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Scrimshaw depicting the vessel MARY JANE

Date: 1831
Overall: 160 x 80 x 45 mm, 0.42 kg
Medium: Whale tooth, ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw whale tooth
Object No: 00032497

User Terms

    This whale tooth features a decorative relief carving at the tip and an engraving of a whale hunt surrounded by a border of decorative foliage. It was carved by a sailor to help pass the time at sea and is inscribed with 'MARY JANE, Captain R. Banks, killed her first two whales, February 5, 1831'. The MARY JANE is believed to be a whaling ship that operated out of the American port of New Bedford.
    SignificanceThis is a rare piece of scrimshaw because it identifies a ship, the Captain and the date of a whale hunt. It highlights the skill of scrimshanders who combined relief carving and detailed penknife engravings.
    HistoryAmerican scrimshaw can trace its early roots back to the 18th century whaling industry and was a craft practiced by whale hunters with plenty of spare time on their hands. It is one of a handful of American folk arts that has maintained a presence in contemporary craft practices.

    The average whaling expedition lasted anywhere from three to five years. This could bring about unbearable boredom and loneliness for the sailors. Whalers would fill their long hours by crafting presents for their loved ones back home.
    Engravings on whale teeth are the most common form of scrimshaw and have become popular with collectors. Teeth were often engraved in fine detail and depict maritime scenes of ships, whale hunts, sailors and sea animals.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Scrimshaw depicting the vessel MARY JANE

    Web title: Scrimshaw depicting the vessel MARY JANE

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