Scrimshaw Walrus Tusk, mid-20th Century

This intricately carved walrus tusk was carved for the tourist trade. It is not traditional scrimshaw, in that it is not whale ivory carved aboard a whaleship in the 19th century. However, it is engraved marine ivory depicting marine hunting activity and marine mammals, so it is included among the arts associated with scrimshaw.
It contains multiple scenes of Lapland daily activities, surrounding a western-style cribbage board. On the obverse, two women are riding in a wooden sleigh drawn by a single reindeer or caribou, with another reindeer tethered behind on a rope. In the center is a deeply carved and shaded scrollwork motif frames a cribbage board, in the center of which a pair of polar bears flank a dead walrus. To the right are two sparring reindeer with their antlers entangled. The reverse has a scene of two hunters dragging dead seals along the ice; in front of them is a rider on a dogsled drawn by five dogs. The quality, scale and lithographic quality of the carving clearly indicate the hand of a professional scrimshaw artist working for the tourist trade.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1900
Physical Description
bone (overall material)
engraved (overall production method/technique)
overall: 22 in x 3 in; 55.88 cm x 7.62 cm
place made
United States: Alaska
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Cultures & Communities
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Naval
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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