Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: American Eagle Sword Identification help

  1. #1

    American Eagle Sword Identification help

    Greetings, thanks for adding me to the forum. Bought my second eagle pommel sword, the last one was my first ever antique sword way back in 1989. Saved my lunch money for a year to help with that purchase back in the pre internet catalogue days.

    Just acquired this pictured sword. All I know for sure is that it's early 19th century. Probably British made, maybe assembled in America. The closest I found in my books is from Mobray's eagle pommel book, p. 67
    The sword pictured in the book is an artillery officer's sabre, vs. 1805 (Richards/Upson & Co./New York) My sword seems to have the same knucklebow with the flaming bomb shells. The eagle head on my sword still has what looks to me like fire gilting, but am not really sure.

    The blue and gilt on the blade is not bad at all for it not having a scabbord. I can see the runner marks, which makes me think maybe the scabbord was with it for many years. The blue/gold decorations seems to be a pattern that was fairly common in the era. Many A.W. Spies swords I've seen online have an almost identical pattern, but that name is not in the decorations as far as I can tell. There is a 3 or perhaps a 30 on the spine of the blade, hard to make out.

    Any information, opinions, ideas about this sword's origins is appreciated. A secondary question I have is whether or not I should attempt to get rid of the rust around the blue and gold? I don't think it's active rust, but I just am not knowlegable enough to know for sure. Tried to include some photos that show the areas of rust. Adding additional photos in the comments including pics from the Mobray book.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance! Glad to be onboard the forum. Don't know why I've waited so long to join : )

    Best, Jeff
    Attached Images Attached Images      

  2. #2
    Additonal pics #1
    Attached Images Attached Images      

  3. #3
    Additional Pics #2
    Attached Images Attached Images   

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,026
    Welcome aboard

    I think you are pretty much on track except the sword is a bit later than the sword in the book. The guard is definitely of the same type but keep in mind that parts are parts and used up over time. I know others here will have some thoughts on your sword as well but I would place it in the later 1820s as late as the 1830s. The guard definitely belongs to earlier decades and the eagle with a backstrap possibly earlier. The grip, particularly, is of a later period and the mixed panel etching just coming into vouge during the 1820s.

    There are references in Mowbray's book on blade decoration but I am not recalling off the top of my head regarding mixed panels and I'm not remembering an example in the color plate section. Now, to confuse things, Mowbray never shows a Bolton type eagle with full white, bright etching. Yet I have an example in files. These notes, along with the grip patterns start to raise a lot of questions. To me, your grip alone says 1830s to me but I am sure that will raise some objections by other eagle scholars here. Truly and humbly, I would place your sword as put together of both older and newer fashions and produced no earlier than the 1820s.

    I hope that is helpful and useful opinion.

    I have a rather large personal notepad of eaglehead pommel swords. While not annotated, a couple of decades of image harvesting. Some are going to seem to be misplaced and my terminology for folders perhaps a bit weird but a passle of images to browse. Enjoy. Constructive suggestions, observations and corrections are welcome.

    As of late 2017 my eagles 2.0 scratch pad
    https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...zd?usp=sharing

    Don't know what to make of the mark.

    Cheers
    GC

  5. #5
    Thanks for that information Glen. That was very helpful. I was a bit skeptical that it was from the very early 1800's, so your hypothesis that it was made up from parts from different eras makes a lot of sense.

    Also, your notepad of eagleheads is full of eye candy. Can tell I'm going to spend a lot of time looking through it. Appreciate your analysis and taking the time to help me out.

    All the best, Jeff

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,026
    Other handy books for reference include

    American Swords & Makers' Marks Clegg Donald Furr
    Simpson still has some at retail
    https://www.simpsonltd.com/search?q=furr

    AMERICAN SWORDS FROM THE PHILIP MEDICUS COLLECTION
    https://gunandswordcollector.com/pro...hilip-medicus/

    Small Arms of the Sea Services Rankin
    https://www.amazon.com/Small-Arms-Se.../dp/091059810X

    U.S. Naval Officers: Their Swords and Dirks by Peter Tuite
    https://gunandswordcollector.com/pro...rds-and-dirks/

    The American Sword, 1775-1945 Peterson
    https://www.amazon.com/American-1775.../dp/1258507218

    Titles by Daniel Hartzler
    The Lattimer silver hilt collection book and now two more recent volumes on federal period swords. IMO, worth finding, buying all three.


    There are others and all bear scrutiny over time and none other are eagle specific but studying all swords of a period reveals traits common to all. The Medicus collection more of a flash card deck but at the same time information you may not see elsewhere. Tidbits of value from all the authors.

    Simon Rycroftt has a good brief on cleaning blue&gilt blades
    https://www.americanswords.com/sword...intenance.html

    There is also a running conservation thread here at the top of the page and a working link to Mark McMorrow's great article here.
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140818...d-July-18-2001

    Go easy and slow working on that blade. We don't want red rust and the black rust, while more stable, is often just covering oxidation going on below.

    Cheers

    GC

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    North West US
    Posts
    1,159
    I am a bit taken back by the grip. While carved nicely the bone appears to be of very low quality and seems somewhat unusual for a sword of this quality.
    The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." --- Tench Coxe

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,026
    Can we get a picture straight down on the top of the pommel?

    It is possible it could be a very clever modern composite but I stand by its being put together for the market. A restoration? I don't think so. The carving of the grip is not the level of the polished turnings and I have a hard time believing someone would bother with both the incomplete carving and quality of the bone. If we look through some of my image files, one will see quite poor quality bone at times. Kind of a luck of the draw. Here is an example and swords I feel are the 1840s (or even 1850s but might be the '30s ).

    One of mine and a sibling with coarser bone (blue background). Mine, before and after cleaning the grip, so two lighting and polish appearances.

    The furring of grips often more apparent on the wear side of the bone as meant to be selection of putting the best view outside but sometimes less stellar cores weren't tossed out, with a shrug of the shoulders

    Cheers

    GC
    Attached Images Attached Images       
    Last edited by Glen C.; 02-11-2018 at 07:44 AM.

  9. #9
    Thanks Glen and Eric. I've attached the requested pics of the top of the pommel. Also tried get more detailed pictures of the grip. Note the gap between the grip and the backstrap. That gave me a little bit of concern when I first unboxed it. That being said, if there is a wood base, shrinkage can sometimes account for these type of things. I recently noted my other eagle head has a looser grip than I remember. That sword has a chip on one side and I can see the wood under the grip and it does look somewhat contracted. It is winter after all. Regarding composites and restorations, I spent some time with WW2 German daggers and am all too aware of this problem. I suppose it is possible this grip could have been an early replacement, perhaps within the officer's lifetime?

    Unlike many of my previous retail purchases, I actually got this sword for a bargin. It was a consignment for the seller and they were honest that this was not their area of expertise. I felt for the price it was worth the risks of not being able to personally examine it. I've come full circle in my collecting interests however and early 19th century American swords have not been my area of focus for quite some time and I have a lot to learn. Glen, I have some of the books you recommended and am trying to buy up the rest. I doubt I'll make any more sword purchases this year (kids college on the horizon), but arming myself with knowledge is my current jam.

    Great comments guys. Keep um coming. I plan to print out this thread for my records.

    Oh and by bargain, I don't mean cheap. They wanted $875.00. Got it for $500.00 which I thought was fair.
    Attached Images Attached Images      
    Last edited by Jeff Barrett; 02-12-2018 at 09:36 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    The vast wasteland
    Posts
    609
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Barrett View Post
    Note the gap between the grip and the backstrap. That gave me a little bit of concern when I first unboxed it. That being said, if there is a wood base, shrinkage can sometimes account for these type of things.
    I have found that this kind of gap is typically caused not by shrinkage of grip material, but by an impact on the blade side of the guard that pushes all of the hilt furniture up against the unyielding tang peen. The backstrap is the weakest component in the chain (due to its length, relative thinness, and unequal/unbalanced pressure points on either end), so it bends slightly. I think this is confirmed by the slight gap that can been seen between the shoulder of the blade's ricasso and the face of the guard, as shown in the fourth picture in your second post.

    As for those swords having wooden grips, I very much doubt that experienced cutlers would be so careless as to use green wood for their grips knowing that once the wood cured, gaps would develop.

  11. #11
    Gotcha. Thanks for the feedback Mark. Your explanation makes a lot of sense. I never would have put that together. Makes me feel more confident that the grip is original to the piece.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
    Posts
    770
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Cain View Post
    I have found that this kind of gap is typically caused not by shrinkage of grip material, but by an impact on the blade side of the guard that pushes all of the hilt furniture up against the unyielding tang peen. The backstrap is the weakest component in the chain (due to its length, relative thinness, and unequal/unbalanced pressure points on either end), so it bends slightly. I think this is confirmed by the slight gap that can been seen between the shoulder of the blade's ricasso and the face of the guard, as shown in the fourth picture in your second post.

    As for those swords having wooden grips, I very much doubt that experienced cutlers would be so careless as to use green wood for their grips knowing that once the wood cured, gaps would develop.
    Interesting. This type gap is very common on eagle-head pommel swords with backstraps. I have a few myself. I've often wondered why. I have often heard it was due to shrinkage of the grip material, but impact on the bottom of the hilt I suppose would be an alternate, maybe more credible, explanation. Impact from what? Would slamming the guard against the scabbard throat when re-sheathing the sword be enough to do it? What else would exert enough upward force to bend the backstrap? Another thing I noticed is that such gaps seem much less common on bird's-head pommel swords. Why would that be? The same factors would seem to apply with bird's heads as with eagle heads.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    The vast wasteland
    Posts
    609
    I should have said that the impact could be on either end of the hilt. Striking the pommel with force (as in gripping the hilt in the hand and driving the pommel against a hard surface like it was a hammer hitting a nail) could produce the same bend and may even be more likely to be at fault than a blow from the blade side of the guard. It doesn't take much imagination to envision the kind of damage a 10-year-old might inflict on a sword . . . and I speak from personal experience.

    The amount of force needed to produce such a bend would depend on the strength of the backstrap material. For example, a brass backstrap would likely bend more readily than a steel backstrap, and the thickness of the backstrap casting and its shape would also be factors. I think we can also assume there would have been wide variations in manufacturers' castings of the same pattern piece, so while they might all look about the same on the surface, some could be far more beefy and bend-resistant than others.

    As for bird/eagle/lion head pommels, perhaps the extra weight involved in some of the elaborate pommel castings motivated manufacturers to compensate by making a thinner backstrap in an effort to keep the net weight of the hilt furniture down to a manageable level. But that's all conjecture until someone decides to sacrifice their collection to the cause of sword science.

    I think the biggest argument against the shrinkage theory is that these gaps between grip and backstrap tend to arch; the grip-to-backstrap fit at either end of the backstrap is often tight, but as you move to the center of the grip/backstrap, the gap increases. If it was caused by shrinkage of the wooden grip core, I think the gap would be uniform from one end of the grip to the other. In other words, the wood in center of the grip would not be likely to shrink more than the wood at the ends of the grip. In the case of grips with bone veneers, I suspect bone does not shrink appreciably, so what else would cause the gap?

    Mon grain de sel.

  14. #14
    The 10-year-old damage theory is a good one. The sword blade and the guard show the tell tale signs of a duel. I guess it's possible it saw some real action in the Mexican War or Civil War, but 10-year-old's in the 1980's is more likely. I know I did my share of fencing, mostly with reproductions fortunately.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,026
    Honestly, the most often cause of the hilts getting distorted is when folk had smacked the tang with a hammer to tighten the grip. When the attendant bumper/weather washer was lost, there was often an immediate looseness of fit. It is a fairly simple dynamic to understand and one of the reasons I wanted to see the peen.

    Cheers

    GC

  16. #16
    As an average 1812 collector I first looked at the pics and thought, 1803 Pattern slot Eagle Head for the pre 1812 American market.Cool. Then it looked like probably 17 stars instead of 15 or 13 on the one engraving.
    After reading above comments I now see why its an 1820's era sword. I always learn a lot on this forum.

  17. #17
    Indeed, this forum has been very helpful. Lots of years of combined experiences. I didn't think to count stars G.J. Great tip. Thanks everyone!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,026
    Counting stars something to keep in mind but only one small element. Interesting but not really definitive as to dating a sword.

    Cheers

    GC

  19. #19
    Counting the stars is pointless. The late EA Mowbray and I did that with literally hundreds of swords in his collection and decided that it was useless as a date indicator. The mounts for these swords were made in the Birmingham brass trade. It is very unlikely that the actual makers had any idea how many states there were or cared... and certainly weren't going to discard their patterns because another star had been added to the American flag. Unless someone can produce a primary document where this is discussed by a British sword cutler, I think it should be permanently ignored as an indicator of anything.

    I would guess this sword just pre-dates or post-dates the War of 1812. I doubt the grip carving is significant but the bright panel etching and decorative end of the blue section of the blade suggest a date closer to 1812 than to 1805.

    Henry Upson was in Birmingham purchasing swords from Osborne & Gunby in the summer of 1812. It is quite likely that some of these were shipped AFTER the War of 1812 had begun... trade with Upson restarted immediately after the War. Since you have Mr. M's book, look up the Upson correspondence, as small part of which we quoted. There is more but, as I am out of the country, I'm not able to access my notes on the subject so I can't remember exactly which letters we used.
    Last edited by JV Puleo; 02-20-2018 at 06:00 AM.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,026
    Spending time in image harvesting this morning (catching up on a 2 month list), I have some relevant images and timeline. A Spies marked dove head with a mixed panel blade. I suppose I'll also add to the Spies thread with this addition but wanted to share it in context with the eagle beginning the thread.

    The Mowbray plate at the top shows a sword with a Salter type hairy eagle vs this crested big head backstrap. I would reiterate that parts are parts and assembly is likely well past the war by some years and relate Upson only in passing due to the book plate.

    We do know something of the Spies timeline, therefore the following sword must be of an (at the earliest) 1820s retail offering. When exactly after the war might be disputed but I have a hunch it is later 1820s at the earliest. I may seem a bit geeky about fittings and grips but I tend to stick to my guns in that the hatched and wheel/sunrise grips are more a thirties and forties trend (and well beyond).

    Anyway, an ebay auction's images. Mixed etching and a Spies etched blade (not the earlier spine stamped mark).

    Cheers

    GC
    Attached Images Attached Images             

  21. #21
    Thanks for your insights JV. Will check it out in my Mobray book. Would love for it to be War of 1812 period. Glen, I've been watching your pictured Spies sword on EBay. What a beautiful sword it is. Expensive, but very nice. My blade is very similar, almost identical. I think my sword may have had a metal scabbard as well as I can see the runner marks pretty clearly. Too bad it's lost to time, but quite sure I wouldn't have been able to purchase it as it would have likely sold for hundreds more.

    Best, Jeff

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •