Polychrome Scrimshaw Whale Tooth


Even whalemen with little or no artistic talent could carve highly detailed scenes, through use of the pinprick technique. In this method, a picture was cut from a contemporary magazine and then pasted or dampened to stick to the polished surface of a sperm whale's tooth. A sharp pin was then pushed through the lines of the image, which was then removed. This left lines of dots; when these were connected with engraved lines, they formed a copy of the original picture. Most commonly, lamp black (soot) was then rubbed into the engraved lines to make them stand out from the background of the tooth, although colored pigments like those on this tooth also could be applied for variety. The high fashion of this lady's garments bracket a date just a few years after the end of the Civil War.

Date Made: 1865 - 1869

Subject: WhalingRelated Event: Civil War and Reconstruction


See more items in: Work and Industry: Maritime, 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: http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater

Related Publication: On the Water online exhibition

Credit Line: Gift of Frederic A. Delano

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.374502Catalog Number: 374502Accession Number: 136263

Object Name: scrimshaw tooth, whale

Physical Description: scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)bone (overall material)pinprick technique (overall production method/technique)Measurements: overall: 6 3/4 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 5/16 in; 17.145 cm x 8.89 cm x 5.9055 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a1-0beb-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_309424

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