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Antique Nautical and Naval Ditty Boxes (sometimes known as sea chests or sea trunks) From Civil War thru WWII (1860s - 1940s) used by Enlisted Sailors and Crew to Store Everyday Needed Small Personal Items, Tobacco, Tolietries, Photos, and Sewing Kits
Examples From the American US Navy, British Royal Navy, German Navy Kaiserliche Marine Eigentum Effecten Kasten or Eigentum Kasten, US Merchant Marine Liberty Ship Crewmember.

Except for the German Navy almost all of the ditty boxes (or sea chests) have the ubiquitous wooden side cleats and rope beckets used for handles that everyone is familiar with seeing. In general these ditty boxes were typically no more than 15x12x10 inches in size as they needed to be stored in small confined berth areas where the sailor kept his hammock.

Ditty Boxes were used by enlisted sailors and crew to store their most treasured personal possessions while at sea, as well as personal items needed on an everyday basis. Examples of these would be letters from family members, favorite photographs, other treasures found at various ports-of-call. Everyday needed items would be Forks, Spoons, Knives before the centralized mess, tobacco, smoking pipes, cups, razors, soap and tolietries, sewing kits.

It is for the above reasons why we here at The Pirate's Lair honor, respect and treasure these ditty boxes as part of our collection since we understand that they and their contents were the most valuable things a sailor possessed while at sea traveling the world over and knowingly going into harms way! We also think that many of our clients may feel the same way and as such are making some available for purchase.

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sampling and examples of ditty boxes from various navies of the world

Above photo illustrates 4 Ditty Boxes From Left to Right: US Navy Civil War thru Spanish American War (1860s-1890s), German Navy Kaiserliche Marine (1880s-1920s), British Royal Navy pre-WWI-WWII (1900-1940s), US Merchant Marine (1940s)

ca 1870s USS Mohican sailor John King sitting on his ditty box with Old Salts spinning tales and yarns

Period photograph aboard the USS Mohican ca 1880s, sailor John King sitting far right on his ditty box with other Old Salts spinning tales and yarns! Also note the sailor to the far left also sitting on a ditty box, the rope becket can be seen hanging down from the wooden handle. Sometimes these ditty boxes are also known as Sea Chests or Sea Trunks.

german navy kaiserliche marine reichsmarine standard issue regulation ditty box german navy kaiserliche marine reichsmarine standard issue regulation ditty box

Above is a humorous depiction of German Sailors in the Kaiserliche Marine 1917 standing inspection - note the Ditty Boxes next to each of the Sea Boots!

Like most navies the Kaiserliche Marine beginning about the 1890s and certainly well into WWI made ditty boxes a regulation piece of personal equipment which like everything else needed to be inspected and accounted for

Other than being the smallest, German ditty boxes were very unique in that they did not have any handles, the lid slid in and out with where a metal tab would protrude allowing a padlock to be put on.

These ditty boxes were well adapted to life aboard ship, especially in the very small confines of the U-boat submarines where space was a very precious commodity.

german navy kaiserliche marine reichsmarine standard issue regulation ditty box

Above photo illustrates a group of sailors of the Kaiserliche Marine (ca 1890s-1900s) getting their weekly bread ration while holding their regulation dittyboxes! In magnification there is handwriting on each of the ditty boxes but is too faint to read, but looks like numbers. The ships name on the tallys is the "SMS Wurttemberg" which was commissioned in 1881 as an armored frigate in the Kaiserliche Marine (or Imperial German Navy) and served proudly until scrapped in 1920 iaw the Armistice Agreement. The German monogrammed abbreviation "SMS" ("Seiner Majest├Ąt Schiff" or His Majesty's Ship) is similar to the US Navy's "USS" or the British Navy's "HMS".

british royal navy ditty box at inspection on HMS Lion british royal navy ditty box at inspection on HMS Lion

Photo above shows British Royal Navy sailors at inspection aboard the HMS Lion. Note the royal navy issued regulation square ditty boxes towards the end of the bed rolls in front of each sailor.

Ditty Boxes have been carried by sailors the world over from when ships first sailed. These small wooden boxes were where a sailor kept his most treasured personal articles such as reminders and letters from home, photographs, other prized possessions, as well as items needed for everyday use such as sewing kits, small knives to work rope, soap, razors, tooth brush and paste, and other toiletries.

Due to shipboard space constraints all ditty boxes were relatively small so that they could be easily stored typically where a sailor slept. Some ditty boxes were handmade with fantastic nautical carvings while others later in history were standard issue equipment for uniformity and given to each enlisted sailor for his own use where it was expected he would keep required personal items and needed toiletries.

The simple construction of a ditty box was typically of pine wood with dovetailed joints, hinged lid with lock and key, while in the case of the early German Navy the lid consisted of a sliding piece of wood which fitted into grooves. Some ditty boxes had handles made for rope beckets while many didnt have handles at all. Some had specific plates where the sailors name was to be engraved, while others did not - especially early handmade ditty boxes.

We will be illustrating on this web page specific ditty boxes found in our collection as well as period photographs showing sailors with their ditty boxes!

The Pirate's Lair has been collecting Ditty Boxes for several years as each one is unique and personal to the sailor who owned it and as such are important pieces of naval history used during time of war. However we are pleased to offer some of the ditty boxes we have found for the pleasure and use of people who appreciate and enjoy the unusual, hard-to-find nautical and naval antiques.

us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box

us navy civil war to spanish american war ditty box

Above is a non-issued non-regulation handmade ditty box used by a US Navy Sailor, T.D. Devine possibly a Petty Officer, from the Civil War - This type/style of ditty box was commonly used from the 1860s thru the 1890s by American sailors.

By the mid-late 1890s the US Navy, like most of the European navies, had established a standardized regulation ditty box to be used by the enlisted seaman. It appears that the US Navy did not permanently assign a ditty box to each sailor upon enlistment, but rather gave out the ditty box assignments at the command level. Through period photographs which can be seen below these ditty boxes did not appear to have any character or flair about them, nor did any seem to be personalized as would be the case if they were just temporarilly assigned. Some of these regulation ditty boxes appear to have assignment or inventory numbers stenciled onto them. For additional information and photographs on this and other ditty boxes along with availability, as well as period photos of sailors with similar ditty boxes please continue to scroll down.

ditty box used by a us navy merchant marine WWII Liberty Ship sailor ditty box used by a us navy merchant marine WWII Liberty Ship sailor

Above is a non-issued non-regulation handmade ditty box used by a sailor aboard a US Merchant Marine Liberty Ship during WWII. Note the elaborate hand painted picture of the Liberty Ship he was serving on, there is no readable hull number. For additional information and photographs on this and other ditty boxes along with availability, as well as period photos of sailors with similar ditty boxes please continue to scroll down.

british royal navy standard issue WWI-WWII regulation ditty box british royal navy standard issue WWI-WWII regulation ditty box

Above is a British Royal Navy WWI standard-issue regulation ditty box with the sailors name J.C. Morrell inscribed on the metal nameplate. Typically standard-issue regulation ditty boxes were never personalized with carvings or paintings. For additional information and photographs on this and other ditty boxes along with availability, as well as period photos of sailors with similar ditty boxes please continue to scroll down.

german navy standard issue regulation kaiserliche marine and reichsmarine 1890s-1920s german navy kaiserliche marine and reichsmarine 1890s-1920s

Above is a German Navy ca 1890s-1920s Kaiserliche Marine and Reichsmarine standard-issue regulation ditty box or in German "Eigentum Effecten Kasten" or just "Eigentum Kasten". The sailors name is not inscribed on the attached metal plate but written on the side. For some strange reason we have seen an equal number of these ditty boxes have the names handwritten on the side of the wood, hand inscribed as well as professionally stamped on the metal nameplate. We currently have 3 of these to choose from! For additional information and photographs on this and other ditty boxes along with availability, as well as period photos of sailors with similar ditty boxes please continue to scroll down.

photograph of sailors aboard ship playing dice games while sitting on their ditty boxes ca 1890s Spanish American War to early 1900s Great White Fleet receipt for a ditty box issued to W.R. Montgomery aboard the USS South Dakota dated 1912 this substantiates both use and term as late as 1912 pre-WWI

receipt for a ditty box issued to W.R. Montgomery aboard the USS South Dakota dated 1912 this substantiates both use and term as late as 1912 pre-WWI receipt for a ditty box issued to W.R. Montgomery aboard the USS South Dakota dated 1912 this substantiates both use and term as late as 1912 pre-WWI

Above is a period photograph of US Navy American sailors aboard an unknown ship playing dice and card games passing the time away while sitting on their US Navy issued regulation ditty boxes - note the side beckets: ca 1890s Spanish American War to pre-WWI early 1900s Great White Fleet era. Sometimes these ditty boxes were also known as Sea Chests or Sea Trunks.

Below the photograph is a formal written receipt for an issued Ditty Box and signed for by an enlisted sailor WR Montgomery while aboard the USS South Dakota (Armored Cruiser No. 9 ACR-9) and dated April 1912. This substantiates both use and term in the US Navy as late as 1912 as well as firm evidence that ditty boxes were assigned by the duty station for ship and were always considered Navy property and not that of the sailor (unlike the British or German navies)!



 
Ditty Box #1 - US Navy 1860s Civil War era
Handmade construction of pine wood, dovetail joints, wooden plugs or dowels, with lock and key. This is a typical non-issued non-regulation non-standard ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by American US Navy enlisted sailors from the 1860s thru the early 1900s, pre-WWI. Personalization of a sailors ditty box was left up to him. This particular ditty box is named to TJ Devine and when found contained a handblown glass whisky bottle with fouled anchor design, various navy pea coat buttons, and an enlisted US Navy issued soap and shaving kit made of gutta percha.
 
Antique Civil War Sailors Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
14"x12"x8"
 
SOLD
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #2 - US Navy/Merchant Marine 1940s WWII Liberty Ship
Handmade of pinewood and dovetail construction with clasp. This is a typical non-issued non-regulation non-standard ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by American Merchant Marine enlisted sailors during WWII typically aboard the Liberty Ships. Note the personalized handpainted rendition of a WWII Liberty Ship on the lid and entitled "Germany Bound"
 
Vintage WWII American Sailors Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x7"x7"
 
$395.
SOLD
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #3 - British Royal Navy Early 1900s WWI
Handmade of pinewood and dovetail construction, affixed metal nameplate, inside compartmented with tray. This is a typical standardized Royal Navy-issued regulation ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by British Royal Navy enlisted sailors from late 1890s thru WWI. These ditty boxes did not change much in design for 50 years or more where each sailor was to store issued soap, razors, toiletries. Many had thin wooden frames built into the lids to keep photographs. Outside personalization was against naval regulations. This ditty box was identified to J.C. Morrell as professionally stamped on the nameplate.

Working Lock and Key!
 
Vintage WWII British Royal Navy Sailors regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
12"x8"x6"
 
$375.
SOLD
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #4 - German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine/Reichsmarine) 1890s-1918 WWI era, Eigentum Effecten Kasten or just Eigentum Kasten (Personal Effects Box)
Due to the tin or galvanized metal hardware this particular ditty box was certainly made during or shortly after WWI. Partially Handcrafted made of pinewood and dovetail construction, sliding lid, affixed metal nameplate. Popular in the cramped quarters of the U-Boat Forces for the small size. This is a typical standardized German Navy-issued regulation ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by German sailors in the Kaiserliche Marine and Reichsmarine pre and post WWI. What was unique in the design of these German issued ditty boxes was the sliding lid which had an affixed tin tab which protruded through a slit in the body of the box where a lock would be put. Outside personalization was against naval regulations, however we have found many examples where German sailors wrote their names and other personal information instead of using the metal nameplate. This ditty box had one name hand inscribed on the nameplate "O. Grzal-ik" and a second name "Manfred Bock" handwritten on the side.
 
Antique WWI German German Navy Sailors Kaiserliche Marine and Reichsmarine regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x6.5"x5.5"
 
$425.
Sold!
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #5 - British Royal Navy 1900s WWI
Handcrafted of pinew ood and dovetail construction, affixed metal nameplate, inside compartmented with tray with stays in the lid to hold photographs and letters. This is a typical standardized Royal Navy-issued regulation ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by British Royal Navy enlisted sailors during WWI. These ditty boxes did not change much in design for 50 years or more where each sailor was to store issued soap, razors, toiletries. Many had thin wooden frames built into the lids to keep photographs. Outside personalization was against naval regulations. This ditty box was assigned and identified to "O Williams" as professionally stamped on the nameplate.

Working Lock and Key!
 
Vintage WWII British Royal Navy Sailors regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
12"x8"x6"
 
$395.
SOLD
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #6 - German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine/Reichsmarine) 1890s-1918 WWI era "Eigentum Effecten Kasten" or just "Eigentum Kasten" (Personal Effects Box)
Due to the brass hardware this particular ditty box was certainly made shortly before or during WWI. Partially Handcrafted made of pine wood and dovetail construction, sliding lid, the affixed metal nameplate has been removed on this box which was a common practice after WWII. Popular in the cramped quarters of the U-Boat Forces for its small size. This is a typical standardized German Navy-issued regulation ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by German sailors in the Kaiserliche Marine and Reichsmarine pre and post WWI. What was unique in the design of these German Navy-issued ditty boxes was the sliding lid which had an affixed tin tab which protruded through a slit in the body of the box where a lock would be put. External personalization was against naval regulations, however we have found many examples where German sailors wrote their names and other personal information instead of using the metal nameplate.
 
Antique WWI German German Navy Sailors Kaiserliche Marine and Reichsmarine regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x6.5"x5.5"
 
$375.
Sold!
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #7 - American US Navy 1902-1906 Great White Fleet era
Here is another classic American US Navy non-regulation ditty box with a fantastic hand carved lid constructed in a similar yet more refined manner than ones found during the Civil War era. Note the dovetailed joints, wooden side handles ready for a rope becket, better lock, and a much better more refined look!
 
Antique Great White Fleet era 1902-1906 non-regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x6.5"x5.5"
 
$375.
Sold!
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #8 - Regulation German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine/Reichsmarine) 1905-1918 WWI era "Eigentum Effecten Kasten" or just "Eigentum Kasten" (Personal Effects Box)
Due to the brass hardware this particular ditty box was certainly made before or possibly during WWI. Handcrafted of pinewood with dovetail construction, sliding lid, affixed metal nameplate has been removed on this box which was common (certainly after WWII). Popular in the cramped quarters of the U-Boat Forces for the small size. This is a typical standardized German Navy-issued regulation ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by German sailors in the Kaiserliche Marine and sometimes seen in photos of the Reichsmarine pre and post WWI. What was unique in the design of these German issued ditty boxes was the sliding lid which had an affixed tin tab which protruded through a slit in the body of the box where a lock would be put. External personalization was against German naval regulations, however we have found many examples where German sailors wrote their names, rates and ranks, bunk or mess numbers, and other personal information instead of using the metal nameplate. This ditty box lacked any name identification on the missing metal nameplate however "IM5, 332. K." was hand inscribed on the rear and indicates the sailors rate/rank, possible mess or rack number.
 
Antique WWI German German Navy Sailors Kaiserliche Marine and Reichsmarine regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x6.5"x5.5"
 
$425.
Sold!
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #9 - British Royal Navy 1900s WWI
Handcrafted of pinew ood and dovetail construction, affixed metal nameplate, with wooden stays in the lid to hold photographs and letters. This is a typical standardized Royal Navy-issued regulation ditty box, also sometimes termed as a sea chest or sea trunk, used by British Royal Navy enlisted sailors during WWI. These ditty boxes did not change much in design for 50 years or more where each sailor was to store issued soap, razors, toiletries. Outside personalization was against naval regulations. This ditty box was assigned and identified to "WH Brocklehurst" as stamped on the nameplate, possibly the second owner. A dragonfly was put onto the outside lid post-service probably for and used by this former sailors daughter or wife as a keepsake box.Working Lock and Key!
 
Vintage WWII British Royal Navy Sailors regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
12"x8"x6"
 
$325.
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #10 - British or US Navy 1860s-1880s
Classic 19th Century Nautical/Naval Ditty Box with handcrafted detailed construction in pine wood, dovetail joints, trim around the top and bottom edges of the body with overlapping lid. Interior has a sliding shelf on wooden rails, two plank lid secured with two wooden strips also used to hold letters, photographs. Originally secured with a lock and key but now with a hasp for a padlock.
 
Antique 19th Century Sailors Ditty Box, Sea Chest or Sea Trunk
Click Photo For Information!
 
17"x12.75"x9.5"
 
$395.
SOLD
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #10 - British Royal Navy 1900s WWI-WWII
Vintage WWI (poss WWII) British Royal Navy Standard Issue Regulation Ditty Box in Perfect Museum Quality Investment Grade Condition with All Compartments, Features and Key Intact and Working! Named: "N. Carter, Ordinary Seaman"

Working Lock and Key!
 
Vintage WWII British Royal Navy Sailors regulation Ditty Box, Sea Chest 10
Click Photo For Information!
 
12"x8"x6"
 
$395.
SOLD
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Authentic Antique Sea Chests and Stowage Chests
The Rarest of All! Detailed photos and technical characteristics of these authentic mid to late 19th century naval and nautical sea chests and stowage chests some of which may be for sale.
 
sea chests and stowage chests
Click Photo For Sea Chests!
 
Used in Officers Staterooms, Captains Cabins, Enlisted Sailors and Seamen as well as for general storage aboard all decks of the ship. Typically 40"x20"x20" made of 6-plank pine wood with wooden cleats and rope beckets. These sea chests here at The Pirates Lair are the real deal, no reproductions!
 
Sizes and Prices Vary if Available
Call To Order
540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #11 - German Navy Kriegsmarine WWII era

Vintage WWII German Navy Kriegsmarine Standard Issue Regulation Ditty Box or in German or "Eigentum Effecten Kasten or just Eigentum Kasten" (Personal Effects Box or Personal Box) Used Exclusively by the U-Boat Unterseeboot Fleet. The Construction Method Using Tin Hardware is Indicative of WWII Vintage, Not Earlier WWI Kaiserliche Marine or the Reichsmarine.
 
Antique WWII Kriegsmarine German Navy Sailor's Dittybox Ditty Box
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x6.5"x5.5"
 
$425.
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209
 
Ditty Box #12 - German Navy Kriegsmarine WWII era

Obtained From Poland! Vintage WWII German Navy Kriegsmarine Standard Issue Regulation Ditty Box or in German or "Eigentum Effecten Kasten or just Eigentum Kasten" (Personal Effects Box or Personal Box) Used Exclusively by the U-Boat Unterseeboot Fleet. The Construction Method Using Tin Hardware is Indicative of WWII Vintage, Not the Earlier WWI Kaiserliche Marine or the Reichsmarine. Has the Name "Loteu" or "Loten" Hand Inscribed on One Side.
 
Antique WWII Kriegsmarine German Navy Sailor's Dittybox Ditty Box
Click Photo For Information!
 
10.5"x6.5"x5.5"

Patina is Darker Thank Photographs Indicate.
 
$395.
 
Call To Order 540 659 6209


Below are links to other Antique Nautical and Naval Artifacts which you may be interested in.

Click HERE to our Fully Restored Antique Trunks Re-Used as Fine Nautical Furniture and Navy Retirement Gift - Shadowbox and Uniform Storage!

Click HERE for WWII US Navy Anchor China, Matching Dinnerware for the Anchor Navy Silverware

Click HERE for Nautical Antique Trunks Which Look Like Captains Sea Chests, Treasure Chests, Pirate Chests - Great to Re-Use as a Navy Retirement Shadowbox and Storage for Uniforms and Memorabilia

 
OPTIONAL - Trunk Wood Engraving Examples and Prices
Custom Designed, Handcrafted, and Hand Lettered in Caligraphy on your Antique Chest
 
Personalized Burnt Wood Engravings
Click Here To Review Sample Engravings
 
Personalize Your 100+ Year Old Antique Trunk in Perpetuity!
 
Antique Trunks as a Shadow Box and Storage Chest!
Customer Photographic Examples of our Antique Trunks Being used as a Military or Naval Retirement Shadow Box and Storage Chest!!
 
Military or Naval Retirement Ceremony Shadow Box
Click Here for Sample Shadow Box Photographs From Customers
 
Why just get a shadow box or a newly made trunk with no history! One of our 100+ Year Old Nautical Antique Trunks can be used for both a Shadow Box and Storage Chest for your Uniforms, Photograph Albums, and Memorabilia!


The Pirate's Lair
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78 Canterbury Drive
Stafford, Virginia 22554
Phone: 540-659-6209

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