Scrimshaw Cow Horn, 1808

Description
Some purists say that powder horns cannot be scrimshaw in the strictest definition of the term as whaling ivory, but this little piece blurs the distinction on account of its nautical imagery.
On the outer surface a brig is engraved, with a small gaff-rigged cutter running before it. The cutter has an unusual, old-fashioned heeltapper hull, with a raised quarterdeck and a low waist. Each vessel has a human-headed sea serpent in the water next to it. Above the brig on the right is a winged horse with feathers or scales on its lower body; its tail and tongue end in arrow points. Above and behind the brig on the left is a crowned two-headed winged creature with a body shaped like a plump manatee; its tail ends in a ragged line. Across from its crown the piece is dated “MAY•12•1808”. A floral vine completes the remarkable freehand carving. A painted wooden base is tacked to the wide end as a bottom; any cap that may have topped the 3-3/4-in. high piece is missing.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
scrimshaw
scrimshaw powder horn
scrimshaw tooth, whale
Object Type
scrimshaws
date made
1808-05-12
Physical Description
bone (?) (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 3 3/4 in x 1 3/4 in x 1 3/4 in; 9.525 cm x 4.445 cm x 4.445 cm
ID Number
1978.0052.01
accession number
1978.0052
catalog number
1978.52.1
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Art
Transportation
Scrimshaw
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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