Scrimshaw, an Original American Art Form

Shared by Peter Driscoll - 9/17/2014

I am forwarding a letter I sent to President Obama earlier this year. I haven't heard from him.

February 19, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington DC

Dear President Obama:

I have read your National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, an issue that I have followed and supported for many years. I write to express my hope that you would agree to retract this order for the following reasons.

First, it will not reduce the poaching of elephants. Restrictions of trade in ivory only serve to increase their slaughter as the price on the black market increases its value to poachers. (See enclosure “Ivory’s Cultural Significance” produced by the International Ivory Society, (I ‘m a member).

Second, there are statutes already in place (such as CITES, etc.) that prohibit any importation of ivory; I would only urge that all ivory confiscated by US Customs should be sold - legally - and the money used to enforce the prosecution of those operating illegally in this regard. I was disappointed to read that our Government crushed six tons of ivory art in Denver, CO several months ago, especially after recently seeing the movies “The Monuments Men” and “The Rape of Europa.”

Finally, I urge that as these strategies are finalized by the Fish and Wildlife Agency all interested agencies and organizations are heard. This will result in the achievement of the worthwhile goal of ensuring the elephant species is preserved. Participants might include Museum Curators, Antique Specialists, Historians, Anthropologists and many others who would happily share their expertise.

Since you have taken an Art History course (I heard about that on the ABC evening news tonight), you probably know that scrimshaw (my art specialty) is considered to be an original American Art Form, most noted by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, PhD, Director Emeritus, Kendall Whaling Museum, as well as many others. What you may not know about scrimshaw is that in 1962 Jackie Kennedy commissioned a New England scrimshaw artist, Milton Delano, to create the presidential seal on a Sperm Whale tooth; it was given to Mr. Kennedy on the following Christmas morning. At President Kennedy’s death, the First Lady put two items in his casket - her wedding ring, and the beautiful scrimshaw engraving. It is probably the most valuable and certainly the most inaccessible piece of art in the world. (Mansions, Mansards & Mills “The president’s scrimshander” [sic] by Peggy Medeiros, Nov. 1, 2013).

I am enclosing a framed piece of art with this letter. Made in 2008, and it reads “YES WE CAN.” It is one of my scrimshaws, engraved on an antique ivory piano key.

Mr. President, with all due respect, please don’t change “Yes We Can” to “No You Can’t.” It simply won’t solve the problem. It will put me, and thousands of other law-abiding Americans, out of work.

With Greatest Regard,

Peter Driscoll, Scrimshaw Artist

Encl: “Mansions, Mansards & Mills” (re Presidential Seal Scrimshaw)
“Ivory’s Cultural Significance” (IIS)
Framed Ivory Scrimshaw “YES WE CAN”

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