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
related event
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Industry & Manufacturing
Clothing & Accessories
Natural Resources
On the Water exhibit
Family & Social Life
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Frederic A. Delano
Related Publication
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.