Scrimshaw Mortgage Buttons

Last night the owners of my great grandparents and grandparents house in Westmoreland Place in the CWE invited some of our family over to see the house. It was in our family for 2 generations through 1970. I was only 5 when it was sold and only remember a few things…a button under the dining room table to ring the help, a safe in the dining room wall and the large basement. There was a large cage in the basement filled with old luggage. Every time we would visit our grandparents we would go down to the basement and ask if we could take home a piece of luggage. My mother was never happy with us bringing home these large, dusty suitcases….frequently she would sneak them into the trash. I kept two of them and filled them with memontos though my youth.

Back to the house and why this post is entitled Scrimshaw Mortage Buttons….the newel post at the bottom of the staircase still has one in place. See below for what this means:

"Dating back to the mid-seventeenth century, the "mortgage button" is a long-standing New England tradition, which originated in Nantucket. When a home's mortgage was fully paid, a hole was drilled in the top of the staircase banister or newel. The mortgage was either rolled up and placed inside the hole, or burned and its ashes were placed within. A button, usually made of whalebone, was scrimshawed with the date and owner's initial and placed over the hole to seal its contents."


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