Scrimshaw Sperm Whale Tooth, 20th Century

Description
The obverse of this large sperm whale tooth has a freehand etching with an imaginary 10-gun warship, framed by a rope motif. A fluttering pennant below is inscribed "KING NEPTUNE". The top of the tooth is inscribed "WILLIAM•CULLIMORE•N•Y•1842", and the reverse is a rope-framed image of a seated and crowned King Neptune with a trident in his left hand.
This tooth is probably a reference to the Neptune ceremony inflicted upon the crew and passengers of ships the first time they crossed the equator. King Neptune would emerge from a cabin or the sea and administer some form of mild hazing on the first timers, as a way of passing time and entertaining the veteran sailors aboard the ship.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
scrimshaw
scrimshaw tooth, whale
date made
20th century
Physical Description
whale tooth (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 6 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 1/4 in; 16.51 cm x 8.89 cm x 5.715 cm
ID Number
1978.0052.16
accession number
1978.0052
catalog number
1978.52.16
subject
Art
Transportation
Cultures & Communities
Scrimshaw
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Scrimshaw
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur J. Gould
Additional Media

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