Pair of Sperm Whale Tooth, decorated with young women
KINCM:2005.2300.1, KINCM:2005.2300.2, Hull Maritime Museum

These decorated sperm whale teeth include well-executed etchings of young, well-dressed girls in garden settings. Whalers often copied or directly traced such images from women’s magazines, which they took with them on board whaling voyages, includingd such titles as Godey’s Lady’s Book and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The delicate and highly feminine subject matter, offers a contrast to the brutality that found onboard the whale ship, and suggests, perhaps, gifts for fashionable, literature loved ones back home, as well as potentially erotic ways to spend time for the whalers on their long voyages.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum