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For sale is an early 1940s U.S NAVY DAVY JONES SUBPOENA and the DOMAIN OF NEPTUNUS REX SUMMONS issued to Aviation Machinist’s Mate Daniel G. Gimmel serving on the S.S. Mormacwren. The subpoena or summons reads: “I order and command you to appear before me and my court on the morrow to be initiated in the mysteries of my empire. If not, you shall be given as food for sharks, whales, pollywogs, frogs, and all living things of the sea, who will devour you, head, body, and soul as a warning to landlubbers entering my domain without warrant. You are charged with the following offenses no cooperation with warrant.” This document was probably part of a US Navy crossing the equator ceremony. This worn paper summons measures 7 3/4 inches by 5 1/4 inches. A great WWII collectible.

The SS Mormacwren was launched on 22 May 1942 at the Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Wilmington, California yard. The ship was a troop transport ship which was transferred to the United States Maritime Commission in 1946.

The Navy is chock full of myth and tradition. Many naval traditions, from the Sirens and Sea Monsters of the Odyssey to the boatswain’s call, date back hundreds and even thousands of years. The Line Crossing Ceremony might just be the most interesting of today’s naval traditions. No one is really sure when or how the Line Crossing Ceremony, “Order of Neptune”, came about. The ritual dates back at least 400 years in Western seafaring.

The ceremony observes a mariner’s transformation from slimy Pollywog, a seaman who hasn’t crossed the equator, to trusty Shellback, also called a Son or Daughter of Neptune. It was a way for sailors to be tested for their seaworthiness.  When a ship crosses the equator, King Neptune comes aboard to exercise authority over his domain and to judge charges brought against Pollywogs that they are only posing as sailors and haven’t paid proper homage to the god of the sea. High ranking members of the crew and those who have been Shellbacks the longest dress up in elaborate costume and each play the part of King Neptune’s court. For instance, the ship’s captain might play the part of King Neptune himself. What proceeds is a day of festivities, which builds camaraderie among the seafaring crew. Each ship might have their own traditions and nuances, but the fundamental structure goes something like this: King Neptune and his royal court: his queen, Davy Jones, the royal baby, and other dignitaries, arrive to the ship the evening prior to the equator crossing. Pollywogs entertain the royal court with a talent show. Dancing, song, skits or poetry count among the merriment. After the show, Pollywogs receive a subpoena from Davy Jones to stand before the court the next day and answer to charges brought against them by the Shellbacks.

After breakfast, which is made too spicy for the Pollywogs to eat, the accused appear before King Neptune, who sits in judgment. They perform a variety of activities which might involve wearing their clothes inside out or backwards and crawling across the deck through objectionable debris, often the uneatable breakfast that was served to the Pollywogs.  Next, the Pollywogs kneel before the King and kiss the royal baby’s belly, which according to some accounts is covered in grease. Lastly, the Pollywogs take a royal bath in a pool of sea water before being declared Shellbacks, after which they receive their certificates, which they can proudly hang on their wall at home.

Weight 0.75 lbs
Dimensions 11 × 6 × 1 in