Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Scrimshaw walking stick made from whalebone and ivory

Date: 19th century
Dimensions:
Overall: 875 x 81 x 18 mm, 0.35 kg
Medium: Whalebone, whale ivory, wood, tortise shell
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Walking stick
Object No: 00006120

User Terms

    Description
    This mid 19th century walking stick was made from whalebone and ivory. The ivory handle has been inlaid with a series of green and brown decorative rings. Walking sticks were fashionable accessories 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.
    SignificanceThe walking stick shows the range of objects made from whalebone and scrimshawed by sailors in the nineteenth century.
    HistoryThe hunt for the whale met different needs at different times. Whaling 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 whales wax-like spermaceti. Light and flexible, baleen - the bristle-fringed plates found in the jaws of baleen whales - had many uses in objects where today we would use plastics.

    Scrimshaw is a maritime folk art that developed onboard American whaling ships in the 19th century. It helped sailors deal with the isolation and loneliness of being on whaling expeditions that often lasted for more than five years. Scrimshaw is produced by engraving and carving animal material, such as whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws or homemade files sailors would etch artistic images of women, whaling scenes and memories of home or carve popular functional objects, including walking sticks, needles, cutlery, cups or containers.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw walking stick made from whalebone and ivory

    Primary title: TURNED BONE SHAFT WITH AN IVORY HANDLE, INLAID WITH A SERIES OF GREEN AND BROWN DECORATIVE RINGS WOOD AND TORTOISE SHELL, MADE DURING THE MID NINETEENTH CENTURY

    Discuss this Object

    Comments

    Please log in to add a comment.