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Scrimshaw button hook

Overall: 8 x 102 x 10 mm, 0.011 kg
Display Dimensions: 99 x 10 x 8 mm
Medium: Whalebone, iron alloy
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Desmond Liddy
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Button hook
Object No: 00027332

User Terms

    This is a good example of the commercial use of whalebone pre-plastic. The metal eye (similar to a needles' eye) of the button hook is unusual; most were formed as hooks, not completely joined up as an eye. Button hooks were used to do up and undo the numerous small buttons on tight-fitting boots.
    SignificanceThis button hook represents the 19th century production of functional items of scrimshaw. Although scrimshaw was usually made by sailors for recreational purposes, this unique piece was commercially manufactured.
    HistoryScrimshaw can trace its roots back to America's early whaling industry in 19th century. The craft was practiced by whale hunters who had plenty of spare time on their hands and is today one of a handful of folk art traditions that maintains a presence in contemporary craft practices.

    Scrimshaw is produced by engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, including whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files and needles sailors would create functional everyday objects or artistic pieces etched with images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home. It is often difficult to determine exactly who and for what purpose some scrimshaw pieces were made and the majority of objects cannot be attributed to a particular artist.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw button hook

    Primary title: BUTTON HOOK, 19th CENTURY.

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