After walking by it for years, curiosity finally won out. What was with the "Whalebone" on 161 Duane Street?
A Google led to a 1920 article in The New York Times marking the occasion of George Messmann closing the US’ last known whale-cutting shop at—161 Duane.
And come to find out, whalebone, isn't actually bone. Also known as baleen, it's more keratin-like, lining the upper jaws of right, sperm, and humpbacked whales. Practical, whalebone acts like a sieve to catch plankton and other small organisms on which these whales feed.
Less practical—for the whales—was baleen’s tough but elastic features proving useful as supports in 17th and 18th-century corsets and dresses, among other applications.
Anyway, now I know. So here’s some plankton in the form of recent content that made me think.