Fishermen’s Woolen Nippers


Fishermen working trawl lines in the 19th century often suffered cuts and rope burns on their hands. They typically wore mittens or gloves to protect themselves when hauling the long lines aboard and removing the fish. These sturdy but soft rings, called nippers, are knitted of woolen yarn and stuffed with more wool. They would have fit around a fisherman’s palms, protecting his hands while his fingers remained free for tasks requiring dexterity.

These nippers were probably made in Gloucester, Mass., for use by local fishermen working on offshore schooners. The shallow, fertile banks stretching from Georges Bank east of Nantucket to the Grand Bank off Newfoundland, Canada, were prime fishing areas for Gloucestermen. Cod, haddock, and halibut were the principal species caught by fishermen working aboard schooners in these waters in the late 19th century.

These nippers were among the fishermen’s clothing, tools, and apparatus featured by the United States in the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London.

Date Made: 1880sUsed: late 19th centuryOn Exhibit: 1883

Place Made: United States: Massachusetts, GloucesterOn Exhibit: United Kingdom: England, London

Subject: FishingRelated Event: International Fisheries ExhibitionThe Development of the Industrial United States


See more items in: Work and Industry: Fisheries, Clothing & Accessories, Work, Industry & Manufacturing, Textiles

Exhibition: On the Water

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Related Web Publication:

Related Publication: On the Water online exhibition

Credit Line: U.S. Fish Commission

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: AG.102074Catalog Number: 102074Accession Number: 2009.0157

Object Name: nippers

Physical Description: wool (overall material)Measurements: overall: 5 in x 3 3/8 in x 1 3/4 in; 12.7 cm x 8.50011 cm x 4.50012 cm


Record Id: nmah_859460

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