Scrimshaw Tooth

Women and ships were the most popular subjects for scrimshaw carved by crewmen on long, slow whaling voyages. In this deeply engraved example, a beautifully coiffed and fashionable young lady, possibly in mourning dress, has pulled a locket from her bodice and is gazing at the image of a smiling young man. The curls of her girlish hairstyle would indicate that she is unmarried, although the traditional ring finger of her left hand is not shown. The mid-19th-century date of this tooth is suggested by the style of the dress.
Object Name
scrimshaw tooth, whale
Date made
ca 1840
Physical Description
scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)
sperm whale tooth (overall material)
wood (base material)
overall: 6 3/4 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 5/16 in; 17.145 cm x 8.89 cm x 5.87375 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Family & Social Life
Clothing & Accessories
Natural Resources
Cultures & Communities
Industry & Manufacturing
On the Water exhibit
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Frederic A. Delano
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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