I posted this in ephemera but since it is a document of the war of 1812 I thought it should also go here.
Seamen's Protection Certificates were authorized by the Fourth Congress on May 28, 1796, to protect American merchant seamen from impressment. The British maintained that they had a right to use press gangs to forcibly recruit British seamen in port or on the high seas, and their attitude was "once a British subject, always a British subject." In fact, any English-speaking sailor was in danger of being impressed. During the war with Napoleon, the British stepped up impressments.
Because the purpose of the Seaman's Protection Certificate was to identify the seaman clearly, the application required his name, age, place of birth, physical description "as may be," and was either attested to by a knowledgeable person or by documentation. Public officials and notaries devised their own application forms to suit their fancy; some were simple, some flamboyant. The physical description usually included height; color of hair, eyes, and complexion; distinguishing marks such as tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or disfigurements; and sometimes the shape of the nose, chin, and face.
This certificate was issued to Joseph Gladding who was born in Barrington, R.I. on November 2, 1790. He received this certificate under the “Act for the relief and protection of American Seamen” from Charles Collins who was the Collector of the District and Port of Bristol. The certificate is dated February 5, 1812 and is number 909. Gladding emigrated to Bradford county, Pennsylvania in1816, first stopping in Smithfield then settling permanently in Columbia County, Pennsylvania in1817. He cleared and improved a large farm where he died, 1880 in his 90th year. He married Marcy, daughter of Asa Bullock, and had children, Jerusha B. (Mrs. James M. Edsall), Emeline I. (Mrs. E. P. Shaw), Joseph N., Viall A., William P. and Charles E., register and recorder, 1869-'7. The piece of scrimshaw depicts a battle between two ships. One British the other American. The certificate and scrimshaw have been together since before the Civil War. The wale bone scrimshaw measures 3 1/4" X 1 1/2". Please click on image for a larger picture.