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Glass bottle of whale oil

Date: 1800-1860
Dimensions:
Overall: 116 x 52 mm
Medium: Whale oil, glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Whale oil
Object No: 00026022

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    Description
    A glass bottle with stopper containing clear dark brown whale oil.
    SignificanceThe extraction and export of whale oil was an essential and profitable industry throughout America and Australia in the late C18 and early C19. It served an important economic role in the colonies and maritime industries at the time.
    HistoryWhaling played an essential part in 19th century life. Industry and households depended on whale products for which there was no substitute. Whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication until 1860 when kerosene and petroleum started to gain popularity. The pure clean oil from sperm whales was a superior source of lighting and the finest candles were made from the whale's wax-like spermaceti. Light and flexible, baleen - the bristle-fringed plates found in the jaws of baleen whales - had many uses in objects which today would be made out of plastic.

    American whaling centred on the north-east coastal town of New Bedford, a booming industry in the 19th century with hundreds of ships regularly heading out to the Pacific Ocean.

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