Scrimshaw Whale Bone Food Chopper


Simply carved and without any engraving, this food chopper, or mincer, was made in two pieces from a sperm whale’s jawbone. Its blunted, curved blade was used to chop soft foods such as bread dough, fruits, sausage, and animal fats. This example was donated by former Secretary of the Institution Spencer F. Baird (1823–1887) to the Smithsonian, where it became one of the earliest objects in the maritime collections.

Date Made: 1800sPurchased: 1876-11-30

Subject: FishingRelated Event: Expansion and ReformCivil War and ReconstructionThe Development of the Industrial United States


See more items in: Work and Industry: Fisheries, Food, Cultures & Communities, Work, Industry & Manufacturing, Natural Resources, Transportation, Art

Exhibition: On the Water

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Related Web Publication:

Related Publication: On the Water online exhibition

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: AG.024909Catalog Number: 24909Accession Number: 2009.0157

Object Name: scraper, ivory

Physical Description: sperm-whale's jaw (overall material)Measurements: overall: 7 1/4 in x 5 5/8 in x 1 in; 18.415 cm x 14.2875 cm x 2.54 cm


Record Id: nmah_868253

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.