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Whalers commonly made love tokens while they were at sea. Amongst the items that were made were busks which were a stiffening brace that fitted inside a pocket on a corset, usually centred between the breasts and reaching down to the waist. They were worked with symbols of love and fealty. The acceptance of a busk is immediately obvious with sexual connotations, physical contact with the ladie's breast and proximity to the heart, all powerful symbols of reciprocal affection.

Baleen (the flexible straining plate of particular whales), was possibly the best material for a busk available at that time as it was flexible but firm, thin and strong and lightweight. Erronously referred to as whalebone

This particular busk was prepared by a whaler on the whaling ship ALPHA of P P (Rhode Island and Providence Plantations). Engraved ina series of panels relating to whaling, surmounted by a heart and an engraving of a ship in the bottom panel. On the verso and sadly now illegible, a lightly engraved endearment beginning with "Accept ... " and ending with the presenter  "... James".

The ALPHA was actively whaling in the Western Pacific in the middle of the nineteenth century,and is recorded in Sydney in 1847.

Length. 455 mm. (17 7/8 inches).

Some insect damage  normally associated with baleen objects. 


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