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Scrimshaw pipe tamper

Date: 19th Century
Overall: 72 x 13 x 13 mm, 0.013 kg
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Desmond Liddy
Object Name: Pipe tamper
Object No: 00027340

User Terms

    This pipe tamper was handmade from a piece of whalebone and features a number of carved grooves along its length. The tool was used for pushing tobacco into the bottom of a pipe in preparation for smoking. During the 19th century smoking became increasingly available to the working class and items such as pipes and tampers were common pieces of scrimshaw made by whalers.
    SignificanceThis tamper represents the practice of pipe smoking in the 19th century and the production of functional items of scrimshaw.
    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a maritime craft that developed 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 or needles sailors would carve functional objects and pieces of art depicting images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Scrimshaw pipe tamper

    Web title: Scrimshaw pipe tamper

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