In the mid to late 1800s when Yankee whaling ships began to seek Bowhead whales in the Bering sea and beyond into the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaskan Eskimos were quick to visit and serve as crewmen on the whale ships. There they picked up the crafts of engraving Walrus ivory in a scrimshaw manner, and also in the construction of Shaker style-oval boxes, having telescoping lids and expanded “tongues” of the overlapping sheets of bent baleen. This box, which is 7 3/8 inches long, 5 ½ inches wide, and 3 inches deep, is typical of that of the Yankee whale man’s effort. Its probable Eskimo origin is due to (a), its present in a lot of Eskimo goods at auction, and (b) the presence of an Eskimo-like name “ ? Hayok” scratched on the underside of the wooden lid. This lid also bears the marks of two divider circular scribes to create the oval shape of the box (in true Yankee style). The box has wooden top and bottom, apparently of spruce that was available to the Eskimos from drift wood flowing into the Eskimo areas from the Yukon and MacKensie Rivers. The baleen (this is “black baleen” from Bowhead wales is bent on itself, with over lapping tongues—one on the lid, and two on the body of he box. The one on the lid has attractively scalloped edges. The two on the body have straight tapered edges (the distal parts of which are broken. There is abundant damage in the baleen from insect larvae that feed on baleen (this is considered to be “good” damage, helping to certify the age and the fact that it truly is baleen. The baleen is fastened to itself in the overlaps, and to the underlying wood of the top and bottom with small metal tacks. Some of these are magnetic, and others not.
This box is unusual for its apparent construction by a native, probably with the tutelage of a whale man. Easily Good
Price - $350.00