The scrimshaw made by an African sailor fighting the slave trade in 1827

Matthew Sheldon, Head of the Curatorial Department at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, talks about a scrimshaw belonging to an African sailor who helped the Royal Navy of the 1820s fight the transatlantic slave trade

A scrimshaw would usually be a carving in whalebone or walrus ivory and were often very intricate and highly designed decorative pieces. This one is rather different because it’s not whale or walrus, but ivory from a baby elephant collected in West Africa and it has quite an amazing story to tell.

What’s immediately unusual is the inscription: ‘Jim Freeman, Krouman HMS Sybille Commdr Collier 1827’ and ‘Jim Freeman Head Krouman, Owen Glendower Sir Roberts Mends Commdr 1823’.

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