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Fob watch stand with mounted whale teeth

Date: 19th century
Overall: 165 x 250 x 145 mm, 1.28 kg
Medium: Whale teeth, whale bone, ink, wood, metal, shell
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw stand
Object No: 00032474

User Terms

    This fob-watch stand is mounted on a wooden base and consists of a pair of carved whale teeth and an engraved piece of whale bone. It was made to hold a gentleman’s fob watch while he undressed and provided a useful table clock. The Scrimshander has engraved the teeth with images of a cottage garden and a horseman riding, while the central piece of panbone has been etched with decorative foliage. American and French coins are inlaid in the wooden base.
    SignificanceThis rare novelty piece demonstrates how scrimshanders incorporated multiple materials and designs into their work. It is a unique example of scrimshaw.
    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a maritime craft that developed from the unique conditions encountered 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 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.

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