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Scrimshaw crochet hook

Date: 19th century
Overall: 124 x 10 x 7 mm, 0.005 kg
Display Dimensions: 124 x 9 x 7 mm
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Desmond Liddy
Object Name: Crochet hook
Object No: 00027343

User Terms

    This crochet hook was handmade from a single piece of whalebone and features a clenched fist at the tip of the handle. Whalers used small pieces of whale bone to create functional items such as needles, tools, cutlery or cases.
    SignificanceThis crochet 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.
    HistoryCrochet was a popular pastime for women in the 19th century and involved creating lace fabric or macramé with a thread and a hooked needle. The exact origins of the craft are not certain but during the 1800’s crochet hooks were a common domestic item and a useful present for a sailor’s female loved ones.

    Scrimshaw was originally a maritime folk art that developed onboard whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the term 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 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.

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