Martha's Vineyard Museum
The toggle harpoon was used during the pursuit of the whale to deliver the first strike. Rather than a fixed head harpoon, the toggle harpoon featured a pivoting head that became embedded in the flesh of the whale. It was invented in 1848 by Lewis Temple who was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1784. In 1829 Temple married a free black woman and and he was able to operate his own blacksmith shop until his death in 1854. This is an iron toggle harpoon head. It would have been attached to a long wooden pole. The design was based on a traditional Eskimo design.