Temple Toggle Iron

Description
Very little is known of Lewis Temple's early life. Born around 1800 to slave parents in Richmond, Virginia , by 1829 he had moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he married. By 1836, he had a blacksmith shop on a local wharf, where he made shipsmithing items like spikes, harpoons, rigging elements, cargo hooks, barrel hoop and other iron ship fittings.
Temple developed a simple but significant refinement to the harppon: the so-called Temple toggle iron or gig. This feature at the tip of a harpoon offered a more secure way to hook into a whale. Unfortunately, Temple never patented his idea, which swiftly achieved widespread application throughout the world's whale fisheries. He died in May 1854, unrecognized and in debt.
While Lewis Temple did not invent the toggle, his invention made it better. The first barb at the tip of the dart was designed to penetrate the whale's flesh, and the second barb also went straight in. A small wooden peg holding the lower barb in place would then break when the whale pulled away, allowing the barbed head to swivel away from the shaft. The new T-shape of the barb prevented the dart from pulling out of its wound.
Object Name
harpoon, toggle
date made
ca 1859
inventor
Temple, Lewis
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
wood (part material)
textile (part material)
Measurements
overall: 1 3/4 in x 33 1/2 in x 8 in; 4.445 cm x 85.09 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
TR*330535A
catalog number
330535a
accession number
294088
related event
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Work
Cultures & Communities
Natural Resources
On the Water exhibit
Transportation
Exhibition
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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