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Thread: Patent Solid Hilt

  1. #26
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    It appears to be an officers scabbard by its design, at some point in its history it was marked this way for an unknown reason or it is a replacement scabbard.
    That it fits well, doesn't drag at any point while sheathing it, may imply the scabbard was replaced during its service life? I find later marriages of scabbards rarely fit perfectly.
    Placing the blade over the scabbard the curvature should match for its full length with an even amount of clearance on both sides.

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by james.elstob View Post
    I reckon so.

    His short career from 1890 to 1895 before he 'retired' to the veteran company and his death at 8 years later would explain the good condition of the sword.

    No connection to 21st lancers that I can find re the stamp on the scabbard drag but going back to Ben's post Justen was the child of a German immigrant so maybe there was a prussian connection. Who knows.
    The condition of the sword could indicate F.W. Justen's short service. Have you found an online list of HAC officers that goes back to 1861? Hart's only seems to have them from 1884 onwards. Since the Light Cavalry Squadron was only active from 1861-1891 it would be nice to be able to check to see if there are any other matches before the sword is assigned to F.W. Justen.

  3. #28
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    Hi Mike,

    No I only been able to find the HAC in the lists from 1886. I've searched through London gazette for HAC officers gazetted for the whole 61-90 period but again they mostly appear around 1880 and onwards.

    There could be more than one match, though surnames beginning with J are less common in the army lists.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Placing the blade over the scabbard the curvature should match for its full length with an even amount of clearance on both sides.
    Will, I've tried the scabbard and sword overlay.

    The curve doesn't match.

    It's not much of a difference but enough that along with the 21L stamp I am convinced that its not the original scabbard. It could still be contemporaneous to Justens ownership. The 21Lancers were so named in 1897 and Justens lived until 1903.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 04-14-2018 at 11:02 AM.

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeShowers View Post
    The condition of the sword could indicate F.W. Justen's short service. Have you found an online list of HAC officers that goes back to 1861? Hart's only seems to have them from 1884 onwards. Since the Light Cavalry Squadron was only active from 1861-1891 it would be nice to be able to check to see if there are any other matches before the sword is assigned to F.W. Justen.
    I agree with Mike, I believe the sword hilt to appear to be earlier than 1890. I there is not one defining detail but together several subtle details tells me it's an earlier sword.
    Patent, and previous "registered" hilts have been popular since the early 1850's. Not just the Patent hilt but the backstrap/pommel are special order.

    How wide and thick is the blade at the ricasso?

  6. #31
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    About the retailer, it seems there was a Hugh James at 55 new bond street who became bankrupt in 1862. Then there was his son Frederick Hugh James referred to at the same address in 1866 who was himself made bankrupt in 1870.

    As far as I can tell the father doesn't seem to have had a middle name so its remains possible that the alternative use of F. H. And H. F. refer to the son and were used either side of the son's bankruptcy. Could be valuable as dating evidence if this can be confirmed. P. S. I've now found that the bankruptcy was closed in Feb 1873

    Here is an interesting link to witness statements regarding the prosecution against one of Hugh's employees for theft of a jacket. It offers some insight into world of the Victorian military outfitter and of Victorian justice!

    https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/brow...=t18510303-721
    Last edited by james.elstob; 04-14-2018 at 02:03 PM.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    How wide and thick is the blade at the ricasso?
    length: 35"
    Width: 1" 5/32'
    Thickness: 9/32'
    Grip: 5" 1/2'
    Weight 2lb 4oz (a whisker under)

    I felt it was newer because a similar patent hilt example found here on Matt's website:

    http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/antiqu...sale/archive5/

    (20th one down) looks to be the same maker (same colour grip, and proof slug similar etching) but it has the stepped pommel, and only the thumb plate is chequered. That gives it a much earlier look than mine although I admit there is no definitive dating evidence for either sword. Hardly scientific I realise.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 04-14-2018 at 11:43 AM.

  8. #33
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    Lovely sword! Very unusual to see such a combination of fighting features on an HAC sword. I love these pre-95 fully chequered backstraps, I have a couple myself.
    I personally absolutely believe it is Pillin. I've sold a Pillin patent hilt and have another in my collection.
    I personally feel that this sword is earlier than 1890. I'd guess 1870s.
    Regards,
    Matt

  9. #34
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    Incidentally, as well as Reeves and Wilkinson, Pillin and Mole were also making solid hilts, and probably a couple of others as well. Pillin seem to have been the most common after Wilkinson and Reeves.

  10. #35
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    Thanks Matt,

    Can anyone tell me was the full width tang a bit of a sales gimmick or was there a reasonable possibility of failure with the rat tail tangs?

    This example feels very unwieldy and heavy and I would think not great for the hacking and slashing work of light cavalry.

  11. #36
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    Well everyone's taste is different We train twice a week in military sabre on foot, following the same few systems (Waite and Hutton mostly), but we all prefer different stats in our swords. For cavalry the sword was often held out and the horse did the work, so a larger heavier sword (which is less likely to break or bend) is a good thing. Though even for cavalry there were different schools of thought and hence companies like Wilkinson offered cavalry swords in 'medium' size (slightly shorter and lighter) for those who preferred something a bit more nimble. But there were people at the other end of the preference spectrum as well - one Wilkinson I have was ordered with a 40 inch blade 1 1/4" wide with a big fat grip. It handles like a brute (like the big French cuirassier swords), but if you're intending to use it like a lance, then that's what works.

    The full width tang is certainly stronger than a normal tang (the term 'rat tail' is only really for skinny modern display swords ). But the problem with solid tangs is that they make fitting the hilt more complicated, they are more difficult to fix if anything goes wrong and they result in a heavier sword. For a really good cutting sword you generally want a light hilt and having a load more mass at the back end of a sword doesn't do it any favours in the cutting department. It's clear that lots of people who could have afforded solid hilts and were ordering special designs chose not to have a solid hilt, so it wasn't for everyone.

    As far as I can tell, tang breaks were relatively rare historically - tangs were iron and scarf welded onto the steel blades, so tangs tended to bend rather than break. Every broken antique sword I have seen and every period account describing a broken blade that I can recall, showed a break in the blade itself rather than the tang. Modern replicas are more likely to break in the tang because the tangs are the same carbon steel as the blade and they are often heat treated with the blade, meaning they are unnecessarily hard and brittle. The advantage of a carbon steel tang is that the hilt assembly is less likely to get loose, but on the other hand, and iron tang is easier to peen and tighten if the hilt does get loose.

  12. #37
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    My view on solid hilts is this:

    Yes it was partly a sales gimmick. And also peer pressure/prestige.
    Technically we cannot disagree that a solid tang IS stronger. But regular width iron tangs seem to have hardly ever broken because they were soft iron and the use of a backstrap on the grip also serves to protect the tang from bending (as well as the wood of the grip of course). So I would argue that while solid tangs were stronger in literal terms, they were stronger than they needed to be. What they do generally achieve is to overcome the problem of hilts getting loose on tangs and needing to be tightened, but at the cost of extra mass at the hilt and greater cost of construction.

    1796 pattern light and heavy cavalry swords, as well as the 1821 pattern, have a lateral rivet through the normal tang, and even with that potential weakness I have never found any record/evidence of their tangs having any durability issues.

    I think what happened was that Reeves made a good sales pitch and secured the patent (though I'm not quite sure why it was accepted, given that swords and knives had been sometimes made with this construction for centuries!) and on the eve of the Crimean War lots of officers were under the impression that the private troopers might be about to get a new feature on their swords which might be better than officers themselves had. The two periods when patent hilts seem to have been made in larger numbers were around the Crimean War and during the Second Anglo-Boer War. I think that probably tells us something and these were two especially large deployments of British forces. I think that the fact that British cavalry troopers had solid hilts from 1853 (54 actually) through to 1908 probably had some influence on officers who didn't want to lack something that troopers had.
    But that's just a theory

    As I said before, lots of officers threw a lot of money at swords and decided not to have a solid hilt. Regular grips do tend to be more ergonomic and are lighter, which is generally a good thing. Some people also find that solid tangs transfer shock to the hand more when you make a duff cut, whereas normal wooden grips act as shock-absorbers.

  13. #38
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    Thanks Matt,

    A credible and comprehensive assessment. I wonder how many of them regretted their decision when having to lump them around and swing them.

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by james.elstob View Post
    Thanks Matt,

    Can anyone tell me was the full width tang a bit of a sales gimmick or was there a reasonable possibility of failure with the rat tail tangs?
    I'm delving into patent tangs again and in respect of a the above question I posed previously, I came across the following in John Wilkinson-Latham's: British Cut And Thrust Weapons:-

    At this stage in the evolution of sword manufacture, blades were made out of steel and the tang was a separate assembly of soft iron that was hammer-welded into a 'V' that had been cut into the shoulder. Mole's patent, no 436 of 19 October 1852, greatly improved on this method, which had been the cause of many swords breaking off at the hilt.

    Matt points to a lack of evidence of such breakages either in antiques or in period accounts.

    If there were many breakages as per JW-L (how many is many?) perhaps the reason blades failing at the tang are not seen by collectors could simply be because they are far more easily made good by the welding on of a new tang.

    That wouldn't explain a lack of period evidence of such breakages.

  15. #40
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    Lovely sword. I love the fully chequered curved backstrap - this is relatively rare on swords before 1895, but I have a few examples now and it makes complete functional sense.
    The Proved P is absolutely Pillin's work, no question. Pillin (Proved P) and Thurkle (Proved * then Proved T) made a lot of swords for outfitters and you can see their proof slugs on many swords.

  16. #41
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    If there were many breakages as per JW-L (how many is many?) perhaps the reason blades failing at the tang are not seen by collectors could simply be because they are far more easily made good by the welding on of a new tang.
    I actually had one French briquet that when disassembled showed a nearly split tang. The scarf weld was holding by a thread and the whole sword would have failed if used a few more times. It probably did not help that those grips are hollow and do not support the tang at all.

  17. #42
    Hodson of Hodson's Horse, from a letter dated June 10, 1857, from Delhi: "I was very nearly coming to grief once this morning, for the sabre I thought such a good one went the first blow, and the blade flew out of the handle the second, the handle itself breaking in two. I had to borrow a sword from a horse artilleryman for the remainder of the day."
    Marey (Memoir on Swords, 1860) re "the British New Pattern Light Cavalry Sword": "There is strictly no 'tang' to this sword, but the blade is prolonged to the length of the hilt. Two pieces of solid leather are then riveted, one on each side of the prolongation of the blade, which is visible at the back and front. This arrangement has the important advantage of strengthening the attachment of the blade and hilt. The old method was subject to the inconvenience of the sword-tang getting loose in the grip, and not unfrequently the sword broke off at the tang, in giving a powerful blow."

  18. #43
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    I have revised my research into this sword due to nagging doubts about the initials.

    Having seen more examples I came to doubt that the initials were FWJ and now believe that they are FWT. (as suggested by Mike Showers all along).

    With the very kind assistance of the archivist at the HAC it has been confirmed that FW Justen was never a member of the HAC Light Cavalry troop.

    The archivist was further able to tell me that only one member of the Light Cavalry troop matches the initials FWT and that is (later Sir) Francis Wyatt Truscott.

    He was a member of the HAC LC troop between 1861 - 1866. He was himself Lord Mayor of London as was his son and grandson!

    No connection as far as I can see to 21st Lancers so the scabbard marking remains a mystery.

    I now feel much happier that I have the right man.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 05-05-2020 at 02:34 PM.

  19. #44
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  20. #45
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    Stop the press!!!

    On further reading it is said that "Truscott knew Edward VII, Catherine and William Booth, and Winston Churchill."
    the latter of whom is associated with 21st Lancers.

    Mystery solved! This scabbard must have been a gift from Churchill!

  21. #46
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    That's good news. Looks like your persistence paid off and Truscott sounds like he could be an interesting person to research

    Quote Originally Posted by james.elstob View Post
    Stop the press!!!

    On further reading it is said that "Truscott knew Edward VII, Catherine and William Booth, and Winston Churchill."
    the latter of whom is associated with 21st Lancers.

    Mystery solved! This scabbard must have been a gift from Churchill!
    Or maybe Churchill was in desperate need of a sword, realized he left it at his mom's house and asked Truscott if he could borrow his. (okay, maybe too Python-esque)
    Cheers,
    Mike
    Last edited by MikeShowers; 05-07-2020 at 09:46 PM.

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