t represent the true scourge that still exists today, most prominently around the horn of Africa.

For centuries the Spanish would send their treasure home in convoys of up to 100 ships (sounds like Halifax NS in World War II, doesn’t it?). Numerous semi-legitimate privateers and outlaw pirates used Port Royal in British Jamaica as a handy location from which to raid the Spanish galleons from South America and Cuba and, of course, to attack and sack Saint Augustine. To the Spanish they were bloodthirsty cutthroats; to the English they were heroes. Francis Drake, for example, was knighted, and the notorious privateer Captain Morgan (1635-1688) was even Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica for a while!

The Pirate Museum is said to contain the world’s largest collection of authentic pirate memorabilia under one roof. It has 48 exhibit areas and sites including mock-ups of the interior of a typical pirate ship, a gibbet, a garrote, etc. and such genuine articles as Blackbeard’s own blunderbuss, a real pirate cutlass, Thomas Tew’s treasure chest, and goods retrieved from sunken ships. Here is a good source of more information: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/21235 .

Oddly enough, piracy did have one positive result: it gave Britain the financial means to build the Empire that can claim much of the responsibility for bringing order, civilization, and the Rule of Law to large parts of the world. I strongly urge you to read the well-presented argument in the surprising article below to get a completely new and different slant on the role of piracy in advancing civilization. https://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2011/10/11britain-the-rise-of-a-pirate-empire/ .

As is customary in museums, flash photography was not allowed, but I did manage to get some decent hand-held shots. I hope you enjoy them, and will visit this museum if you are in Saint Augustine. As usual, to enlarge any photo, simply click on it.


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