Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Crossing the Line: Historic Documents

Certificate from King Neptune, Sovereign of the Seas, Prince of Blowers to Rear Admiral John Rodgers on steam screw frigate USS Colorado, 15 May 1870.

Know ye all by these presents

That R. Admiral John Rodgers A SEA WARRIOR in the service of my beloved daughter-in-law COLUMBIA, having this day (or previously) paid the tribute required by me from all crossing the Equinoctial Line, is now FOREVER EXEMPT from any and all tolls, fines, or taxes that may be levied by me or my successors; and should he enter our element, by accident or otherwise, I abjure all Sharks, Devil Fish, and Sea Serpents to respect his person UNLESS VERY HUNGRY: Provided he never ceased to uphold the honor of the Flag, which, next to my own, I hold most sacred.

Done on Board COLUMBIA'S War Chariot, the COLORADO, near the Equator on this 15th day of May, 1870.

Source: Document reproduced in: Lydenberg, Harry Miller. Crossing the Line: Tales of the Ceremony During Four Centuries. (New York: New York Public Library, 1957): 168.


Subpoena from Davy Jones to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to a Crossing the Line Ceremony on USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in late November 1936.

Subpoena and Summons Extraordinary
The Royal High Court of the Raging Main

BE IT KNOWN, That we hereby summon and command you


Now the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, to appear before the Royal High Court and our August Presence on the aforesaid date at such time as may best suit OUR pleasure under penalty of eternal pickling.

You will accept most heartily and with good grace the pains and penalties of the awful torture that will be inflicted upon you to determine your fitness to be one of our Trusty Shellbacks and answer to the following charges:

CHARGE 1. Disregard of the traditions of the sea.
Specification: In that Franklin D. Roosevelt, having, for many years sailed the high seas and bounding main, entirely through kindly assistance, toleration and consideration of his Majesty Neptunus Rex, has, for lo these many years, failed to appear in person to show allegiance to his Royal Highness, thereby masquerading as a man of the sea, and by this utter disregard added insult to other previous crimes.

CHARGE 2. Taking liberties with the piscatorial subjects of His Majesty Neptunus Rex.
Specification: In that, Franklin D. Roosevelt, having taken liberties with the denizens of the Realm of Neptunus Rex, by maliciously removing them from the depths of their recognized habitat, has permitted these acts to be publicized by print, town crier, and all other means of shameless publication; and, furthermore, has exaggerated this crime by the public humiliation of the greatest of these creatures of the sea, by stuffing them full of sawdust, and placing them in a position of eternal disgrace in a national museum where the eyes of all mortals may regard their pitiful and ignoble plight.

Disobey this summons under pain of Our Swift and Terrible displeasure
Our Vigilance is ever wakeful, Our Vengeance is Just and Sure

Ruler of the Raging Main


Source: Document reproduced in: Lovette, Leland P. Naval Customs, Traditions and Usage. 4th ed. (Annapolis MD: United States Naval Institute, 1959): 306.


Subpoena from Davy Jones, Clerk of the Court of Neptune, to a Crossing the Line Ceremony, 1943.

In And For The District Of Equatorius




Pollywog _________________________________ U.S. Navy.

You are hereby commanded to appear before the ROYAL COURT OF THE REALM OF NEPTUNE, in the DISTRICT OF EQUATORIUS, because it has been brought to the attention of HIS AUGUST HIGHNESS NEPTUNE REX through his trusty SHELLBACKS, that the good ship REGULUS is about to enter those waters manned by a crew who has not acknowledged the sovereignty of the RULER OF THE DEEP, has transgressed on his domain and thereby incurred his Royal displeasure.

THEREFORE be it known to all ye Box Car Tourists, Park Statues, Cream Puffs, Hay Makers, and Politicians that His Most Royal Muchness NEPTUNE REX, Supreme Ruler of all Mermaids, Sharks, Squids, Crabs, Pollywogs, Eels and other denizens of the deep, will, with his Secretary and Royal Court, meet in full session on board the offending ship REGULUS on __ day of October, A.D. 1943 to hear your defense on the charge of:

It is therefore ordered and decreed that the above named man present himself before the above Court at the time and place above mentioned or else be condemned to become food for Sharks, Whales, Pollywogs, Frogs, and all other scum of the sea, who will devour you - head, body and soul - as a warning to any Landlubbers entering my Domain, disobey this order under my displeasure - INCARNATION IN DAVY JONES' LOCKER!!!


Given under my hand this __ Day of October, 1943.

Honorable Pegleg,

Source: Document located in the Navy Department Library Rare Book Room manuscript collection.

Published: Wed Sep 27 13:28:39 EDT 2017