The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
- The bony substance from the mouths of whales known as baleen is formed of keratin, like human hair and nails. It hangs in long, parallel sheets from the upper jaws of the blue, right, and minke whales, as well as other lesser-known species. Its hairy fringe filters food from seawater.
- Dried out, baleen’s strength and flexibility made it ideal for buggy whips, corset busks, and umbrella ribs before the advent of plastic. A whale’s bone could actually be worth more than its oil. This man’s large umbrella has a wooden shaft, heavy hinged baleen ribs made in short sections, and an ivory handle. Marked “G. Hobbs, Barre,” it belonged to the donor’s grandfather, who lived in Barre, Massachusetts, until around the end of the Civil War.
- Date made
- ca 1835-1865
- Hobbs, George
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History