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Whalebone busk with image of warship and Queen Ophelia

Date: 19th century
Overall: 365 x 54 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Whalebone, pigment
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Busk
Object No: 00032498

User Terms

    This whale bone busk is engraved with the image of a warship and a Queen wearing a crown and lace robes. Busks were inserted into the front pocket of a women's corset to give her body shape and were commonly made as presents for sailors sweethearts. Whale bone is a light and flexible material easily accessible to whalers making scrimshaw.
    SignificanceThis piece represents the production of busks as gifts for loved ones. Worn close to a woman’s heart they were a reminder of the sailor who could be away for years.
    HistoryThe act of making a gift of scrimshaw helped a sailor ease the separation from family or loved ones. For the recipient, the scrimshaw provided something useful in the daily routine of domestic life and was a decorative reminder of the sailor.

    Scrimshaw is the folk art tradition that developed on American whaling vessels in the 19th century. It provided sailors with a recreational way to pass long hours at sea creating pieces of folk art. Marine animal by-products including whale bone, teeth, baleen and walrus tusks were engraved with images of ships, women and home.

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