Whaleman’s Pitch Dipper, 1882

This hand-made tool was used for holding the pitch (tar) used for paying (caulking) the deck seams on a wooden whaling ship. Made from a whelk shell attached to a short, wooden stick, the dipper was displayed at the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London. The dipper was given to the exhibition by Lawrence & Co., a whaling, sealing, and commercial firm in New London, Connecticut.
The United States’ portion of the display was organized by the U.S. Fish Commission and included a wealth of gear, models, photographs, fishery products, and everyday objects used by American fishermen. The international exhibition was on view between May 12 and November 1, during which a daily average of 18,545 people toured the buildings and grounds. When the exhibition closed, the collections that represented the United States were sent to the Smithsonian Institution and a catalog was published: Descriptive Catalogues of the Collections Sent from the United States to the International Fisheries Exhibition, London, 1883, Constituting A Report Upon the American Section. Prepared under the direction of G. Brown Goode, U.S. Commissioner, and a staff of associates. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1884.
Currently not on view
Object Name
pitch dipper, whaleman's
Physical Description
wood, pine (handle material)
periwinkle shell (utensil material)
overall: 9 7/8 in; 25.0825 cm
place made
United States: Connecticut, New London
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Fisheries
Industry & Manufacturing
Natural Resources
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Lawrence & Co. through J. T. Brown
Brown, James Temple. The Whale Fishery and Its Appliances

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