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Item Details

Lot #31
Sold For$1,700.00(hammer price)
 $2,040.00(price including buyer's premium)
Last UpdatedJanuary 14, 2020


Two-tier box with wooden spikes at the corners, inlaid polychrome scrimshaw whalebone or mother-of pearl panels, and polychrome engraved trim along the perimeter of both tiers. Trim is of an unknown substance, possibly baleen, shell or wood, and is engraved with a red flowering vine design. Lower tier's single drawer with central diamond panel engraved MA" in black script lettering surrounded by a red border. Front legs with rectangular panels engraved with a red and green flowering vine design. Semicircular upper tier's lift top with seven diamond panels engraved with a red and green floral sprig. Tier fitted with nine interior spikes for holding thread, which is dispensed through nozzle-style apertures mounted to exterior. Swift's whalebone shaft is mounted to the interior of the upper tier, penetrates through the box top, and is topped with a turned whale ivory yarn cup. Whalebone cage with unusual adjustment mechanism utilizing a turned whale ivory and steel post that is inserted into a series of holes on the shaft. Swift's whale ivory components, including yard cup, post and adjustment rings, all with red sealing wax inlay. Inscribed on underside of box "James Archer Captain, Ship Afton For my wife Mary. 1854". Retains slip of paper with handwritten inscription "Captain James Archer of Nantucket for wife Mary on Bark Afton Between 1853-1856". Overall height including box and swift approx. 19". Cage diameter approx. 14". Box width 9.25". Depth 6".
Purchased at an antiques show at St. Mary's Church, Carmel, California.

According to Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and founder of the Scrimshaw Forensics Laboratory, James Archer was born on Nantucket in 1810 and served aboard New Bedford whaling vessels, as first mate on the Benjamin Tucker and Barclay, and as master of the bark Afton for an 1853-1856 voyage. In addition to this piece, he is known to have made a dressing case inlaid with ivory and ebony for his wife Mary.
The Collection of Sam and Donna McDowell.
This item is not available for international delivery without CITES and other necessary permits. Obtaining these permits is the obligation of the buyer. Please be aware of current international and domestic regulations and bid accordingly.


Some lifting of trim and other wear commensurate with age and material. Cage reinforced with wire, thread, newer ribbons, etc. Two thread dispensing nozzles missing. Box is possibly commercially produced.

This item will not be shipped internationally without a CITES permit. Obtaining CITES and any other necessary permits is the obligation of the buyer.

The description of the item above may not be the final version used in the catalog. The descriptions are as yet unedited and may contain mistakes. The description, estimates and photos could all be wrong. In rare cases they may not end up in this sale. Once the items have received their lot number the descriptions will have been changed if needed.

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