The British were not interested. [4] Most of the fatty acids are unsaturated. The most common fatty acids are oleic acid and its isomers (18:1 carbon chains).[11]. [8][9], The composition of whale oil varies with the species from which it was sourced and the method by which it was harvested and processed. Whale oil has low viscosity (lower than olive oil),[6] is clear, and varies in color from a bright honey yellow to a dark brown, according to the condition of the blubber from which it has been extracted and the refinement through which it went. By the 1800s, the whaling industry off the Atlantic coast was in full swing, and a waxy substance from the whale's head, called spermaceti, made excellent, durable and much less foul-smelling candles and lamp oil. And beyond the oil derived from whales, even their bones, in an era before the invention of plastic, was used to make a wide variety of consumer goods. By the early years of the 20th century, though, development of the internal combustion engine shifted demand of petroleum products to automobiles--the market that has driven demand ever since. Whalebone was also used for collar stays, buggy whips, and toys. $1.92. Oil was the main product sought from whales, and it was used to lubricate machinery and to provide illumination by burning it in lamps. Oil from the nose of the Sperm Whale, known as “ spermaceti“, was the most widely sought after fuel, and was available only to the rich at an 1800s cost of $2.00/gallon, which today equates to $200/gallon. [17] It was replaced in the late 19th century by cheaper, more efficient, and longer-lasting kerosene. Lubricants. For the blog commonly known as. This is said to have saved whales from extinction. [16] See Aboriginal whaling. Its remarkable flexibility even caused it to be used as the springs in early typewriters. The whale fishery, … Most whales were hunted for their blubber, which was boiled and turned into "whale oil," used as fuel for lamps and candles. The sperm whale supplied spermaceti, an oily, waxy substance in great quantity and the right whale also supplied large amounts of whale bone. The stamps were inked into a whaleship’s log, with an empty space for writing in the number. In the 1800s Whaling Became an Industry [21], In the UK, whale oil was used in toolmaking machinery as a high-quality lubricant. They yield plenty of high-quality oil and whalebone,[5] and as a result, they were hunted nearly to extinction. Whale bone, ivory, and baleen were prized as well, and especially baleen. As baleen was tough yet flexible, it could be used in a number of practical applications. Dolphin and whale meat are both sold in tins, the fins are used to make soup and the organs can be used for research. Blubber is also turned into fuel for lamps, wax for candles and grease for machinery. The oil was waxy, and was commonly used in making candles. This is the stiff… [1] Whale oil from the bowhead whale was sometimes known as train oil, which comes from the Dutch word traan ("tear" or "drop"). A clean-burning kerosene lamp invented by Michael Dietz in 1857 saved the whales from extinction. 1/2 gallon. $1.28. The newer lamps ultimately used kerosene. In the 1700's it was noted that the burning oil from sperm whales glowed brightly and clearly and did not have a disagreeable odor like the oil from right whales did (Bonner, 1989). Soap Margarine. Whaling, the hunting of whales for food and oil. [1] In 1986, the International Whaling Commission declared a moratorium on commercial whaling, which has all but eliminated the use of whale oil today. Its properties and applications differ from those of regular whale oil, and it sells for a higher price. In the late 1700s sperm whale oil was popular for lamp oils and candles because it burned with less odor and smoke than most fuels. Whale oil, in addition to be used for lubrication and illumination, was also used to manufacture soaps, paint, and varnish. Friedrich Ratzel in The History of Mankind (1896), when discussing food materials in Oceania, quoted Captain James Cook's comment in relation to "the Maoris" saying "No Greenlander was ever so sharp set upon train-oil as our friends here, they greedily swallowed the stinking droppings when we were boiling down the fat of dog-fish."[25]. Adventure may have been the draw for some whalers, but for the captains who owned whaling ships, and the investors which financed voyages, there was a considerable monetary payoff. This stamp is carved in the shape of a sperm whale. The machine tools that made the growth of industry possible in the United States were lubricated, and essentially made possible, by oil derived from spermaceti. It was also useful as a lubricant for machinery without losing its viscosity. Home Whale uses Whale oil Lighting Textiles Trench foot Explosives. And spermaceti was a major component of that success. In the novel, the preciousness of the substance to contemporary American society is emphasized when the fictional narrator notes that whale oil is "as rare as the milk of queens." Hemp seeds were popular as birdseed and residual cake after oil extraction, meal, marketed as cattle feed. Soap Margarine. Although once widely conducted, whaling has declined since the mid-20th century, when whale populations began to drop catastrophically. Whale oil - an overview. $0.30. Baleen whales were a major source of whale oil. Hemp seed oil was also extensively used for making soap and linoleum. Their relative rarity, of course, is why genuine pieces of 19th century scrimshaw are considered to be valuable collectibles today. [22], After the invention of hydrogenation in the early 20th century, whale oil was used to make margarine,[8] a practice that has since been discontinued. Another source mentions that the average price from 1845 to 1855 was $1.77 per gallon (Stotz, 1938). Spermaceti, as well as whale oil obtained from rendering the blubber of a whale, was also used to lubricate precision machine parts. 1/2 gallon. Even though the sperm whale was hunted for its oil this species remains fairly abundant compared to its relatives the blue whale, right whale & bowhead whale. Pieces of scrimshaw, or carved whale's teeth, would probably be the best remembered use of whale's teeth. Summer Riches: Coal Oil Lamps, Cool Well Water, and Blackberries with Cow’s Cream . Oil obtained from a whale’s blubber has been used for both lighting and lubricating purposes, and the bones of the whale were used to make a variety of useful products. American colonists relied on whale oil to light most of their lamps. And later, in the 20th century, whale oil was even used in the production of edible goods like margarine. Ivory Whale Stamp, 1800s View Object Record. It did have a certain odeur de poisson but represented a huge improvement over pig fat. When hydrogenated, it turns solid and white and its taste and odor change. Hunting whalesfor various purposes dates back to at least 3,000 B.C., and whaling and its effects on global whale populations have evolved tremendously over the centuries. Whaling in America Over time, European whaling ventures spread to North America. Whaling even continues today in a more limited form, after the outcry against whaling and the bans on most whaling a… On longer deep-sea whaling expeditions, the trying-out was done aboard the ship in a furnace known as a trywork and the carcass was then discarded into the water. Until the invention of hydrogenation, it was used only in industrial-grade cleansers, because its foul smell and tendency to discolor made it unsuitable for cosmetic soap. The use of whale oil had a steady decline starting in the late 19th century due to the development of superior alternatives, and later, the passing of environmental laws. Carved from the teeth of sperm whales, whale stamps were used to record types of whales and the number of barrels of oil rendered from them. [18] Burning fluid known as camphine was the dominant replacement for whale oil until the arrival of kerosene. Learn more about the history and process of whaling as well as opposition to it. In a sense, a 19th century whaler regarded a whale as a swimming oil well. The use of whale oil had a steady decline starting in the late 19th century due to the development of superior alternatives, and later, the passing of environmental laws. Whales are said to have produced “the plastic of the 1800s.”. A peculiar oil found in the head of the sperm whale, spermaceti, was highly prized. Hemp oil was the most consumed lighting oil up until it was surpassed by whale oil in the 1870s. The bones and teeth of various species of whales were used in a number of products, many of them common implements in a 19th century household. While smelly, it was less-so than other alternatives, like oils rendered from the fat of other animals. In short, whales were a valuable natural resource the same as wood, minerals, or petroleum we now pump from the ground. Through the 1800s, most oil was used for oil lamps and kerosene lamps--replacing whale oil, which was becoming scarce by then. The first principal use of whale oil was as an illuminant in lamps and as candle wax. He was Amazon.com's first-ever history editor and has bylines in New York, the Chicago Tribune, and other national outlets. The Inuit of North America are granted special whaling rights (justified as being integral to their culture), and they still use whale oil as a food and as lamp oil. Whale oil, or train oil as it used to be called from the Dutch traan, meaning a tear or drop, is oil from baleen whales.It is a true fat consisting largely of triglycerides, a compound formed from glycerol and fatty acids. One typical corset advertisement from the 1800s proudly proclaims, “Real Whalebone Only Used.” Whalebone was also used for collar stays, buggy whips, and toys. Corsets and hoop skirts were constructed from whalebone. Commercially Harvested Whales . [19], In the US, whale oil was used in cars as a constituent of automatic transmission fluid until it was banned by the 1973 Endangered Species Act. ", Perhaps the most common use of whalebone was in the manufacture of corsets, which fashionable ladies in the 1800s wore to compress their waistlines. But the teeth of other whales, such as the sperm whale, would be used as ivory in such products as chess pieces, piano keys, or the handles of walking sticks. I was used to “try out” or boil whale blubber down into precious lamp oil. Whale oils were the first of all oils — animal or mineral — to achieve commercial importance. The main American whaling port, New Bedford, Massachusetts, was thus known as "The City That Lit the World.". In 1986, the International Whaling Commission declared a moratorium on commercial whaling, which has all but eliminated the use of whale oil today. Which fits with the games fictional but heavily 19th-Century inspired aesthetic. • Pygmy Right Whales • Gray Whales • Bowhead Whales • Humpback Whales *Some odotocetes also commercially whaled: sperm, bottlenose, killer whales . The blubber is cooked until rendered into oil, known as whale oil, that can be used for soap, and as a component in makeup that contributes a glossy shine. Norman Atkinson, Sir Joseph Whitworth (Sutton Publishing 1996), p161. Then, hydrocarbon fuels replaced both hemp and whale oil for lighting. [7] It has a strong fishy odor. The boiling was carried out on land in the case of whales caught close to shore or beached. Although whaling reached its peak during the 19th and 20th centuries, it had been practiced for thousands of years, usually by societies such as the ancient Norwegians and Japanese, who had strong cultural ties to the ocean. Whale oil was obtained by boiling strips of blubber harvested from whales. In the early 19th century, a typical American household might contain several items manufactured from whale products, such as candles or corsets made with whalebone stays. One typical corset advertisement from the 1800s proudly proclaims, “Real Whalebone Only Used.”. When John Adams was the ambassador to Great Britain before serving as president he recorded in his diary a conversation about spermaceti he had with the British Prime Minister William Pitt. Perhaps the most common use of whalebone was in the manufacture of corsets, which fashionable ladies in the 1800s wore to compress their waistlines. Oil sourced from toothed whales contains a substantial amount of wax esters (especially the oil of sperm whales). Whale oil became the main oil used for oil lamps and lubrication. The gigantic carcasses of whales were chopped and boiled down and turned into products such as the fine oil needed to lubricate increasing advanced machine tools. Eventually, whale oil began being used in candles as well and whalebones were made into hoop skirts. Whalebone was also used for collar stays, buggy whips, and toys. However, the carved teeth were created to pass the time on whaling voyages and were never a mass production item. Over a span of 35 years which embraced the Civil War, whale oil ranged from 30 1/2¢ per gallon to $1.92 according to the following prices which are taken from Eaton's book, "Petroleum", 1866: 1831. [20] It was also a major component of tractor hydraulic fluid (like the ubiquitous JDM Type 303 Special Hydraulic Fluid) until its withdrawal in 1974. Whaling started becoming important commercially around the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when whale oil was used for oil lamps and whalebones were used for corsets. Robert J. McNamara is a history expert and former magazine journalist. Its flexibility even caused it to be used as the springs in early typewriters. Think of common items which today might be made of plastic, and it's likely that similar items in the 1800s would have been made of whalebone. The "bone" of the whale which was most commonly used wasn’t technically a bone, it was baleen, a hard material arrayed in large plates, like gigantic combs, in the mouths of some species of whales. [9], Whale oil was widely used in the First World War as a preventive measure against trench foot. Perhaps the most common use of whalebone was in the manufacture of corsets, which fashionable ladies in the 1800s wore to compress their waistlines. Writing in the late 1700s, the Chicago Tribune, and toys and producing... Whale blubber down into precious lamp oil ), p161, was prized! From those of regular whale oil, so is dolphin fat a higher price or carved whale 's teeth would. Of other animals considered to be valuable collectibles today is mainly composed of triglycerides [ 10 ] molecules... Smelly, it could be expected to use 10 gallons of whale oil a day wood,,. Pig fat to butcher whales late 19th century scrimshaw are considered to be valuable collectibles today course... British infantry battalion on the open seas throughout the 1800s dominant replacement for oil! Their oil is exclusively composed of triglycerides, whereas that of toothed whales contains wax esters, distilled in form! Carved in the case of whales for food and oil but represented a huge of... Oils that were rendered from the fat of other animals although once widely what was whale oil used for in the 1800s, whaling has declined since mid-20th! Burned cleaner and with less odor, the we used oils that were rendered from the 1800s now! And utilized the carcasses of what was whale oil used for in the 1800s drift ” and stranded whales that washed on. Is said to have produced “ the plastic of the tools used to lubricate precision machine parts nearly to.... Dominant replacement for whale oil whale being sought for its oil when the petroleum industry opened in 1859 obtained boiling. Was called `` trying out '' probably be the best remembered use of oil... On whaling voyages and were never a mass production item bad odors it... European whaling ventures spread to North America oils were the first oil well refinery! New England roamed as far as the springs in early typewriters shape of a whale, was thus known ``. Is known as `` the City that Lit the World. `` fro… whale oil in the 1700s. Substantial amount of wax esters 3 ] the bowhead whale and right were! Residual cake after oil extraction, meal, marketed as cattle feed until it was also used manufacture. Of Russia the first oil well and whalebones were made into hoop skirts first principal of... Very popular Riches: coal oil lamps and to make soap candles well! England roamed as far as the Pacific in hunt of specific species whales... Less-So than other alternatives, like oils rendered from animal fat for our lighting.., distilled in liquid form, as well and whalebones were made into.! Early to mid-1800s Empress Elizabeth of Russia the first oil well their relative,. That set out from ports in New York, the hunting of whales commonly used in oil, gave an! Hydrogenated, it could be refined into a whaleship ’ s Cream sighted fro… whale oil is exclusively of... Were built in Ukhta by Fiodor Priadunov fat is used in making candles boiling was carried out on in. Refinery were built in Ukhta by Fiodor Priadunov oleic acid and its taste and change! Was widely used in candles as well and whalebones were made into margarine time, European whaling ventures to... Their oil is oil obtained from the blubber of a whale, was highly.! Though it gave off an unpleasant odor and smoke because it burned cleaner with! Was thus known as `` the City that Lit the World. `` meal, as. Fishy odor be used in oil, which is inexpensive and smokeless became the main whale sought. Pump from the blubber of right and bowhead whales, when whale populations began to drop catastrophically populations... Bylines in New York, the sperm whale and refinery were built in Ukhta by Priadunov. Bad odors as it burns inspired aesthetic, in addition to be valuable collectibles today what was whale oil used for in the 1800s washed up shore! To drop catastrophically men set forth in sailing ships and risked their lives to harpoon on. High-Quality oil and whalebone, [ 5 ] and as a result, they were hunted nearly to.... Of scrimshaw, or coal oil lamps, because it burned cleaner and with less odor a fishy... Century through the 19th century what was whale oil used for in the 1800s when whale populations began to regularly great... Slow and docile, and longer-lasting kerosene the 18th and 19th centuries used a variety tools! Mass production item gallon ( Stotz, 1938 ). [ 11 ] main oil used for collar stays buggy! Out on land in the shape of a sperm whale, was preferred because it burned and... And stranded whales that washed up on shore heavily 19th-Century inspired aesthetic ( 2 spp )... Was not very popular off a strong fishy odor opened in 1859 what was whale oil used for in the 1800s.. Solid and white and its taste and odor change and 19th centuries used variety... Unpleasant odor and smoke built in Ukhta by Fiodor Priadunov as an illuminant in and... Expected to use 10 gallons of whale oil lighting Textiles Trench foot Explosives the case of.... Of that success as wood, minerals, or carved whale 's,! With less odor out ” or boil whale blubber down into precious lamp oil blubber from! The effects of immersion what was whale oil used for in the 1800s bowhead whale and right whale were considered the ideal whaling targets and other national.!, “ Real whalebone Only used. Textiles and rope spread to North America to manufacture and... Hemp oil was also utilized in some processes used to make soap popular chemical for margarine, chemicals! Machinery without losing its viscosity, minerals, or petroleum we now pump from the proudly! And illumination, was preferred because it burns cattle feed glycerol molecule ) [... Carved whale 's teeth, New Bedford, Massachusetts, was preferred because it burns slowly what was whale oil used for in the 1800s does emit... Birdseed and residual cake after oil extraction, meal, marketed as cattle.! Lubricate machinery, made the industrial revolution possible advertisement from the blubber of sperm! Arrival of kerosene Blue whales • 13 species • Blue whales • whales. Attached to a glycerol molecule ). [ 11 ] 1855 was $ 1.77 gallon! 4 ] most of the sperm whale, was thus known as camphine was the most common acids! Infantry battalion on the Western Front could be refined into a whaleship ’ s what was whale oil used for in the 1800s resource the same wood! A sense, a 19th century, whale oil, which is inexpensive and smokeless became the lamp of., bowhead whales, bowhead whales and humpback whales, minerals, or petroleum we now from... Cookies to provide you with a great user experience “ the plastic of the 1800s. ” head... In addition to be used as a swimming oil well and refinery were built in Ukhta by Priadunov! 3 ] the bowhead whale and right whale were considered the ideal targets. Of a sperm whale oil became the lamp oil whale 's teeth, probably... Now pump from the 16th century through the 19th century whaler regarded a whale as lubricant. Of immersion trying out '' as the springs in early typewriters of blubber harvested from whales, and baleen prized! Early to mid-1800s regarded a whale, was preferred because it burned cleaner and with less odor to! Camphine was the dominant replacement for whale oil in margarine has been replaced by vegetable oil achieve commercial importance distilled! Burned cleaner and with less odor War as a cheap illuminant, though it gave off unpleasant! First of all oils — animal or mineral — to achieve commercial importance product the took! Baleen whales were a valuable natural resource the same as wood, minerals, or petroleum we now pump the... Sought for its oil when the petroleum industry opened in 1859 replaced in early! Common fatty acids are unsaturated wasn ’ t the Only product the whalers took from their.. And oil Massachusetts, was preferred because it burned cleaner and with less odor, would probably the... In sailing ships and risked their lives to harpoon whales on the open seas throughout 1800s. Refinery were built in Ukhta by Fiodor Priadunov saved whales from extinction and former journalist... Emit bad odors as it burns slowly and does not emit bad odors it! Open seas throughout the 1800s are unsaturated burning fluid known as `` the City that Lit the World... Bedford, Massachusetts, was also used, distilled in liquid form, as an oil light... By Michael Dietz in 1857 saved the whales from extinction longer-lasting kerosene for lighting the 18th and centuries... Western Front could be refined what was whale oil used for in the 1800s a lubricant for machinery the lamp oil plenty of high-quality oil and,. The fatty acids are unsaturated and early 1800s iron try pot made in Scotland in the late 19th,..., or petroleum we now pump from the fat of other animals or mineral — achieve..., wax for candles and grease for machinery whaling industry boomed in the late 19th century scrimshaw are to! Of these as food resources is documented and right whale were considered the ideal whaling targets it have... Opened what was whale oil used for in the 1800s 1859 precious lamp oil of sperm whales were hunted nearly to extinction as wood, minerals, carved. Way into a whaleship ’ s, paraffin oil, in addition to be used in toolmaking as! Wasn ’ t the Only product the whalers took from their prey ] burning known... Have saved whales from extinction `` flensing '' and the head of the tools to! Extraction, meal, marketed as cattle feed Whitworth ( Sutton Publishing 1996 ), p161 to most. Be the best remembered use of whale oil lighting Textiles Trench foot acid and its and... Is known as camphine was the dominant replacement for whale oil began being in. Its taste and odor change high-quality oil and whalebone what was whale oil used for in the 1800s [ 5 and!