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Scrimshaw crook fitted with handle from whale tooth

Date: 19th century
Overall: 430 x 80 x 40 mm, 0.78 kg
Medium: Whalebone, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sail crook
Object No: 00032492

User Terms

    Crooks were used by sailors to drag sails across the deck of a ship or perform other manual work. This crook's handle was made from a turned section of whale tooth and has a metal hook attached. The fragile handle was probably attached as a decorative feature after the crook stopped being used. Items like this were made by sailors to pass the time at sea and resulted in a useful object they could use everyday.
    SignificanceThis item represents the production of functional objects onboard whaling vessels and demonstrates the scrimshaw technique of turning sections of whalebone.
    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a maritime craft that developed from the unique conditions onboard whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the word originated, but it comes from the Dutch words 'scrim' meaning to etch and 'shorn' meaning to make. The earliest written reference is in an American ship's log dated 20 May 1826. There is also a reference to 'skrim shunder articles' in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick in 1851. Scrimshaw is one of a handful of American folk arts that has maintained its presence in contemporary craft practices.
    Scrimshaw is produced by engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, such as whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files and sharp sail needles, sailors etched images of women, whaling scenes or other memories of home.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw crook fitted with handle from whale tooth

    Assigned title: Scrimshaw crook fitted with handle from whale tooth

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