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Whalebone presentation truncheon

Date: 19th century
403 x 405 x 36 mm, 0.45 kg
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw
Object No: 00004842

User Terms

    Whalebone objects were often presented to dignitaries at the Hobart Regatta. This scrimshawed ceremonial truncheon belonged to Sir John Lewes Pedder (1784 - 1859), Tasmania's first chief justice.
    SignificanceThis is a very significant piece of whalebone as it is highly likely that it was produced in Tasmania from a whale caught in Australian waters. Provenanced Australian scrimshaw is very hard to find, other than in established collections.
    HistoryRegattas were central to competitive boating in the 19th century and functioned as a social and sporting event, as well as a marker of official anniversaries in a public aquatic spectacle. Civic leaders, politicians and merchants offered patronage and sponsorship. This community regatta often featured several races, including rowing, sculling and sailing events usually for professional watermen and amateurs.

    The Hobart Regatta was inaugurated in 1838, under the patronage of the Governor's wife, Lady Jane Franklin. Far more than just a yacht race, the regatta celebrated the anniversary of Abel Tasman's 'discovery' of the island in 1642. It demonstrated the patronage of civil and military elites and promoted the role of whaling and free-settler enterprises.

    By the early 1900s 'the greatest aquatic carnival South of the line', had evolved as the 'perfect people's carnival'. Boat races competed with other novelty entertainments - fancy costume parades, bearded ladies, snake charmers.

    Scrimshaw was originally a maritime craft that developed from the unique conditions onboard whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the word 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. sing jackknives, saws, homemade files and sharp sail needles, sailors etched images of women, whaling scenes or other memories of home.

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

    A tooth would be selected and sawn off for stability, then filed and sanded to a smooth surface. The basic design was often copied from books and magazine illustrations and would be scratched into the tooth and the engraved lines filled with ink, lamp black or other pigments. As the work progressed more detail would be added to finish the design.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Whalebone presentation truncheon

    Primary title: Scrimshaw presentation truncheon

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