Whalebone

A man beating a boy with a cane (used for loading a musket), made from flexible and supple whalebone.

Whalebone, more precisely called baleen, are the bristles of a filter-feeder system inside the mouths of baleen whales. Baleen is made of keratin, the same substance found in human fingernails and hair.

Baleen is supple, i.e. when a sideways force is applied, it will bend without breaking, and when let go, it will snap back. When the whaling industry were at its height, there was a great demand for whalebone, which was used in many products such as collar stiffeners, buggy whips, parasol ribs, crinoline petticoats and corset stays. Today, synthetic materials are now usually used for similar purposes, especially plastic and fibre glass. Despite its suppleness, whalebone was not commonly used to make canes for corporal punishment.

The word whalebone can also refer to the bones of whales, which has also been used as a material, especially as a cheaper substitute for ivory in carving.

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