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Scrimshaw tooth depicting Advance Australia kangeroo and Emu

Date: 1850s
Dimensions:
Overall: 170 mm, 1 kg
Medium: Sperm whale tooth (Physeter Macrocephalus)
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Scrimshaw whale tooth
Object No: 00015968
Place Manufactured:United Kingdom

User Terms

    Description
    This whale tooth has been engraved with both American and Australian motifs and images. The American motto 'Liberty and Equality' appears next to an image of an eagle and the Australian motto 'advance Australia fair' is next to an engraving of an emu and kangaroo. The back of the tooth features a rhyme about a whale hunt.
    SignificanceThis tooth demonstrates the links between American and Australian whalers during the 19th century. It is a high quality production by an English artist probably trained in the art of engraving.
    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a maritime craft that developed from the conditions encountered 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.

    For a period of roughly 100 years whalers produced a wide variety of scrimshaw, but it is the engraved teeth and jaws that have received the most attention and admiration. Teeth are generally considered classic scrimshaw because of their decoration, including whaling scenes, family members, religion, love, women and patriotism.

    The rhyme inscribed on the back of this tooth states 'Monstrous whales I did pursue, / on the pacific ocean, / from one of them I got this tooth, / I present it as a token'.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw tooth depicting Advance Australia kangeroo and Emu

    Primary title: Scrimshaw tooth depicting Advance Australia kangeroo and Emu

    Related People
    Artist: C H Wood

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