0184. Whaling Spade – American, Sliver Spade on short wooden pole. Blade length – 10-3/8”. Blade width – 7-1/8”. OA length of iron spade – 19-1/2”. OA length with wooden pole – 62-1/8”. Socket seam closed and “invisible”. OD of socket at open end – 1-5/8”. Socket fastened to wood pole by two iron pins through mounting holes 180 degrees apart and 1-1/2” from open end. One old nail (?) head is protruding somewhat and the edges of the head are rolled upward. The other pin has the head broken completely off. A short (1-1/2” long) prominent keel is present on each side of the blade forward of the attachment point of the shank to the blade. The wood pole is rather crudely shaped into a dowel shaped piece 1-3/8” in diameter and 42-1/2” long. It is questionable whether this handle is original to the spade. There is a modest amount of movement of the pole within the socket. On one side of the blade near its center is the maker’s mark reading H. N. Dean below which is impressed CAST STEEL The metal is light to moderately pitted and the color is rusty brown. Late 19th Century. Condition is good.
Henry N. Dean was a New Bedford blacksmith who was in business alone (without partners) from 1867 to 1889. (see Record 0183 for more detail on Dean’s career). Sliver spades were used on long poles from the cutting stage in decapitating whales. “Slivers” were the connective tissue separating the head from the body. These spades were also used on short poles as Blubber Room Spades. This pole could have been cut down from the original long one either for use in the Blubber Room or for display purposes. As is often the case, it is hard to tell if this is original or a replacement pole. As there are no traces of whale oil impregnation, I am leaning toward its being a replacement – but uncertain of that.
From the Robert Hellman Whaling Collection with description and notes from his data base.