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Scrimshaw walking stick

Date: 19th Century
Dimensions:
Overall: 860 mm, 0.2 kg
Medium: Shark vertebrae, whalebone, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Walking stick
Object No: 00019501

User Terms

    Description
    This walking stick uses a combination of materials consisting of whale bone, shark vertebrae, baleen and metal. Walking sticks were a popular accessory for men in the mid-19th century and sailors commonly made the functional items for personal use or as gifts. Creating scrimshaw helped sailors fill the idle hours at sea and utilised any remaining material from a whale hunt.
    SignificanceThis walking stick demonstrates the range of materials scrimshanders used including shark vertebrae, whalebone, baleen and metal.
    HistoryScrimshaw is a maritime folk art tradition that developed onboard American whaling ships in the 19th century. It helped sailors deal with the isolation and loneliness of being at sea for periods of up to five years. Scrimshaw is produced by engraving and carving material from marine animals, such as whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws or homemade files sailors would etch images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home.

    Whalers often made functional objects such as canes, needles, cutlery, cups or containers but also created purely artistic pieces.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Scrimshaw walking stick

    Web title: Scrimshaw walking stick

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