Scrimshaw Sperm Whale Tooth, 19th-20th Centuries

This large, highly polished sperm whale tooth is carved on both sides. The obverse is etched with a large full-rigged three-masted ship sailing towards the observer with all sails set. Atop the mainmast is a homeward bound pennant, and fifteen gunports are aligned along the starboard side of the ship. Below the sailing ship is etched in upper case letters "MONMOUTH-L.Is." (for Long Island). The reverse has a large heart with a keyhole in the center, with a forked pennant swirling around it marked "SARAH THE KEY IS WITH THEE 1864". Below the name "Wm. BAYLES" is etched along the same line as the lettering on the other side. There were no whalers named Monmouth in the records, and William Bayles does not appear in the New Bedford Whaling Museum Whaling Crew List Database.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scrimshaw tooth, whale
date made
19th-20th century
Physical Description
whale tooth (overall material)
overall: 7 1/8 in x 2 7/8 in x 1 3/4 in; 18.0975 cm x 7.3025 cm x 4.445 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur J. Gould
Additional Media

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