Country of Origin: United States of America
Other: 3 in. diameter x 6 ft. 6 3/4 in. long, 28.5 lb. (7.6 x 200cm, 12.9kg)
Other (rope): 108 in. long (274.3cm)
Other (warhead): 10 lb. (4.5kg)
Other (body): 7.5 lb. (3.4kg)
Other (tail section, toggle and rope): 10.5 lb. (4.8kg)
Overall, cast iron; rope, hemp
This is the California whaling rocket harpoon of the 1870s-80s. It was meant to kill whales in a more effective way than hand-held harpoons. Whaling was then an important industry in which whale oil was used for lighting, lubricants, and other purposes. Standard hand-held harpoons were dangerous because they required skill and strength to use and a wounded whale would often strike a whaleboat, destroying the boat and killing the men.
The California Whaling Rocket Harpoon was a modified from the Roys-Liliendahl whaling rocket harpoon developed by the whaling captain Thomas Welcome Roys and Gustavus A. Liliendahl. The California harpoon was used in whaling along the California coast. This harpoon was purchased by the Smithsonian from C.D. Voy in the 1880s.
Gift of Charles D. Voy