Whaling Collection, ca. 1850
Appraised Value: $10,200 - $15,200
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:02)
Clocks & Watches, Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture
Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts, Partner, Executive Vice President & Chief Auctioneer
GUEST: Jason Southworth was the second husband of my third great-grandmother, Ann Jenison Wood. Ann was originally married to a man named Lorenzo Wood, who was a whaler out of Watertown, New York, who went on ships that left from New Bedford, Massachusetts. And she kept a daybook of all her feelings about Lorenzo. And originally in her daybook, she would write of her unending love for him and how she missed him. And eventually those entries turned into disdain for him because he was gone so much. Somewhere along the line, Jason Southworth came into the scene, and he and Ann exchanged love poems that were published in the Watertown, New York, newspaper.
APPRAISER: This is simultaneous, still, with her marriage
GUEST: Yes, and eventually Jason went out as a whaler, and he shipped out of New Bedford as well a ship called the Charles Maxwell, and while he was there, he carved the whale's tooth and brought it back with him.
APPRAISER: When was this tooth carved?
GUEST: Sometime between 1848 and 1852. And when he also came back, he told her that he couldn't find Lorenzo. And they eventually got married and somehow ended up in Wisconsin, but after Jason and Ann got married, Lorenzo is back on the scene. So we have never found any dissolution of their marriage. We don't know if they did get divorced or... We're missing that piece of the story, but I learned of this information from a variety of letters that Ann's--
APPRAISER: Some of which are here, right?
GUEST: --that Ann's son, Luther, would write to her.
APPRAISER: This is quite a story. It only adds to the excitement that I had when I saw the tooth. It's particularly large. It's almost 7 &1/2 inches, so this is a large whale's tooth. This particular side of the tooth illustrates beauty and innocence. It's a lovely scene, kind of standard. In fact, it may well have had its sources, let's say, in a print. This may have been copied from something. Um, but more to the point, when we... when we turn the tooth over, there's this very exciting scene that I can only imagine was done from life. This is an action-filled whaling scene, and you can see on this, these people are in big trouble. This was a very dangerous business. A lot of people lost their lives. It was an awfully difficult way to make a living. But the very significant thing is not only the beauty of this tooth, the detailed scrimshaw designs, the size of the tooth, but the fact that you have such a rich and detailed history of the man who made it, history of the vessel and so on. Collectors and museums today love objects with provenance. It brings this piece really very much to life. This busk, which would have been a device used in a woman's corset as a stave-- not as exciting an object and worth perhaps a few hundred dollars. Do you have any idea as to what the value of the tooth might be?
GUEST: No, I've looked on the Internet and I see a variety of prices and I actually have no idea. They're kind of all over the map.
APPRAISER: We have to take the total package of all the letters that richly illustrate what we're seeing here on the tooth itself... make for me a very exciting find. I think certainly the tooth could well be valued at, let's say, $10,000 or $15,000.
GUEST: Oh, wow.
APPRAISER: It's a great item.
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