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Thread: 19th Century Saber with hinged cross guards

  1. #1

    19th Century Saber with hinged cross guards

    I have received a saber found in a river by a citizen here in southern Oregon. I am an archaeologist who studies the 19th century colonial period of Oregon, but I have a limited knowledge of swords. After an internet and university library search (including this site), I am having difficulty identifying this saber to age and country of Origin. This region was colonized by the United States in the 1850s during the Gold Rush, and after that time the U.S. Army was active in the area, particularly the 1st Regiment of U.S. Dragoons. Prior to the 1850s, there was no European settlement, but expeditions of the British Northwest Company and Hudson's Bay Company passed through the area. It is also possible that the Native people of the region had sporatic contact and trade with Russian or Spanish in the 17th and early 18th century or even earlier. Some of the American settlers here in the 1850s were veterans of the Mexican War, and some were recent European immigrants to the continent.

    The saber is small, with a wooden grip wrapped in copper alloy wire, a copper alloy guard, knuckle bow, and pommel with floral designs, and the ricasso has very fine parallel striations on it. The blade is iron, with some kind of eroded plating or bluing on it. I believe one of the distinguishing characteristics of this sword is that it originally had a hinged guard. The hinge remains, but the hinged portion of the guard is missing.

    The overall length is 77 cm (30"), the blade length is 63 cm (24 3/4"), the blade width is 2 cm (1 3/4). My impression is that this sword was built on the metric system rather than the English systems, as all the CM units were even, and the english measurements were fractions.

    No visible maker's marks or writing/inscription of any kind anywhere.

    The sword is very well preserved, and one of my colleagues believes it could be a more recent reproduction. It clearly is not a standard cavalry sword such as might have been used by the Dragoons. If this saber is indeed of 19th century vintage, I need to notify the State of Oregon, upon whose property it was found. I would appreciate any insights.

    Any clues would be much appreciated.

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    iron blade with eroding finish

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    hinged cross guard

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    floral design

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    floral design

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    pommel

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    tip

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    wooden grip with remnant wiring

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Quite similar to a Qing dynasty (1850) maritime customs sword except for the guard decoration. Ref: Chinese Swordsd Vol 1 Qing Dynasty Jan E. Culbertson

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    See also Japanese Kyu-Gunto Russo-Japanese naval and colonial swords about 1900 or so. Although, this seems to lack any "ears" on the backstrap it has the look. The folding guards also locked to the scabbards.
    http://www.japaneseswordindex.com/military.htm

    My example from Japanese Tsing Tao WWI period


    Last edited by Glen C.; 08-29-2016 at 02:52 PM.

  4. #4
    Will and Glen, thanks so much for your replies. Based on those clues, it looks like our sword most resembles a Japanese 1883 Pattern Naval Kyū guntō (saber). Below are a series of web links that show similar sabers, and the diagnostic features seem to be the lack of "ears" on the backstrap on the grip, and, most specifically: the exact floral design on the guard. I am curious how long these sabers were made, and of course, how it ended up at the bottom of a river in southern Oregon.

    Links:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/P-1883-naval...p2047675.l2557

    http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedi...-gunto-sword-w

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTIQUE-SIGN...MAAOSwEK9ULJ3y

    https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/17104/lot/3057/

    http://www.samuraisource.com/hideaki.html

    http://griffinmilitaria.com/cgi-bin/...status=&title=

    http://www.terapeak.com/worth/ww-ii-.../322114418925/

    w.ebay.com/itm/WW-II-JAPANESE-NAVAL-REGULATION-1883-PATTERN-KYU-GUNTO-SWORD-WITH-SCABBARD-/322128791314?hash=item4b005f4712%3Ag%3AhhgAAOSwQaJ XS3Dv&nma=true&si=YT6Pcw5ocOlRWP87a%252BvX%252FWqF %252Ft4%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675 .l2557

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
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    Well, I would think more particulars about the find location may help narrow the reasons it might have been found. My best guess would be dropped or discarded at some point after WWII. Newer patterns came in by the 1930s. Many thousands of Japanese swords were brought home by returning US GIs.

    Rivers and lakes can be quirky. A lake bottom with silt may show a lot less oxygen at the bottom and swords are found in Europe, quite sound, dating back many centuries. A ferrous item in a river may oxidize pretty quickly. A cousin canoeing in Michigan came across two large earthen pots filled with many hundreds of small arrowheads. It was as simple as looking down in a calm spot where they were resting. Doing the right thing, he was awarded half the find and archaeologists had a new push pin in a map. Somebody metal detecting, spotting something shiny or otherwise encountering it should document quite a bit of data is there was any interest at all. I can't play the twenty question game but perhaps you may have more clues.

    What river?
    Where on the river?
    What was the current?
    What was the depth?
    What was the bottom comprised of?
    Rocks?
    Clay or softer mud?
    Sand?
    Was anything else found?
    A Japanese sub?
    Land force?
    Documentaion of the last two questions?

    I'm sure I could ask more but I'm not sure it would make a difference. considering the most obvious, it was dropped or discarded sometime after WWII.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; As noted on Stein's pages, machine made blade and plated (my example from the 1910s is not plated)

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