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Scrimshaw toothbrush

Date: 1919
Overall: 20 x 112 x 12 mm, 0.016 kg
Display Dimensions: 112 x 25 x 13 mm
Medium: Silver plate handle, whalebone, pig bristle.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Desmond Liddy
Object Name: Toothbrush
Object No: 00027333
Place Manufactured:Birmingham

User Terms

    This toothbrush made out of whalebone is an example of the use of whalebone, pre-plastic. The bristles are fixed by rods to the head of the brush. Whalers used small pieces of whale bone to create functional items such as needles, tools, cutlery or cases.
    SignificanceThis toothbrush 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 toothbrush

    Primary title: Toothbrush made using whalebone.

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