On the Water

Whaler's Whalebone Scraper

This odd tool was used to scrape the flesh off the bones from a freshly caught whale. It was the last step in processing the whale’s body before the bone was partially dried on deck and then stowed below in the cargo hold. Once the ship was back in port, the bone was placed on end in large yards to dry further.

The bone and baleen—rows of bony strips in a whale’s upper jaw that filter food from seawater—from a whaling voyage could yield as much as $50,000, or even greater profits than the oil itself. Baleen served a wide variety of purposes from buggy whips to umbrella ribs to women’s corset stays.

ID Number:
AG*057778
Place Made:
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Material:
wood, metal, iron, metal, iron
Date:
1880s
Dimensions:
11 1/2 x 5 in.; 29.21 x 12.7 cm
Source:
F. S. Allen, through J. T. Brown

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