6.5 in HIGH x 2.25 in WIDE
(16.51 cm HIGH x 5.71 cm WIDE)
Gift of Mrs. F. A. Baker

Walrus tusk, carved From the History Information Station Object: Whale tooth or walrus tusk carved and engraved with a sailing ship. This tooth or tusk was carved in Alaska circa the 19th century. History: The large conical teeth of the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), and walrus tusks are an excellent ivory. The Yankee sperm whalers, who sailed to the Pacific to hunt, filled the long passages from home and lulls in hunting by carving and engraving the teeth. A jackknife served as the carving tool. The designs were usually inscribed with a sail needle and then darkened by rubbing in a mixture of oil and lampblack. These objects born of boredom were called scrimshaw--or as it was also known, scrimshone, scrimshorn, scrimshonter or scrimpshong. "We are regularly cruising with not enough to do to keep a man off a growl," wrote William Davis in his journal on January 23, 1874. "As this habit cankers the soul, I prefer to scrimshone." The Whale Trade The northern right whale (Eudalaena glacialis) was the most sought after whale along the Pacific Coast of North America. It was slow moving, non-belligerent and easily caught. From its blubber came oil used as fuel in lamps. From its long straight baleen, 19th century manufacturers made corset stays and hoops for crinoline skirts, umbrella ribs, knitting needles, and springs used in chairs. Whale products continued to be used well into the 20th century. From the baleen came elastic fiber, shoe horns, ash trays and fishing rods. From the vertebrae and blubber came oil, glycerin, antifreeze, glue, medicines, cosmetics and many other items both useful and frivolous. The last whaling station in California was at Pt. Richmond. It was shut down in 1971, when whales came under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. In 1972 the federal government passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Act made it illegal to "harass, hunt, capture or kill" any marine mammal. It also banned the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products, including scrimshaw.
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