Whaler's Allen's Gun Harpoon


In the later 19th century, guns with explosive charges shooting the harpoons took the place of hand tools for catching and killing whales. They were much safer, for they could be shot at a whale from greater distances than a hand lance could be applied. They also penetrated the whale’s skin deeper and were harder for the animal to dislodge.

Gun harpoons were also far more efficient, for the steam whalers could approach the prey directly and did not need labor-intensive whaleboats and their highly trained crews any longer.

Designed to be fired from a shoulder gun, this nonexplosive style of harpoon was invented by Oliver Allen of Norwich, Conn. to fasten to whales prior to killing.

Date Made: mid-1800sHarpoons Replaced Hand Tools: late 19th century

Patentee: Allen, OliverInventor: Allen, Oliver

Place Made: United States: Massachusetts, New Bedford

Used: WhalingRelated Event: Expansion and Reform


See more items in: Work and Industry: Fisheries, Cultures & Communities, Work, Industry & Manufacturing, Natural Resources, Transportation, On the Water exhibit

Exhibition: On the Water

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Related Web Publication: http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater

Related Publication: Brown, James Temple. The Whale Fishery and Its Appliances, On the Water online exhibition

Credit Line: U.S. Fish Commission through J. T. Brown

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: AG.056230Catalog Number: 056230Accession Number: 012333Patent Number: 5949

Object Name: harpoon

Physical Description: iron (overall material)Measurements: overall: 45 in x 4 in x 4 in; 114.3 cm x 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ac-53b5-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1321701

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