Whaler's Shoulder or Darting Gun

By the later 19th century, guns had replaced most hand harpoons and lances, since they were far more efficient and deadly to the prey. They also could be shot from a safer distance from the prey than the hand tools could be wielded. The darting gun was one of the more popular types. Loaded with different darts, this versatile weapon could be used both for harpooning and killing whales.
This particular gun was displayed at the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London, England. After the display ended, it was donated to the Smithsonian by its inventor, Capt. Eben Pierce of New Bedford, Mass.
Object Name
gun, harpoon
date made
guns replaced hand tools
late 19th century
displayed at the International Fisheries Exhibition
Pierce, Eben
Physical Description
copper alloy (overall material)
ferrous metal (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 37 1/2 in x 2 1/4 in; 17.78 cm x 95.25 cm x 5.715 cm
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, New Bedford
location of International Fisheries Exhibition
United Kingdom: England, London
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
related event
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Industry & Manufacturing
Natural Resources
On the Water exhibit
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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