about Claire M. Caterer books by Claire M. Caterer blog with Claire M. Caterer Press for Claire M. Caterer Fun Extras with Claire M. Caterer School Visits with Claire M. Caterer Contact Claire M. Caterer
Claire M. Caterer on Facebook Claire M. Caterer on Twitter


FAMOUS PIRATES | Claire Caterer


During the Golden Age of Piracy (the early 1700s), dozens of men—and a few women—sought their fortunes on the high seas. Their careers in crime tended to be short. A pirate captain faced dangerous waters, mutiny of his crew, and of course, arrest and execution by the authorities. Pirates were often hanged over the Thames River in London, in a spot called Execution Dock. Their bodies were left hanging as a warning to other pirates—Captain Kidd’s body hung for twenty years!


The hanging of a buccaneer at Execution Dock, London


Today the Captain Kidd Pub stands at the site of Execution Dock

While most pirates’ plunder was a bit mundane—spices, tobacco, and the like—occasionally they scored big, in gold and silver, particularly treasure taken from the lucrative New World. Forbes magazine has a list here of the richest pirates in history. Below are a few famous buccaneers. Their plunder is given in the equivalent of today’s money.



Thomas Tew

Thomas Tew

  • ship: the Amity (sloop)
  • home base: Rhode Island
  • pirate type: privateer turned pirate
  • best plunder: $103 million
  • years active: 1693-95 (died from a cannonball to the stomach when attempting to seize an Indian ship)
  • area of piracy: Indian Ocean
  • best known for: great cache of wealth, despite his very short pirate career
  • fun fact: Tew was revered for his daring exploits, and is seen above sharing his stories with the governor of New York




William Kidd


  • ship: the Adventure Galley, 34 guns
  • home base: New York / London; born in Scotland
  • pirate type: privateer/pirate
  • best plunder: $2.6 million
  • years active: 1697-99 (captured and hanged for piratical offenses, including murder)
  • area of piracy: Indian Ocean
  • best known for: burying his treasure, killing a crew member, and getting hanged for all the above
  • fun fact: Kidd’s rumored buried treasure inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous piratical novel Treasure Island
  • read more about Captain Kidd



Sir Francis Drake


  • ship: The Golden Hind
  • home base: England
  • pirate type: privateer/pirate
  • best plunder: $53 million from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Concepción
  • years active: 1570-1595 (died of yellow fever)
  • area of piracy: Caribbean, Pacific
  • best known for: being the first Englishman to circumnaviage the globe; was the favorite pirate of English Queen Elizabeth I, who used Drake as a weapon against the Spanish—she even made him a knight of the realm
  • fun fact: Drake’s gorgeous ship has been rebuilt and is open for tourism in Brixham
  • read more about Drake and the Golden Hind



Black Sam Bellamy

samuel bellamy

  • ship: the Wydah Merchant, 28 guns
  • home base: England
  • pirate type: straight-up pirate, through and through
  • best plunder: $2.9 million
  • years active: 1716-1717 (drowned when his ship capsized in a storm off Cape Cod, MA)
  • area of piracy: Caribbean, New England
  • best known for: wealthiest pirate ever, worth in total about $115 million; the wreck of the Whydah was discovered in 1994, and its treasure is now displayed in a museum in Provincetown, MA
  • fun fact: Called “Black Sam” because he never wore a powdered wig, but rather showed off his black hair, which he tied back; became a pirate to make a fortune fit to woo his true love, whose parents thought him too poor to be a good match for their daughter.

 Back to the main Pirate Lore page


images from top:
Execution Dock, public domain via Wikimedia Commons; Captain Kidd Pub, © Ian S and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License; Thomas Tew, illustration by Howard Pyle, 1894 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons); William Kidd, illustration by Howard Pyle, 1921 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons); Francis Drake, artist unknown, circa 1583 (public domain); Sam Bellamy, artist unknown (public domain)


text © 2015 by Claire M. Caterer

Comments are closed.