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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
PUBLICATIONS--FILMS--PLAYS
--LISTS-ROSTERS--SOURCES

1. Q: What plays and movies have been done on Laffite?

A: The best known films are: "The Buccaneer" produced by Cecil B. De Mille in 1938; "The Last of the Buccaneers" produced by Sam Katzman for Columbia Pictures in 1950; and the 1958 remake of De Mille's "Buccaneer" (starring Yul Brynner as Jean Laffite)--R. Dale Olson. [There are many others but these are the most popular and best known.--Ed.]

2. Q: Can you recommend a "best book" on Laffite?

A: To each his own, but in my opinion the best historical treatment of Jean Laffite is the long magazine article written in 1883 by the famous Louisiana historian Charles E. Gayarre, reprinted as a booklet by the Louisiana State Museum in 1938 and in a limited edition by the Pemberton Press in 1964. Los Piratas Lafitte (Mexico City, 1938) by the late J. Ignacio Rubio Mane is also an excellent piece of scholarship, though it relies a bit too much upon secondary sources. If all you wanted to know about Laffite had to be read in five minutes, there is simply nothing on a par with the one-page essay by Harrison Gaylord Warren in the Handbook of Texas, which is now available on-line on the World Wide Web--[Vogel.] [One of the most comprehensive, well-researched and documented books on the Laffites, is the recently published Privateers of the Gulf, by Stanley Faye. It features special emphasis on their relations with government and international figures. A relatively recent book Jean Laffite Prince of Pirates, is by Laffite Society member, Jack C.Ramsay, Jr.--Ed.] along with The Pirates Laffite by William Davis and Filibusters, Pirates, and Privateers of the Early Texas Coast by Jean Epperson.

3. Q: Is anyone writing a book on the life of Jean Laffite?

A: It is safe to say that there is always somebody working on a book about Jean Laffite--[Vogel.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Q: Are there any paintings or photos of Jean Laffite?

A: In his lifetime Jean Laffite was an obscure character--he did not become a celebrity until long after he was dead. In the early 1800's, only the well-to-do could afford to have their portraits painted and photography was not yet invented. According to art historians, the oil painting in the Louisiana State Museum attributed to John Wesley Jarvis is not a Jarvis and the subject is not "Laffite Brothers in Dominique You's Bar"--[Vogel.] [After studying the issue for years our current position on the appearance of Jean is that the "old woodcut" referred to by illustrator Ed Suydam in the Saxon book (frontispiece) was originally executed by J.D. Telfer of Cincinnati and New York. Although we cannot say with specificity that Telfer's original woodcut was taken from a drawing of Laffite, this appears to be the highest probability at this time. Other woodcuts of Telfer appeared in the Thrall History of Texas (late 19th. Century) along with the now famous one entitled "Laffite." So, our position at this time is that the frontispiece of the Saxon book has the highest probability of depicting Jean Laffite.--Dale and Diane Olson.] [See R. Dale Olson and Diane Olson, "Graphic Images of Jean Laffite" The Laffite Society Chronicles, Vol. II, Number 2 (July, 1996). Also Jean L. Epperson, "Mysterious Painting in the Cabildo" The Laffite Society Chronicles, VIII, No. 2 (October, 2000), pp. 8-10--Ed.] [Laffite did enjoy some notoriety before and shortly after his death, an example of the latter is witnessed by the publication of a romantic tale involving Captain Lafitte. The Memoirs of Lafitte or the Barritarian (sic) Pirate. A Narrative Founded on Fact, written by William G. Spear, was published in 1826. This tale was republished several times over the next few years suggesting it was a popular item. Laffite was frequently mentioned in newspapers, personal and official correspondence. References to the" notorious Laffite" and similar epithets in the first quarter of the 19th century are ubiquitous--Ed.]  
 

The Laffite Society in Galveston Texas FAQ-General Questions
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
GENERAL QUESTIONS

1. Q: Has Jean's treasure ever been found?

A: No. Pirate treasure is a myth. It is extremely unlikely that the Laffites ever buried or hid away any great sum of money: given the ever-changing morphology of the Gulf Coast environment, barrier islands, bayous, cheniers, and the mouths of rivers are not good places for burying cash or booty--[Vogel.] [Privateers and pirates were notoriously profligate, like most criminals and people on the shady side of the law. What they got they spent rather quickly. Few if any ever retired to live comfortable lives, and legend and fiction to the contrary, the idea of a pirate taking a hoard of booty and then burying it is about as remote from reality as a bank robber today taking his loot and putting it into a savings account. Note that Pierre was more than once in hiding from debt collectors, and had to declare bankruptcy. The Patterson-Ross raid of 1814 cleaned them out, and later when the Laffites abandoned Galveston in 1820 they were all but broke. --William C. Davis.] [Pirate treasure is, indeed still being found today (though in small amounts and infrequently) and it is difficult to identify who left it. One other difficulty with such loot is that those finding it are fearful that they will have difficulty with heirs and the legal system if they claim it. They also will have to pay taxes on it, so they hide their find and sell it on the still active underground market. Pirates were likely to have buried any treasure they had under duress and not very skillfully. Later organizations such as the Knights of the Golden Circle buried more treasure and buried it more systematically.--Ed.]

2. Q: How many languages did Jean speak?

A: The mythical Jean Laffite was fluent in several languages, in addition to being handsome, brave, and sexy. As a matter of historical record, he and his brother Pierre spoke and wrote in standard French. They were conversant in English and probably Spanish as well, but neither left any documents written in a language other than French: even when corresponding privately with American and Spanish authorities, they composed their communications in French--[Vogel.] [Agree that in addition to fluency in their native tongue, French, the Laffites also spoke English. We have more than one contemporary account of them speaking it, though with a heavy accent. They probably spoke Spanish as well, and maybe some Italian. The more interesting question related to their literacy. Certainly they could read English and French, or have it read to them. But could they write? more than 70 surviving signatures by Pierre and something over 20 by Jean attest that they could sign their names. However, their surviving letters-especially those in English--all appear to have been written by someone else, and only signed by them, suggesting a secretary of some kind. Still both could probably write French at least. Jean kept a diary for his Spanish employers during his reconnaissance of Arkansas and Texas. (The diary does not seem to survive in the original, only in a contemporary transcript, probably a translation from French into Spanish). It seems logical that he had to be able to write to keep a diary.--William C. Davis.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Q: What was life like for Jean on Galveston Island?

A: From the time he first arrived at Galveston in March, 1817, until he abandoned the place in May, 1820, Galveston Island was a wilderness and living conditions must have been hard. By all accounts, the Galvestoneers were a motley crew with many hard cases. The "town" of "Campeachy" (another myth) was never anything more than a ramshackle collection of huts and tents. Communication with the outside world was irregular and maritime facilities were primitive--[Vogel.]