Saturday, 6 February 2010

Press Gangs

Impressment (colloquially, "the Press") was the act of compelling men to serve in a navy by force and without notice. (Pictured right: Press gang, British caricature of 1780). It was used by the Royal Navy, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries, in wartime, as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice goes back to the time of Edward I of England. The Royal Navy impressed many British merchant sailors, as well as some sailors from other nations. People liable to impressment were eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 45 years, though, albeit rarely, non-seamen were impressed as well.
Impressment was strongly criticized by those who believed it to be contrary to the British
constitution; unlike many of its continental rivals, Britain did not conscript its subjects for any other military service, aside from a brief experiment with army impressment in 1778 to 1780. Though the public opposed conscription in general, impressment was repeatedly upheld by the courts, as it was deemed vital to the strength of the navy and, by extension, to the survival of the realm.
The impressment of seamen from American ships caused serious tensions between Britain and the United States in the years leading up to the War of 1812. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Britain ended the practice, and never resumed it.
Royal Navy recruiting and desertion
Working and living conditions for the average sailor in the Royal Navy in the 18th century were harsh by modern standards and generally much worse than conditions on British merchant ships; their pay was around half that paid by merchantmen and was lower than that paid to a farm labourer. In fact Naval wages had been set in 1653 and were not increased until April 1797 after sailors on 80 ships of the Channel Fleet based at Spithead mutined to get an increase. Roughly half of all Navy crews were impressed and these not only received lower wages than volunteers but were often shackled while the vessel was docked and were never permitted to go ashore until released from service.
The main problem with recruiting, though, was a simple lack of qualified seamen during wartime, when it became necessary for the Navy to quickly recruit an extra 20,000 (early 18th century) to 40,000 men (late 18th century) — privateers, the navy, and the merchant navy all competed for a small pool of ordinary and able seamen in wartime, and all three groups were usually short-handed. The recruitment figures presented to Parliament for the years 1755 - 1757 list 70,566 men of which 33,243 were volunteers (47%), 16,953 pressed men (24%) while another 20,370 were also listed as volunteers separately (29%). Although there are no records that explain why volunteers were separated into two groups, it is likely these were pressed men who became "volunteers" to get the sign-up bonus, two months' wages in advance and a higher wage as it is known large numbers did do this. Volunteering also protected the sailor from creditors as the law forbade collecting debts accrued before enlistment. Other records confirm similar percentages throughout the 18th century.
The Impress Service and impressment at sea
The Impress Service was formed to force sailors to serve on naval vessels (there was no concept of joining the navy for non-officers at the time), based on the legal power of the King to call men to military service, as well as to recruit volunteers (who were paid a bounty upon joining, unlike pressed men).
In Elizabethan times impressment as a form of recruitment became a statute and with the introduction of the Vagrancy Act in 1597, men of disrepute (vagrants) were drafted into service. In 1703 an act was passed limiting the impressment of men to only those under 18 years of age. A further act in 1740 raised the age to 55. Although no foreigner could be pressed, if they married a British woman, or had worked on a British merchant ship for two years they lost their protection. Some governments, including Britain, issued "Protections" against impressment which had to be carried on the person at all times but in times of crisis the Admiralty would order a "Hot Press" which meant that no one was exempt.
The Royal Navy also impressed seamen from inbound British merchant ships at sea, though this was done by individual warships, rather than the Impress Service. Impressment, particularly press gangs, were consistently unpopular with the British public (as well as in the American colonies), and local officials often acted against them, to the point of imprisoning officers from the Impressment Service, or opposing them by force of arms.
The press gang would try to find men aged between 15 and 55 with seafaring or river-boat experience but this was not essential and those with no experience were called "Landsmen". From 1740 Landsmen were legally exempt from impressment but this was ignored in wartime unless the person seized was an apprentice or a "gentleman". Two Landsmen were considered by captains to be the equivalent of an Able Seamen. If a Landsmen was able to prove his status to the Admiralty he was usually released. A man in the street would first be asked to volunteer and if he refused he was often plied with alcohol or simply knocked out and taken. A commonly held belief of a trick used in taverns was to surreptitiously drop a King's Shilling ("prest money") into his drink as by "finding" the shilling in his possession he was deemed to have volunteered, and that this led to some tavern owners putting glass bottoms in their tankards. However, this is urban legend; press officers were subject to fines for using trickery and a volunteer had a "cooling-off" period in which to change his mind.
Contrary to popular belief, the great majority of men pressed were taken from merchant ships at sea. This was legal as long as the Navy replaced the man they took and many Naval captains would take the best seamen, replacing them with malcontents and landsmen from their own ship. It was also common for "trusted" volunteers to act as substitutes; they would then desert as soon as the merchant ship docked, and return to their Navy ship. Outbound merchant ships, officers and apprentices were exempt from impressment. When war broke out the Navy would blanket the coast with cruisers ready to intercept every inbound merchantman, many of which would flee to Ireland to offload their best men before returning to England. In 1740 a merchantman fired on a cruiser attempting to impress its crew; similar violence to avoid being pressed was not uncommon, especially with the East India ships whose crews had been away from their families and England for a considerable time. In times of an extreme shortage of men the Navy would "embargo" the coast for a short time; merchantmen had to supply a portion of their crew in exchange for permission to sail. Many merchant ships had hiding places constructed where their best crew could hide when approached by a Naval vessel.
In addition to impressment, England also used the Quota System (or The Quod) from 1795 to 1815, whereby each county was required to supply a certain number of volunteers, based on its population and the number of its seaports. Unlike impressment, the Quota System often resulted in criminals serving on board ships as counties who failed to meet their quota offered prisoners the option of completing their sentence or volunteering.
Britain last used impressment in 1815 but the statutes allowing it have never been repealed. In 1835, a statute was passed that exempted sailors who had been impressed and had spent five years in the navy from being impressed a second time.
End of impressment
British impressment ended, in practice, after 1814, at the end of the Napoleonic wars — the Royal Navy fought no major naval actions again until World War I, a century later, when conscription was used for all the military services.

Bitch Spray

Is it my imagination or is that cactus
making a statement?


For today's brainteaser just answer the following question: What do the following characters have in common?
Check your answer in tomorrow's Journal. Good luck!

Funny Signs

Blimey! That's a bit harsh.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC Corporation, or KFC, founded and also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, is a chain of fast food restaurants based in Louisville, Kentucky. KFC has been a brand and operating segment, called a "concept", of Yum! Brands since 1997 when that company was spun off from PepsiCo as Tricon Global Restaurants Inc.
KFC primarily sells chicken pieces, wraps, salads and sandwiches. While its primary focus is fried chicken, KFC also offers a line of roasted chicken products, side dishes and desserts. Outside North America, KFC offers beef based products such as hamburgers or kebabs, pork based products such as ribs and other regional fare.
The company was founded as Kentucky Fried Chicken by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1952, though the idea of KFC's fried chicken actually goes back to 1930. The company adopted the abbreviated form of its name in 1991. Starting in April 2007, the company began using its original name, Kentucky Fried Chicken, for its signage, packaging and advertisements in the United States as part of a new corporate re-branding program; newer and remodeled restaurants will have the new logo and name while older stores will continue to use the 1980s signage. Additionally, Yum! continues to use the abbreviated name freely in its advertising.

Born and raised in Henryville Indiana, Sanders passed through several professions in his lifetime. Sanders first served his fried chicken in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression at a gas station he owned in North Corbin, Kentucky. The dining area was named "Sanders Court & Café" and was so successful that in 1936 Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon granted Sanders the title of honorary Kentucky Colonel in recognition of his contribution to the state's cuisine. The following year Sanders expanded his restaurant to 142 seats, and added a motel he bought across the street. When Sanders prepared his chicken in his original restaurant in North Corbin, he prepared the chicken in an iron skillet, which took about 30 minutes to do, too long for a restaurant operation. In 1939, Sanders altered the cooking process for his fried chicken to use a pressure fryer, resulting in a greatly reduced cooking time comparable to that of deep frying. In 1940 Sanders devised what came to be known as his Original Recipe.
The Sanders Court & Café generally served travelers, often those headed to Florida, so when the route planned in the 1950s for what would become Interstate 75 bypassed Corbin, he sold his properties and traveled the U.S. to sell his chicken to restaurant owners. The first to take him up on the offer was Pete Harman in South Salt Lake
,Utah; together, they opened the first "Kentucky Fried Chicken" outlet in 1952. By the early 1960s Kentucky Fried Chicken was sold in over 600 franchised outlets in both the United States and Canada. One of the longest-lived franchisees of the older Col. Sanders' chicken concept, as opposed to the KFC chain, was the Kenny Kings chain. The company owned many Northern Ohio diner-style restaurants, the last of which closed in 2004.
Sanders sold the entire KFC franchising operation in 1964 for $2 million USD. Since that time, the chain has been sold three more times: to Heublein in 1971, to R.J. Reynolds in 1982 and most recently to PepsiCo in 1986, which made it part of its Tricon Global Restaurants division, which in turn was spun off in 1997, and has now been renamed to Yum! Brands. Additionally
, Colonel Sanders' nephew, Lee Cummings, took his own Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises (and a chicken recipe of his own) and converted them to his own "spin-off" restaurant chain, Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken. Today, some of the older KFC restaurants have become famous in their own right. One such restaurant is located in Marietta, Georgia. This store is notable for a 56-foot (17 m) tall sign that looks like a chicken. The sign, known locally as the Big Chicken, was built for an earlier fast-food restaurant on the site called Johnny Reb's Chic, Chuck and Shake. It is often used as a travel reference point in the Atlanta area by locals and pilots.

The secret recipe
The Colonel's secret flavor recipe of 11 herbs and spices that creates the famous "finger lickin' good" chicken remains a trade secret. Portions of the secret spice mix are made at different locations in the United States, and the only complete, handwritten copy of the recipe is kept in a vault in corporate headquarters. On September 9, 2008, the one complete copy was temporarily moved to an undisclosed location under extremely tight security while KFC revamped the security at its headquarters. Before the move, KFC disclosed the following details about the recipe and its security arrangements:
The recipe, which includes exact amounts of each component, is written in pencil on a single sheet of notebook paper and signed by Sanders.
The recipe was locked in a filing cabinet with two separate combination locks. The cabinet also included vials of each of the 11 herbs and spices used.
Only two executives had access to the recipe at any one time. KFC refuses to disclose the names and titles of either executive.
One of the two executives said that no one had come close to guessing the contents of the secret recipe, and added that the actual recipe would include some surprises.
On February 9, 2009, the secret recipe returned to KFC's Louisville headquarters in a more secure, computerized vault.
In 1983, writer William Poundstone examined the recipe in his book Big Secrets. He reviewed Sanders' patent application, and advertised in college newspapers for present or former employees willing to share their knowledge. From the former he deduced that Sanders had diverged from other common fried-chicken recipes by varying the amount of oil used with the amount of chicken being cooked, and starting the cooking at a higher temperature (about 400 °F (200 °C)) for the first minute or so and then lowering it to 250 °F (120 °C) for the remainder of the cooking time. Several of Poundstone's contacts also provided samples of the seasoning mix, and a food lab found that it consisted solely of sugar, flour, salt, black pepper and monosodium glutamate (MSG). He concluded that it was entirely possible that, in the years since Sanders sold the chain, later owners had begun skimping on the recipe to save costs. Following his buyout in 1964, Colonel Sanders himself expressed anger at such changes, saying:

That friggin' ... outfit .... They prostituted every goddamn thing I had. I had the greatest gravy in the world and those sons of bitches they dragged it out and extended it and watered it down that I'm so goddamn mad.

Ron Douglas, author of the book "America's Most Wanted Recipes," also claims to have figured out KFC's secret recipe.