Between the late 18th century and early 19th century, sailors aboard whaling ships began engraving decorative scenes into discarded whale bones and teeth. This practice, also known as scrimshaw, grew in popularity alongside the rise of the whaling industry in New England. Scrimshaw provided sailors an outlet for their boredom over the course of sometimes years-long voyages. Designs often varied between images of whales, ships, or loved-ones back home, but the technique remained the same. It required carving the desired outline along the surface and filling in the space with oil lamp soot to make the lines pop against the light background.
This is a resin, scrimshaw inspired ornament that captures the Turner Street side of the House of the Seven Gables in etched detail. Along the bottom of the ornament is written, “Salem, MA, The House of the Seven Gables.”