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Lewis Temple

Toggle Iron Harpoon
The toggle iron harpoon was designed in 1848 by Lewis Temple, a blacksmith, this was the standard harpoon in American whaling from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries. The toggle iron harpoon was also called "Temple's Toggle" and "Temple's Iron".

Lewis Temple was born in 1800 as a slave in Richmond, Virginia. He obtained his freedom and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1929 where he worked as a blacksmith.


Lewis Temple, Blacksmith - Harpoon
New Bedford, Massachusetts 1829-1854

Heroes in the Ships - Lewis Temple
Lewis Temple’s innovation substantially improved the efficiency of the hunt and was rapidly adopted. However, as he did not patent his invention he made little money on it. From Heroes in the Ships - African Americans in the whaling industry.

Lewis Temple
Clifford Ashley said in his book, The Yankee Whaler, that Temple's harpoon was "the single most important invention in the whole history of whaling."

Related Information
Black Inventors
Biographies of famous black inventors.
Nautical Inventions
'The Maritime History Virtual Archives" naval history, sailing ships and more.

image provided by NASA

©Mary Bellis

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