West Sea Company

4. Scrimshaw & Whaling

Prices in U.S. Dollars are in GREEN


NOTE: A recent California statute makes it illegal in that state to "possess with the intent to sell" many forms of srimshaw, elephant ivory and other endangered species products, without regard to the age of the object. The exception to this is walrus. Accordingly, the items listed below are not available to California residents. However West Sea Company still maintains its long-time affiliate in the state of Massachusetts where these antique items are currently stored and sold legally.


 

 


4.26  “SEA HORSE” PIE CRIMPER.  Extra nice mid-1800’s scrimshaw pie crimper made entirely from the tooth of a sperm whale!  This simple but superbly elegant example consists of a solid whale ivory handle with a decoratively carved “tail” similar to those seen on the very desirable seahorse crimpers produced during that era.  Obviously designed for actual use, this jagging wheel fits comfortably in the hand with a ridged area just behind the wheel for the thumb.  The large crenelated wheel was meticulously carved from whale ivory and is pinned in place with sterling silver.  This lovely example of whaleman’s work measures just under 5 ½ inches long with the wheel itself 2 inches in diameter.  Outstanding original condition with no breaks, chips or cracks.  Lines seen in the handle are the grain of the ivory.  As is typical the wheel has warped somewhat with age.  A most desirable example of decorative “working scrimshaw.”   985

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.46  SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK.  Stuart Frank, “Ingenious Contrivances Curiously Carved,” 2012, David Godin, Jaffrey, New Hampshire.  371 pages exclusive of index, hard cloth cover with dust jacket.  Beginning with the groundbreaking work of Everett Crosby, “Susan’s Teeth and Much About Scrimshaw” published in 1955, followed nearly 2 decades later by the landmark work of E. Norman Flayderman entitled, “Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders Whales and Whalemen,” until now,  numerous well written and not so well-written books have been published on the topic of scrimshaw.  Fortunately, the best is now the last.  Dr. Frank, widely recognized as the preeminent scrimshaw authority IN THE WORLD, has risen to the occasion of publishing a raisonné of the finest and most complete collection of scrimshaw ever assembled, that being the collection of the prestigious New Bedford Whaling Museum.  In 12 chapters with 2 Appendices, Dr. Frank methodically catalogs the collection with insights and history never before revealed.  The superb color photography of Richard Donnelley defies description.  A better representation of the artifacts depicted could not be had short of having them in one’s hand!  A thorough, scholarly treatment of the subject beautifully documented in vivid color.  An absolute must for the American folk art collector and nautical enthusiast.  Brand new. 69 



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4.44  SCRIMSHAW FINGER RING.  A vey nice example of scrimshaw jewelry consisting of a hand-carved walrus ivory ring precisely inlaid with colorful segments of abalone and mother-of-pearl.  The circular finger opening is exactly 3/4 of an inch in diameter, while the face of the ring measures 1 ¼ by 1 ¼ inches and the body is ¼ inch thick.  Excellent original condition with no cracks or damage.  249



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Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.42  EARLY WHALING PRINT.  Rare, original wood block print from “Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization” published in New York, dated Saturday, June 23, 1877, titled “A WHALING STATION ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST.”  This historically accurate print from the actual period depicts several whalemen flensing their query in the sea while others nearer the shore haul blubber to the tryworks.  In the background the stone station looms with the two tryworks chimneys belching smoke as scores of seagulls hover above.  A circular inset in the upper left shows a lookout diligently scanning the horizon for whales with his telescope.  This very desirable print is in perfect original condition with no fading or yellowing.  It has been professionally French-matted under glass with a double non-acidic mat mounted in a handsome beaded frame.  The large format  image measures 15 by 10 3/4 inches and the frame is 21 ½ by 17 inches.  A most interesting historic whaling print with very scarce West Coast subject matter.  Ready to display.  495 Special PackagingBack to Top

An example of this print is held in the prestigious collection of the Kendall Whaling Museum (now New Bedford Whaling Museum), as shown in the book “Kendall Whaling Prints,” page 118.  It is also depicted in the Time-Life series books “The Whalers” on page 145.  The print offered here is the genuine article!



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4.41  SCRIMSHAW CRIBBAGE BOARD.  Exceptional early 1900’s carved and inlaid cribbage board fashioned from the large tusk of a bull walrus.  This superb example of early Alaskan Eskimo trade output far surpasses the quality of most of its genre which were simply decorated with incised pictographs.  This cribbage board is actually carved in relief, and then, if that were not enough, it is inlaid with baleen separators throughout its length!  The charming vignettes depict a fox chasing an arctic hare on the left and a stately reindeer on the right.  In the center is the cribbage board with 6 successive rows of holes for the pegs used in that game.  The rows are meticulously inlaid with insets of whale baleen.  The base of the tusk was drilled to house pegs.  It rests on two sculpted feet composed of pinned and pegged whale tooth ivory.  The tusk measures 18 inches long by 2 5/8ths inches wide at the widest.  Excellent untouched original condition showing 100 years of age.  1495


Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.22

4.22 SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK. Michael McManus, "A Treasury of American Scrimshaw," 1997, Penguin Studios, New York. 150 pages, hard cover with dust jacket. Without a doubt this is THE most colorful and detailed pictorial reference book ever written on the topic of scrimshaw! Mr. McManus has included over 200 full color plates of the finest scrimshaw in the world, from the collections of the then Kendall Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum. The result is a stunning raisonné of every manner of scrimshaw ever produced. With each photograph the author has carefully documented size, composition and location of the object(s) and goes on to describe each fully, including maker (when known), history and function. Large format, 11 by 9 inches. As new condition and offered here at nearly the same price it sold for when originally published over 15 years ago! 39


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4.45

4.45  SCRIMSHAW LETTER OPENER.  Particularly fine 19th century whaleman-made letter opener fashioned entirely of whale tooth with inlays of silver and abalone!  This rarely found form of scrimshaw features a long, thin blade carved out of a large whale tooth affixed to a whale ivory handle with a silver pin.  The sculpted handle features multiple inlays of abalone shell in the form of diamonds, leaves and an acorn with silver stems, a rectangle and a square with triangles.  Workmanship is of the highest order and the effect is most pleasing.  8 ½ inches long overall.  The blade measures 5 inches long and the handle is 3/8ths inch thick.  Fabulous original condition in all respects with a very nice age patina to the ivory.   The blade is slightly warped with age -- quite typical of items fashioned from ivory when it was still “green.”  Actually this is a good sign, indicating it was made aboard a whaleship!  A real rarity in scrimshaw, very reasonably priced for the very exquisite work it embodies.Price Request  

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.


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4.40  BONE BUSK.  Authentic mid-19th century or earlier whaleman scrimshawed busk from the golden age of American whaling.  This superb example exemplifies the remarkable melding of utility and decoration at which the scrimshanders were so adept.  It consists of a solid piece of sperm whale panbone carefully carved down to less than 1/8th inch thick by 13 ¾ inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.  Its surface is profusely engraved with numerous traditional sailor folk art forms.  Starting at the top is an unusual urn containing a leafy plant.  Below it is a large heart with compass scribed designs.  There follows a circular “shield” with sunburst patterns graced by floral garlands on either side.  That is followed by the very endearing scene of a mother bird tending to her chicks in the nest.  An elongated diamond is the center vignette.  On the lower half is a classic pinwheel star, then several leafy vines with flowers, followed by an indented diamond shape.  The bottommost symbol is a very complex design which obviously has a profound meaning.  It appears to be the circular face of a sun dial, with wings, perhaps  indicating the fleeting passage of time.   All of these are contained within a very ornate leafy border which entirely encompasses the periphery of the busk.  This must have taken the sailor untold hours, indeed days, to construct!  Together with urn at the top symbolizing life;  the heart, love;  the nest symbolizing family and fertility;  the pinwheel star symbolizing the revival of Spring;  and the sun dial denoting time – this iconography tells the whaleman’s story to his loved one.  Excellent original condition in all respects.  The engraving is very clear and precise.  This rare example represents an intimate, tangible example of a sailor’s love, beautifully composed over 160 years ago!  695

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.32  SCRIMSHAW RACK.  Authentic 19th century whaleman-made coat or hat rack.  This genuine example of utilitarian scrimshaw consists of turned whale ivory pegs mounted on a solid teak backboard with inlaid whalebone support brackets.  The entire presentation is hand made showing little if any use and is in an excellent state of original preservation.  The backboard measures 20 ¼ inches wide and 7 inches high, 7 7/8 inches high inclusive of the brackets.  The whale tooth pegs protrude 3 inches.  A real rarity in scrimshaw, bargain priced!  495

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.15

4.15  SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK.  E. Norman Flayderman, “Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders Whales and Whalemen,” 1972, N. Flayderman & Co., New Milford, Connecticut.  297 pages exclusive of index, hard cloth cover with dust jacket.  Often referred to as The Bible of Scrimshaw.  Those desirous of adding this cornerstone reference to their library need no further elaboration.  The entire book is in as new condition, the dust cover only has slightly worn edges.  245



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4.51

 

4.51  SCRIMSHAW  BOWIE KNIFE/CRIBBAGE BOARD.  Truly exceptional Eskimo knife fashioned entirely out of a walrus tusk ivory.  This incredible example of native North American ethnic art was made by a master artisan with superb skills.  The long thin (about 1/16th inch) blade is made of a single solid piece of walrus tusk 10 inches long.  Once side is engraved (scrimshawed) with a dog team pulling a sled with an Eskimo mushing.  The reverse of the blade is engraved with the most delicate floral pattern in the form of lovely leaves.  The blade is mortised into a solid walrus tusk handle secured with two ivory pins.  A stout hilt separates the two.  The unique handle is decorated with an image of a stalking arctic weasel while the reverse is an amazingly precise cribbage board decorated with recurring leaf patterns.  Circa 1920.  14 3/8 inches long overall by 3 inches wide on the hilt.  Absolutely perfect original condition with a mellow age patina.  1895

In Dorothy Jean Ray’s monumental and ground breaking work “Eskimo Art, Tradition and Innovation in North Alaska” 1977, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, no examples are depicted which even approach the quality or construction of this rare example.  A genuine museum piece in every respect!

Ex.  Sotheby’s Parke Bernet

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.


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4.96  REFERENCE BOOK, "The WHALERS."  Certainly our favorite amongst all of the wonderful, awarding winning Time-Life series books The Seafarers, authored by noted maritime historian, A.B.C. Wipple, and published by Time, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia in 1979.  This book chronicles one of the most dangerous and exciting pursuits in American maritime history.  It opens with the primitive whale fishery begun when America was a struggling colony and ends in the waning days of whaling when America had advanced to preeminence as the world's leading industrial nation.  The intervening years were dominated by the remarkable struggle between man and the largest beast on earth, played out thousands of times.  It yielded oil for the nation's lamps and raw materials for its manufacturing.  Every aspect of that industry, both at sea and ashore is covered here.  The lives of the men, their ships, sweethearts, and their ports of call -- all make for fascinating reading.  Then there was that most amazing by-product of the whaling industry  SCRIMSHAW!  Beautifully illustrated in color and black white, with original paintings, drawings, diagrams, photographs and more!   Hard faux leather cover, 173 pages exclusive of index.  Unused condition.   Absolutely “must have” for the scrimshaw collector and/or whaling historian.
 WAS 99 NOW 39



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4.08  WHALING HARPOON.  Genuine, mid-19th century American toggle harpoon.  But this isn’t just any harpoon.  It is a scarce original example of the first type of successful pivoting head harpoon, called the “Temple Toggle,” which propelled the American whale fishery into preeminence in the world for the remainder of the 1800’s.  This hand-forged “iron” has a double barbed point which is pinned between the splined shaft.  A small hole is rove through the entire head to accommodate a matchstick-like piece of wood to hold the toggle in place when darted.  Once in the whale, the head would toggle and the small wooden pin would snap.  The shaft of this harpoon is hand-forged iron approximately 3/8ths of an inch in diameter.  It terminates in a closed forged iron cone known as a “socket” with a 1 5/8 inch opening to accommodate a press-fit wooden sapling as a pole.  This iron measures 34 ¼ inches long.  It is in its original “black iron” finish with some pitting  evidencing use at sea.  The shaft is slightly bent indicating that this harpoon was actually used in a whale hunt.  Price Request

“The earliest toggle irons were made with the toggle head positioned inside a shank clevis.  The head rotated on a pivot pin that was fastened in the clevis and passed through the toggle head.  Tradition attributes the invention of this harpoon to Lewis Temple, a New Bedford blacksmith, in 1848.  It has since been known as “Temple’s gig,” or the “Temple iron.”  It was quickly proven, widely accepted, and became standard in the industry.”  (Thomas G. Lytle, “Harpoons and Other Whalecraft,” 1984, The Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts.)

In Clifford Ashley’s American classic, “The Yankee Whaler,” 1926, Halcyon House, Garden City, New York, the author writes, “Over one hundred harpoon patent applications were filed in Washington, but one in particular, invented by Lewis Temple, a negro whalecraft/maker of New Bedford, in 1848, was of such extremely simple construction, and at the same time was so practical, that it was at once adopted to the exclusion of all others.  With but one slight change, to permit easier manufacture, it has continued to be the standard harpoon of the fishery.”


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4.05  REFERENCE BOOK.  *SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK. *Edouard A. Stackpole, "Scrimshaw At Mystic Seaport," 1958, Second printing 1966, The Marine Historical Association, Incorporated, Mystic, Connecticut, 53 pages, soft cover.  Well illustrated in black and white.  Written in 1955, Everett Crosby's landmark book, "Susan's Teeth and Much About Scrimshaw" was the first book ever published on the topic of scrimshaw.  This book offered here was published just 3 years later as a more scholarly and comprehensive "introduction to scrimshaw." Accordingly, the book's introduction is well worth quoting:  "A century ago the American whale fishery, the most extensive and lucrative in world history, was just past its peak. As a theme for adventure in industry, whaling had few peers. As a nursery for seamen it was unrivaled. By the same token it was one of the hardest and most brutal seafaring activities the world has ever known. The whalemen of New England established a record for daring and enterprise that was never equaled. At first whales were taken near shore.  In 1716, Capt. Christopher Hussey of Nantucket, sighted and killed a sperm whale at sea off that island, thus beginning one of the most exciting chapters in American Maritime history which culminated in voyages around the world sometime lasting 4 and 5 years!  It was during those long arduous, but often monotonous trips that scrimshaw gave creative relief to the sailors.  It is against this backdrop that the marvelous creations contained within these chapters are presented.”   15   


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4.06  WHALING PAMPHLET.  The “Whale Fishery of New England,” State Street Trust Company, Boston in cooperation with the Old Dartmouth Historical Society of New Bedford, first published in 1915.  This edition 1968.  68 pages, soft cover, profusely illustrated with old black and white images.  “An account, with illustrations and some interesting and amusing anecdotes  of the rise and fall of an industry which has made New England famous throughout the world.”   A classic.  Good condition.  15   


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4.99  HARPOON REFERENCE BOOK.   Thomas Lytle, “Harpoons and Other Whale Craft,” 1984, Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts, second edition 2005.  Hard cloth cover, 250 pages exclusive of index.  Without question, Mr. Lytle has compiled the “bible of whaling implements” in this book, with a comprehensive study of the history of whalecraft and the many ingenious forms into which it finally evolved.  Included are detailed descriptions, photographs, line drawings, period advertisements and patent material about harpoons, harpoon guns, bombs, trying out utensils and the many variations thereof.  Appendix A contains biographical sketches of the noted makers of whalecraft in American.  Appendix B is a photographic catalog with descriptions of the extensive collection of whalecraft in the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  Soon after the first edition was published the Kendall Whaling museum merged with the New Bedford Museum.  The benefit of this 2005 edition is that it contains updated information on the collection as expanded by the Kendall additions.  As new condition.  149


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4.89

 

4.89  HARPOON.  Genuine 19th century American whaling harpoon known as a “darting iron.”  This authentic toggle iron has a cast steel head affixed on a pivot to the hand-forged iron shank.  Indicative of real harpoons this example has a small hole right behind the pivot which runs through the head and shank.  A small piece of wood the size of a match stick would have been inserted into it preventing the toggle from moving until it impacted the whale, then the wood broke allowing the head to toggle.  Just forward of the rear of this harpoon at the tang is a hand-forged loop to which the whaling line would have been secured.  On this example the loop retains its original old wrapping to prevent “chafing” of the line and the potential loss of the valuable quarry.  The harpoon retains a very sharp point and edge.  It comes with a nice old, but not period, hand-made wooden protective cover.  This antique whaling veteran measures 38 1/2 inches long and just over 39 inches with its cover. Request Price 

According to Thomas Lytle, “Harpoons and Other Whalecraft,” 1984, The Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts, “The concept of fastening to and killing a whale simultaneously was important and the means for accomplishing this were pursued by many inventors.  The development of the darting gun began in 1865 and by 1872 it had replaced the hand-darted explosive harpoons.  Several types of darting guns were designed and all shared the same basic plan.  The gun was mounted on a standard harpoon pole and was hand darted in the manner of ordinary harpoons.  An explosive bomb lance was loaded into the gun barrel and a special harpoon, called the “darting gun iron,” was mounted by wedging a tapered mounting tang tightly into mounting lugs on the side of the gun.  The forged mounting tang (loop) replaced the socket on (ordinary) harpoons.”  A number of examples of such harpoons are held in the prestigious collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and are illustrated on page 214.

 

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4.62

 

4.62  SCRIMSHAW SPOON.  Genuine, mid-19th century sailor scrimshaw in the form of a large, functional serving spoon.  This finely crafted utensil is hand-carved from a large single solid piece of dense whalebone.  Attesting to its functionality and use, the working end exhibits roughness and wear, while the handle has a smooth almost polished appearance from handling.  12 ¾ inches long by 1 ¾ inches wide at the widest and generally 3/8ths inch thick.  Excellent original condition showing good honest use and a nice age patina.  A scarce example of utilitarian scrimshaw.  369

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.75


4.75 SCRIMSHAW  DIPPER.   Exquisite mid-1800s American whaleman-made dipper used to apportion a sailor’s ration of grog or water.  This splendid piece of functional shipboard scrimshaw consists of a coconut shell bowl fitted to a whale ivory connector using copper rivets.  The bowl is carved around the rim with a single scribe which provides a smooth lip. The connector, in the shape of a heart, attaches to the sculpted rich mahogany handle which terminates in a beautifully carved fist made of whale tooth ivory holding a suspension loop.  The anatomically perfect fist is even depicted with fingernails on each finger!  It has a distinctive cuff inlaid with 3 mother-of-pearl buttons and is connected to the handle with a baleen separator.  An ivory suspension loop, reinforced with a brass rod is contained within the grasp of the fist.  The quality and condition of this dipper defy elaboration.  Signs of actual use and staining are on the inside of the bowl.  14 inches long and 3 ¾ inches wide on the bowl.  Perfect condition.  It is museum quality and worthy of the finest collection --  certainly one of the finest examples of its type ever! Request Price 

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.


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4.90 SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK. Edouard A. Stackpole, "Scrimshaw At Mystic Seaport," 1958, Second printing 1966, The Marine Historical Association, Incorporated, Mystic, Connecticut, 53 pages, hard cloth cover with dust jacket. Well illustrated in black and white. Written in 1955, Everett Crosby's landmark book, "Susan's Teeth and Much About Scrimshaw" was the first book ever published on the topic of scrimshaw. The book offered here was published just 3 years later as a more scholarly and comprehensive "introduction to scrimshaw." Accordingly, the book's introduction is well worth quoting: "A century ago the American whale fishery, the most extensive and lucrative in world history, was just past its peak. As a theme for adventure in industry, whaling had few peers. As a nursery for seamen it was unrivaled. By the same token it was one of the hardest and most brutal seafaring activities the world has ever known. The whalemen of New England established a record for daring and enterprise that was never equaled. At first whales were taken near shore. In 1716, Capt. Christopher Hussey of Nantucket, sighted and killed a sperm whale at sea off that island, thus beginning one of the most exciting chapters in American Maritime history which culminated in voyages around the world sometime lasting 4 and 5 years! It was during those long arduous, but often monotonous trips that scrimshaw gave creative relief to the sailors. It is against this backdrop that the marvelous creations contained within these chapters are presented." Excellent original condition. Ex. Libris. 19

 

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4.54

4.54  SCRIMSHAW LETTER OPENER.  Genuine mid-19th century American whaleman-made utilitarian scrimshaw in the form of a rarely found letter opener.  This unique example is constructed entirely of the dense panbone of a sperm whale’s jaw.  The long thin blade is slightly thicker down the middle, tapering to a fine edge on both sides.  It is attached to the handle with a perfect mortised fit using two silver rivets to hold it in place.  The joint is decoratively-rounded with a carved ridge at the base of the handle.  This letter opener measures 9 ¼ inches long overall.  The blade is 5 ¾ inches and the handle is 5 inches (accounting for the joint).  Outstanding original condition with a nice age patina indicative of its 150+ years.  329

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

 

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4.39

4.39  SCRIMSHAW PIE CRIMPER.  Fine, mid-19th century American jagging wheel made entirely out of whale tooth ivory.  The finely crenelated wheel is suspended on a silver axle running through two prongs on the front of the one-piece handle.  The slightly curving body of the handle is nicely reticulated with open work designs and a large heart.  The edges are decoratively carved with recurring scallops and ridges.  Outstanding original condition with no cracks, breaks or chips.  The handle has acquired a rich age patina and is slightly twisted – a good indicator of old whale tooth ivory.  5 ¾ inches long overall and 1 5/8ths inches wide at the widest.  The wheel is 1 7/8th inches in diameter. Request Price 

From the collection of a Fairhaven, Massachusetts whaling family.

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

 

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Also see catalog pages 2, 11 and 20 for more sailor-made folk art items.

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