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Wood, Charles H., fl. 1840–1870
[Engraved shell depicting the Great Eastern steamship] [realia].
[London?] : [C.H. Wood], [ca. 1859]
Physical Description:
1 Turbo (gastropod) shell : mother of pearl, engraved ; 120 x 125 x 80 mm
Rare Books and Manuscripts
VM383.G7 E54 1859 Flat
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Copyright Information
Three-Dimensional Artifacts
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), the Great Eastern steamship was by far the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch. She was propelled by a combination of steam-driven paddlewheels and propellers, plus sail, and had the unique feature of a double hull. She plied for several years as a passenger liner between Britain and America before being converted to a cable-laying ship and laying the first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866.
Encyclopedia of American Folk Art, p. 298
Frank, S.M. Biographical dictionary of scrimshaw artists in the Kendall Whaling Museum, p. 26
Large conch shell (of the gastropod Turbo) on which is engraved a view of the Great Eastern steamship and an inscription giving its dimensions. The shell, perhaps from the species Turbo marmoratus, is entirely intact, and mostly coated in mother of pearl. The illustration and text were presumably incised with a penknife, and inked in black, in the manner of scrimshaw. The text reads: "The Gt. Eastn. Sm. Ship. 25000 tons. Power, 2600 hs. Length, 692 ft. Breadth, 83 ft. Depth, 60 ft."
Although the handiwork is unsigned, the work on the shell was probably executed by Charles H. Wood. Not much is known about Wood; he may have at one point been a knife manufacturer or machinist, active in London. Contemporary accounts note that examples of his engraved shell penwork could be seen at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the International Exhibition of 1862. Wood is also known to have executed designs on shells depicting the steamships Great Britain and Great Western, which he presented to Queen Victoria. He subsequently presented engraved shells to the Lord Mayors of London and York. Specializing in nautical subjects, Wood also appears to have sold his wares in the ports of New York and Sydney, and other examples of his work are present in the British Museum and the Hull Town Docks Museum.
Subject Terms:
Great Eastern (Steamship)
Steamboats -- Great Britain.
Gastropoda (class)
Conch (shell)
Mother of pearl.
IIIF Manifest:

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