59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

The unique art form of carving into ivory, known as scrimshaw, is inherently tied to the whaling industry. During the "golden age" of whaling in the mid 1800s, the length of voyages grew to as many as four years as Vineyard whalers were forced to travel greater distances due to declining whale populations. They found themselves in the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Indian oceans chasing after their prey. An ample supply of teeth, tusks, bone and baleen, as well as long stretches of free time led to the creation of a wide variety of objects, from decorative arts to the tools and accessories of every day. Teeth and tusks were polished, then carved into scenes of whale hunts, vessels, patriotic imagery and women. Ink or lampblack (a type of soot) was then rubbed into the carvings to bring out their details. For these homesick artists, the thoughts of loved ones were an inspiration, as reflected in the numerous keepsakes and trinkets they carved.


Scrimshaw Chest Scrimshaw Ship Scrimshaw Knitting Thing Scrimshaw
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Scrimshaw Lamp Scrimshaw Scrimshaw Scrimshaw
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