Scrimshaw Tooth


Women and ships were the most popular subjects for scrimshaw carved by crewmen on long, slow whaling voyages. In this deeply engraved example, a beautifully coiffed and fashionable young lady, possibly in mourning dress, has pulled a locket from her bodice and is gazing at the image of a smiling young man. The curls of her girlish hairstyle would indicate that she is unmarried, although the traditional ring finger of her left hand is not shown. The mid-19th-century date of this tooth is suggested by the style of the dress.

Date Made: ca 1840

Maker: unknown

Related Event: Expansion and Reform


See more items in: Work and Industry: Maritime, Family & Social Life, Clothing & Accessories, Cultures & Communities, Work, Industry & Manufacturing, Natural Resources, Transportation, On the Water exhibit, Art

Exhibition: On the Water

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Related Web Publication:

Related Publication: On the Water online exhibition

Credit Line: Gift of Frederic A. Delano

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: TR.374506Catalog Number: 374506Accession Number: 136263

Object Name: scrimshawscrimshaw tooth, whale

Physical Description: scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)sperm whale tooth (overall material)wood (base material)Measurements: overall: 6 3/4 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 5/16 in; 17.145 cm x 8.89 cm x 5.87375 cm


Record Id: nmah_309414

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.