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Scrimshaw swift

Date: 19th century
Dimensions:
Overall: H 563 × W 573 × Dep 80 mm, 900 g, Diameter 540 mm
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Scrimshaw swift
Object No: 00003725

User Terms

    Description
    This scrimshaw swift, also known as a yarn winder, was thought to have been one of the most complicated forms of scrimshaw. The yarn would sit on top of the piece and spin. Whalers used small pieces of whale bone to create functional items such as needles, tools, cutlery or cigar holders.
    SignificanceThis piece of scrimshaw represents the variety of objects that were made by whalers in the 19th century.
    HistoryScrimshaw can trace its roots back to America's early whaling industry in 19th century. The craft was practiced by whale hunters who had plenty of spare time on their hands and is today one of a handful of folk art traditions that maintains a presence in contemporary craft practices.

    Scrimshaw is produced by engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, including whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files and needles sailors would create functional everyday objects or artistic pieces etched with images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home. It is often difficult to determine exactly who and for what purpose some scrimshaw pieces were made and the majority of objects cannot be attributed to a particular artist.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: SCRIMSHAW SWIFT MADE FROM WHALEBONE, FINELY CARVED HANDLE, NO DISTINGUISHABLE FEATURES

    Web title: Scrimshaw swift

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