Metalwork in Sheffield

The Sheffield Ivory Trade

Today trading in ivory is illegal in many countries around the world, but in the past, it was a key material for the cutlery industry.

Sheffield companies bought ivory at sales in London, Liverpool and Antwerp. Ivory was bought as whole elephant tusks, transported to the different works and then cut into scales and handles. In 1911 some companies like Joseph Rodgers & Sons Ltd were using 12 tons of ivory a year (around 1,150 elephant tusks).

Joseph Rodgers & Sons Ltd were well-known for their ivory store, which held all sizes of ivory, with the largest weighing over 160lbs and the smallest consisting of baby teeth, at just 2-3lbs. 

The company opened a showroom - the first of its kind in Sheffield - to exhibit their wares. At first it attracted crowds of people who had no intention of buying anything, but soon it became an effective advertising and promotional tool, as it was visited by most people passing through Sheffield. 

The showroom entrance was adorned by hunting trophies and a huge display of elephant tusks. The largest was 10ft in length and 216lbs in weight!


Adorn - decorate

Effective - something that achieves its aims

Intention - something that someone plans to do

Ivory - hard, bone-like material that elephant tusks are made of

Promotional - activity to make something more well-known

Tusk - large pointed front tooth that comes out of an elephant's mouth but also found in a walrus or wild boar

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery | 
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