Whaling era snuff box to go under the hammer Rare Dundee...

uncovered during a house clearance

18/08/2018     General News

An unusual memento of Dundee's once thriving whaling industry will go under the hammer next month. The super rare snuff box, made for one of the city's biggest whale-catching firms, was uncovered during a local house clearance. According to the inscription, it was presented to a man, possibly a writer, called George Milne for his "zeal and assiduity in promotiong the interests" of the Dundee Whale Fishing Company. The silver presentation box, made in Birmingham, dates back to 1829. It is being offered for sale by Perth auctioneers Lindsay Burns & Co. Director Nick Burns said "It looks like Mr Milne was helping to promote the interests and values of this whaling company to, perhaps, friends and associates." "He maybe managed to secure a lot of business for the firm, and the powers-that-be presented him with this snuff box as a way of showing their gratitude." Mr Burns said: "Snuff boxes of that period were, on the whole, a lot smaller. This would have been quite a sought after item and its size shows how well the company was doing, and how much it valued Mr Milne's service." The gift was presented when Scotland's whaling indurstry was at its peak. It was a vitally important sector to Dundee for more than 130 years. Whale oil was used for lighting, soap and clothing. It was of particular interest to Dundee becoause it was used in jute production, to soften the fibres before weaving. At the height of demand, whalebone would change hands on the quayside for up to £3,000 a tonne. The industry had a wider impact on the city, with memoirs from the early 19th century noting that fur-booted Inuits - then known as Eskimos - became a regular sight in the city centre. By the early 20th century, much cheaper mineral oil began to take the place of whale oil and Arctic whaling came to a close in Dundee at the out-break of the First World War. A second, older snuff box was also found during the house clearance in Dundee. The piece from 1780 belonged to a city writer known only as D. Robson. The Scottish Provincial silver oval shaped box is unusual because it has two compartments. Mr Burns said: "We see a lot of snuff boxes, but these ones are particularly rare and in excellent condition." 

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