Shark Vertebrae Cane, 19th Century

Shark Vertebrae Cane, 19th Century

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Scrimshaw was one form of sailors’ art, and cane making was another. This example is made from a series of carefully graduated shark vertebrae threaded over a heavy metal rod, with the biggest vertebrae at the top. The ferrule is silver and the handle is made of carved bone in the shape of an inverted letter “L”, with hash marks cut into the surface to prevent slipping. A thin iron or steel ring separates the handle from the highest vertebra. This would have been an extraordinary conversation piece in the hands of an old or handicapped 19th century sailing ship crewman.
Currently not on view
Object Name
cane, walking
date made
19th century
associated place
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
Physical Description
vertebrae, fish (overall material)
metal (overall material)
shaft: 91 cm x 1.7 cm; 35 13/16 in x 11/16 in
handle: 8.5 cm; 3 3/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Lawrence N. Ravick
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

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.


Add a comment about this object