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Whale tooth button

Date: 19th century
Dimensions:
Overall: 5 x 36 x 22 mm
Medium: Whale tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Button
Object No: 00006627

User Terms

    Description
    A whale tooth button most likely made from a whale caught in waters off South Australia. Whalebone was a popular medium used to make decorative and functional items as it was both strong and yet able to be polished and carved.
    SignificanceItems as this button are reminders of a long established tradition and industry where great nerves, skill and fortitude were required to be a whaler, especially as the life on board a whaling ship or on shore stations could be brutally difficult. Examples of artistic efforts illustrate both the industrious side of the sailors on board but also a different range of their skills.
    HistoryWhaling played an essential part in 19th century life. Industry and households depended on whale products for which there was no substitute. Whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication until 1860 when kerosene and petroleum started to gain popularity. The pure clean oil from sperm whales was a superior source of lighting and the finest candles were made from the whale's wax-like spermaceti. The oil was also used in the manufacture of hundreds of commodities, most notably soap and margarine. Light and flexible, baleen - the bristle-fringed plates found in the jaws of baleen whales - had many uses in objects which today would be made out of plastic.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

    Assigned title: Whale tooth button

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