William "Captain" Kidd breathed his last in a London hangman’s noose, and his body was suspended over the River Thames for two years as a warning to other would-be pirates. It was not the end he expected. Kidd was born to a comfortable Scottish family in 1645, but the death of his father sent him to sea at an early age. He rose to be a respectable ship’s captain in the British colonies of North America, where he had a family and was a friend of colonial governors. But adventures as a privateer in the Caribbean convinced him that the life of danger was both more profitable and more fun.
In 1695 he set sail from New York City on a mission, funded by British noblemen, to pursue pirates around Africa and seize French ships for profit. He quickly ran into bad luck, however, when his crew was pressed into service by the Royal Navy. The replacements he was sent were mostly criminals. In the first year Kidd managed to take only one French ship and no pirates, testing the patience of his financial backers and driving his unruly crew to mutiny. Kidd killed one crewman with an iron bucket after an argument on deck. Finally he seized a rich prize: the Quedagh Merchant, a ship flying the French flag and laden with gold, silver, silks, and other treasures form the orient. Alas, the owners were Armenian and the captain was English, which hurt Kidd’s reputation. That, combined with the misdeeds of his crew and the love of tall tales on the sea, which grew taller at each telling, earned Kidd a reputation as a pirate himself and made him a wanted man. After most of his crew deserted to join a real pirate ship, Kidd burned his own leaking vessel and returned to New York empty handed. But legend holds that he buried his share of the Quedagh treasure in strong boxes like this one. Where, no one knows.