"Must I Cut" tooth, American, circa 1835. Extremely rare and important whale's tooth which is telling the story of three whaleboats and a sperm whale. The graphic story is depicted in three sequences. Each sequence has a cartoon effect by circling words and connecting the line to one of the figures as is commonly done in cartoons.
Sequence One: At the center of the tooth, there is an engraved sperm whale. His mouth is open and he is breeching. There is a whale boat behind him which has just thrown a harpoon into his back. There is a second whaleboat in front of the whale with a figure about to throw a double fluke harpoon. Below the whale, there is a third whaleboat which has already harpooned the whale and a figure about to throw a second. At the stern, the figure is saying in an encircled inscription: "Stern all!"
Sequence Two: There is a breeching sperm whale and facing the sperm whale is a whaleboat and the figure at the bow is saying: "MUST I CUT?"
This figure is holding a hatchet up in the air about to cut the line.
Sequence Three: To the right hand side, there is a sperm whale who has smashed the whaleboat into two pieces. Four of the figures are in the air and two figures remain on the damaged boat. The figure at the stern is saying: "CUT LINE".
All of the whaleboats have six figures and all the oars have a stylized and over sized appearance. This tooth has the most graphic depiction of whaling, we have seen, and it is the only tooth which we have examined with a cartoon effect. The primitive treatment and sequencial portrayal of the images can be compared to the American Indian story drawings. (SC-1136)
Condition: The tooth has a beautiful age patina. There is typical minor age cracks. There is an old chip at the tip of the tooth.
Dimensions: Length 9 inches; Width 2 1/2 inches.
Exhibited at the Cahoon Museum Scrimshaw Exhibition titled “Scrimshaw the Whaler’s Art” June 29 - October 30, 2022.
Reference: This item is illustrated and described on page 100 of the book Wandering Whaleman and Their Art: A Collection of Scrimshaw Masterpieces by Alan Granby, Published by Alan Granby 2022.