Wooden-handled Harpoon

Description
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, simple sharp-barbed harpoons on long wooden shafts were used to “dart” or fasten to the whales from whaleboats. Two darts were thrown, in case one broke loose. Then, sometime in the early 19th century, the toggle iron was developed, possibly by African American blacksmith Lewis Temple in New Bedford, MA.
Once embedded in the whale’s flesh, the sharp point of a toggle iron rotated, or toggled sideways, making it harder to pull out. Normally, at least six sharp darting irons were carried aboard individual whaleboats to ensure that lost or broken ones could be replaced without returning to the mother ship.
Object Name
harpoon
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
wood (overall material)
rope (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 109 3/4 in; x 278.765 cm
collected
United States: Massachusetts, New Bedford
ID Number
TR*072824
catalog number
072824
accession number
10616
subject
Whaling
Work
Transportation
Industry & Manufacturing
Fishing
event
Expansion and Reform
Civil War and Reconstruction
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Exhibition
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
J. H. Bartlett & Son
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL
http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

Submit a comment or ask a question about this object using the form below. Submissions are moderated and may receive a curator response. Please note that we cannot evaluate or appraise your personal artifacts. For other questions or general inquiries please visit our FAQ or contact page.

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

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.