Shark Vertebrae Cane, 19th Century


Scrimshaw was one form of sailors’ art, and cane making was another. This example is made from a series of carefully graduated shark vertebrae threaded over a heavy metal rod, with the biggest vertebrae at the top. The ferrule is silver and the handle is made of carved bone in the shape of an inverted letter “L”, with hash marks cut into the surface to prevent slipping. A thin iron or steel ring separates the handle from the highest vertebra. This would have been an extraordinary conversation piece in the hands of an old or handicapped 19th century sailing ship crewman.

Date Made: 19th century

Location: Currently not on view

Associated Place: United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh

See more items in: Work and Industry: Maritime, Cultures & Communities, Scrimshaw


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Lawrence N. Ravick

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1994.0217.06Catalog Number: 1994.0217.06Accession Number: 1994.0217

Object Name: cane, walking

Physical Description: vertebrae, fish (overall material)metal (overall material)Measurements: shaft: 91 cm x 1.7 cm; 35 13/16 in x 11/16 inhandle: 8.5 cm; 3 3/8 in


Record Id: nmah_1169118

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