"All About Scrimshaw" Gallery Tour and Seminar at Eldred's

  • EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • November 05, 2019

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One of 250 pieces of scrimshaw on view

East Dennis, Mass. – Eldred’s, in conjunction with the Antique Scrimshaw Collectors Association, will host an informal seminar “All About Scrimshaw” at its auction gallery in East Dennis on Wednesday, November 20 at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to anyone with an interest in scrimshaw, whether just admiring it at museums or owning a vast collection already.

The event is being held the day before Eldred’s Marine Sale auction, which includes more than 250 pieces of scrimshaw. Attendees will be able to tour the auction exhibit, with Eldred’s staff and ASCA members on-hand to answer questions. There will also be brief presentations about starting (or growing!) a collection, identifying genuine pieces of scrimshaw, and resources to learn more about the art form.

“Our staff and the ASCA members are passionate about scrimshaw and we love to share our enthusiasm and knowledge with others. This event is a great opportunity for a novice collector to handle a variety of scrimshaw up-close,” says Joshua Eldred, president of the auction firm. “Everything from small utilitarian carvings to enormous engraved whale’s teeth will be on display, at a wide range of price points.”

Scrimshaw, the art of engraving on or producing utilitarian items made from whale teeth, whalebone, baleen and other material encountered in the whaling trade, was a means to deter boredom on very long whaling voyages, which sometimes lasted five years or more. Scrimshaw crafted by whalemen ranged from primitive engravings on teeth to elaborate bone and ivory constructions. These remarkable pieces were made as gifts, as personal mementos, and for trade, though the vast majority were unsigned and undated.

Whaling was a vitally important industry for the fledgling United States throughout most of the 19th Century, when whalemen, mostly from New England, sailed the world’s oceans in search of sperm whales, not for their ivory or bone, but for their oil, which was used to light the world’s lamps and lubricate the world’s machines. Notably, the whaling industry was one of the most ethnically and racially diverse in the history of the world, where free men of color, escaped slaves, Native Americans, Azoreans, Cape Verdeans and others were equally valued aboard whaleships as white men and were offered the same opportunities for economic achievement.  

Until the mid-20th Century, scrimshaw was mostly handed down in families, or collected by New Englanders who saw it in antique shops. Interest in the art form increased substantially once President John F. Kennedy’s extensive collection was publicized. Scrimshaw continues to be a popular collectible because of its historic and artistic merits and value.

“We know starting a collection can be daunting, but this event should provide a comfortable and casual introduction to the field. And for those who already have a sizable collection, it will be a great opportunity to socialize with fellow collectors,” Eldred remarked.

Although the event is free, advance registration is requested. To RSVP, please contact Cheryl Stewart, head of marketing at Eldred’s, at 508-385-3116 or cheryl@eldreds.com. The event will be held at Eldred’s headquarters at 1483 Route 6A in East Dennis, Mass.

About Eldred’s

The Robert C. Eldred Co. is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house, now in its third generation of ownership under the Eldred and Schofield families. In addition to its headquarters on Cape Cod’s historic Old King’s Highway in East Dennis, Mass., the firm also has an office at 5 Roosevelt Avenue in Mystic, Ct. Eldred’s, the nation’s leading marine art auction house, conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, sporting art and collectibles in addition to marine art. The firm was recently named one of the top worldwide auction houses by Art +Auction and holds auction records across a wide range of collecting areas. For more information please call (508) 385-3116 or email info@eldreds.com.

About ASCA

The Antique Scrimshaw Collectors Association, Inc., was founded in 2014 in Sandwich, Massachusetts. ASCA is incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is registered as a tax-exempt non-profit under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The mission of ASCA is to promote and protect the trade, collection and study of antique scrimshaw, the historic and culturally important folk art of the whalemen.
The mailing address is Antique Scrimshaw Collectors Association, P.O. Box 1956, Sandwich, MA 02563.

1483 Route 6a
East Dennis, Massachusetts
About Eldred's

Eldred's is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house. Approximately 25 auctions are held year-round encompassing Americana, Asian Art, Americana and European paintings, European decorative art, Maritime antiques, and collectibles.

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