Animal bristles for mending boots

A bundle of animal bristles for mending boots from the 1845 British Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The bristles are tied together with a short length of twine. Bristles were traditionally used instead of steel needles to sew the outsole, welt and boot upper. Holes were created using awls through which a waxed linen thread was inserted with a pig's bristle.

The bristles were found by Lieutenant William R. Hobson's sledge team on 24 May 1859 at a place where a ship's boat was discovered on the coast of Erebus Bay, King William Island, as part of the search expedition led by Captain F. L. McClintock. Hobson described finding a lot of material in the boat, including 'a shoemaker's box with [tools], bristles...' [Stenton, 'Arctic' v.69, No. 4, p. 518]. McClintock records a 'Bristles for shoemaker’s use'. [McClintock, Voyage of the Fox (1859), page 366].

The bristles were displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, Case 2, No. 16 'Bunch of bristles'. The item is shown in - 'Stereoscopic slides of the relics of Sir John Franklin's Expedition' photographed by Lieutenant Cheyne RN, at the United Services Museum, Whitehall, No. 7 (left, centre, beside the ball of wool).

Object Details

ID: AAA2220
Collection: Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Bristles
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Unknown
Events: Arctic Exploration: Franklin's Last Expedition, 1845-1848; Arctic Exploration: Franklin Search Expedition, McClintock, 1857-1859
Vessels: Fox (1855)
Date made: 1845-1848; 1845-48
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: Overall: 190 mm x 25 mm

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