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Scrimshawed corset busk depicting a woman in an apron

Date: 1820-1830
Overall: 331 × 44 × 17 mm, 500 g
Medium: Whale bone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Busk
Object No: 00003726

User Terms

    An American whaler carved this whale bone busk as a gift for a female loved one. Busks were used to stiffen womens corsets and were often decorated with carved images. This piece has six engraved panels showing a woman, a swing set, the American flag, an eagle, ship and vine. The engravings have been filled with red, blue, brown and green pigments.
    SignificanceThis scrimshaw busk represents the variety of gifts sailors made for loved ones. Unlike most scrimshaw, it is a unique piece because the scrimshander has used four coloured pigments to enhance the engravings.
    HistoryScrimshaw is a maritime folk art that developed onboard whaling vessels in the early 19th century. It involved engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, including whale bone, teeth, baleen, walrus tusks and shell.

    The act of making a gift of scrimshaw helped sailors ease the separation from family or loved ones. For the recipient, the scrimshaw provided something useful in the daily routine of domestic life and was a decorative reminder of the sailor, who could be away for years. A corset busk was a typical gift and commonly carved from ivory, horn or wood. Busks would be inserted into the cloth pocket at the front of a woman's corset and gave her body a smooth rigid shape.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Scrimshawed corset busk depicting a woman in an apron

    Web title: Scrimshaw corset busk

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