The Farnum Handbag is a truly authentic replica of the original Lightship basket, more popularly known as a “Nantucket basket.”
Our founder, Albert Farnum Cleaveland, ran this family-owned business from Florida well into his 80’s. When he passed on in 2000, his three sons proudly stepped in to carry on their father’s legacy. Now entering our 37th year of production, we continue to sell the highest quality handbag, at an affordable price. Plus, a wide assortment of scrimshaw designs depicting classic nautical and wildlife scenes.
The company entered an exciting new chapter with its relocation to New England in mid 2001.
During the Golden Era of New England whaling, lightship crews guarding the shoals off Nantucket Island passed the lonely hours weaving intricately beautiful rattan (wicker) baskets. Then each basket was decorated with artistic whalebone or ivory carvings, some with hand-etched scenes drawn by Yankee sailors. A process of highlighting the design with black ink brought these exquisitely detailed etchings to life. Each was a unique work of art that expressed the drama and beauty of the adventurous lives of these whaling men. Long voyages across stormy seas produced this unique form of Americana art that we now treasure as scrimshaw.
Because of modern environmental and endangered species concerns, scrimshaw had become nearly a lost art. Now, thanks to Ivoryite – a synthetic substance developed by Tropical Enterprises, Inc. (now Farnum Nantucket Handbags) – gifted artists are reviving this traditional work. Ivoryite is specially formulated to recreate the look and feel of genuine ivory. It’s also available pigmented to simulate black coral.
In the mid-1940’s, these “friendship” baskets began to be made again by artisans on Nantucket island. Over the next few decades they became popular as an essential clothing accessory for well-dressed women across the U.S. Featured in numerous magazines and books, these handbags always draw attention and compliments from others.