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Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth ivory and scrimshaw

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS-013

Scope and Contents

This collection includes 57 pieces of ivory and scrimshaw believed to have been collected by Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth in Alaska and around in the late 1800s. Carvings include bear figurines, seal figurines, polar bear figurines, walrus figurines, fox figurines, human figurines, sled figurines, a folding fan, pipes, elephant figurines, and bow drills.


  • Creation: Undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with Archives & Special Collections staff.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth was born to Captain Alexander Wadsworth (1808-1900), a ship master, and Bulah Holmes (also spelled Beulah, 1813-1853) in Duxbury, MA on December 30, 1843. According to family lore, he accompanied his parents on a sea voyage on the Seth Sprague in 1853. During this voyage his mother gave birth to Alexander Seaborn Wadsworth and died shortly after.

Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth is believed to have married Lydia Frances Harlow (1844-1911) on December 30, 1863. They had approximately six children including Beulah Holmes (who later married Henry Thomas Burrill), Louise Gray, and Frances Harlow.

He worked in the United States Revenue Cutter Service (later merged to become the Coast Guard) and was a Lieutenant on the USRC Bear, in the late 1800s. His name is recorded in the ship’s log in 1894 and 1895, during which time the ship was captained by Michael A. Healy.

Wadsworth is believed to have traveled with the ship from San Francisco, CA to the Arctic Circle and is also believed to have collected the scrimshaw during this time. According to an interview with descendant Kendall Burrill, during a war in Cuba, Wadsworth once took men to the harbor in Havana to destroy the logs used as a blockade. Wadsworth died in Bridgewater, MA on January 24, 1925.


2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection includes 57 pieces of ivory and scrimshaw (human and animal figurines, bow drills, a fan, etc.) believed to have been collected by Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth in Alaska in the late 1800s.


The collection is arranged by design (similar carvings grouped together), but due to storage considerations, large items like bow drills have been interspersed throughout the boxes.

Physical Access

There are no physical restrictions on this collection.

Technical Access

There are no technical restrictions on this collection.

Physical Location

Bridgewater Public Library Historical Room

Custodial History

Kendall Wadsworth Burrill (donor) believes items were collected by Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth (Burrill’s great great grandfather) in the 1860s or 70s. When Burrill’s parents moved to Kingston in 1972 (along with one aunt), they sold their house to Burrill and his wife. The scrimshaw was in the house.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Kendall W. Burrill and Eusebia Burrill. 1978.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Archival Materials at Other Institutions

Scrimshaw collections at the New Bedford Whaling Museum Scrimshaw collections at the Peabody Essex Museum


Bradford, G. (1962). In with the Sea Wind. Barre Gazette.
Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth. The Sprague Project. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from
New England Historic Genealogical Society. (1916). Vital Records of Duxbury, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850.
O’Toole, J. M. (1997). Racial Identity and the Case of Captain Michael Healy, USRCS. National Archives.
USS Bear – March to October 1884, New York, Greely Arctic rescue mission. Log Books of the United States Navy, 19th and 20th Centuries. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from



Francis Grey Ford Wadsworth ivory and scrimshaw
Allyson Sekerke
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Repository Details

Part of the Bridgewater Public Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

15 South Street
Bridgewater MA 02324 USA