Sunday, May 03, 2015

From Whale Jaws to Corsets

In the early 1800s sailors on whaling ships carved elaborate designs on whalebone to pass the time on long voyages.

A scrimshaw “whalebone” busk housed at the Smithsonian Institute’s
“On the Water” collection features a cityscape on the front
and a love poem on the back. (Via

Sometimes these were made into busks, flat rigid objects placed into a narrow pocket in the front of a corset between a woman’s breasts. These were tied into place to give the bust lift and help keep the corset straight and upright. Busks ranged from 10 to 16 inches in length, the longest of which would make sitting impossible for most women. 

An example of a corset with a pocket for a busk at the 2012
“Underneath It All” exhibition at the Missouri History Museum
in St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Rosin)

They were constant, and uncomfortable, reminders of a sailor's love.

Much more: Collectors Weekly 

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