Purposeful Parts

“The Whale’s Utility to Man”, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum.

Whalebone was used to make a variety of feminine products not simply corsets.

Such items included:
Fashion: skirt hoops, umbrella ribs

Advertisement for Whalebone umbrella, Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Home: pie crimpers/ jagging wheels

Ivory Jagging Wheel, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Greenwood

Soap:

Soapine Advertisement, Whale Sales 1853-92, Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Food chopper:

Scrimshaw Food Chopper, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Gift of Spencer F. Baird.

Thimble eye, stamps, and furniture springs:

Whalebone Thimble Eye, Smithsonian National Museum of American History,Gift of E. H. Cook.

As very little of the whale went to waste, it was a source for a variety of other products as well.

Whale blubber: was turned into oil for candles and to oil products (sewing machine, clocks)

Spermaceti Candles, Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Sewing Machine Sperm Oil, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Panbone: part of a sperm whale’s jaw, was used as a canvas for whalers to engrave and carve into producing what is known as scrimshaw.

Scrimshaw Tooth, 1840-5,Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Gift of Frederic A. Delano.

Ambergris: a waxy substance from a sperm whale’s intestines found in whales’ stomach or on shore.  Perfume makers used it as fixative to prolong perfume scents.

Ambergis, Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

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