J.S. King's Scrimshaw History Page

Definition and History of Scrimshaw

Today's definition of scrimshaw varies widely.  Scrimshaw is usually defined as the carving or embellishment of ivory, bone or antler.  Commonly the term scrimshaw refers to nautical scenes done in the whaling and seafaring comminities of North America and England dating from the 1600's to the present.  These scenes were most often done on whale teeth and the artist was referred to as a scrimshander.  However, the term scrimshaw includes a much broader historical, geographic as well as cultural range.  Mammoth carvings found on bone in the caves of Lascaux, France dating as early as 25,000 B.C. could be considered the earliest known examples of scrimshaw.  Other examples could be credited to artisans throughout Asia and the North American in many different time periods.  Fortunately today we are able to work on the very same materials that have been used for thousands of years.

In the small amount of research that I have done I have come across an interesting coincidence.  In an online article Author Stuart M. Frank of the New Bedford Whaling Museum discusses the names of several first generation "whaling scrimshanders".  Among the names that he has produced is a South Seas whaling captain. J.S. King of London and Liverpool, circa 1817-23.  Interesting...  To read this article click on the link below.



Scrimshaw: "Ingenious contrivances...in the contrivances of ocean leisure" by Stewart M. Frank (New Bedford Whaling Museum)



Email me at scrimart@jsking.50megs.com