So what is scrimshaw, exactly? Well, you’ve heard of carving and whittling? Scrimshaw is a close relative of both art forms except that it was done mainly by sailors, whale men and other nautical crew members while at sea primarily during the early and mid-19th century. Scrimshaw is actually seen as an American art form due to the overwhelming number of American whaling ships at sea during the 1800s. Scrimshaw carving, typically depicting various nautical scenes and motifs, was traditionally done using materials taken from a variety of common sea animals including whales, walruses, porpoises and mollusks. Edward Burdett, Frederick Myrick and Nathaniel Sylvester Finney are at the “head of their class” as far as renowned scrimshaw craftsmen are concerned. Finney managed to develop his talent into a lucrative business after opening a gallery in San Francisco following his time at sea. Genuine scrimshaw (unfortunately there are a lot of fakes on the market posing as genuine) is highly collectible. FYI: President John F. Kennedy was an avid collector of scrimshaw!
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