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Thurtene Collection: Scrimshaw


One of the most beautiful artifacts in the University Archives is a scrimshaw (whale's tooth), presented to the University by the parents of John Wayne Latchum, who died in 1971 while a senior at Washington University. The scrimshaw, which features images of a sailor and of a sailing ship, was completed in the 1800s and passed down through generations of the Latchum family before being given to the University.

While a student at the University, John Latchum was a member of Thurtene, the junior honorary society. In 1975, Thurtene established a scholarship fund in his memory, known as the John Wayne Latchum-Thurtene-Chimes Scholarship Fund (Chimes is another junior honorary society at the University). The scholarship is supported by proceeds from Thurtene's annual spring carnival and sales of Ternion, the campus telephone directory.

View the scrimshaw

(Special thanks to David Kilper, of the Photographic Services Unit, Washington University Public Affairs Office, for providing the photos).

  1. Front view, showing the sailor (JPEG) - The inscription at the base reads:
    "Presented to Thurtene Honorary-Washington University In memory of John Wayne Latchum - Class of 1972 by his Pa and Ma"
  2. Back view, showing the sailing ship (JPEG) - The inscription at the base reads:

    "The Whaling Men, Their Sailing Ships have seen their Days of Glory go by But the Time for Helping Our Fellow Man Will Never Die"

For information concerning the history of scrimshaw or on individual pieces of scrimshaw, please consult your local public library or the Mariners' Museum, in Newport News, VA.