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Thread: Henry Osborn's G Stamp

  1. #1

    Henry Osborn's G Stamp

    G'day Guys,

    British swords of the 1796 – 1816 period are sometimes encountered with a “G” or “GG” stamp on the ricasso close to the tang. These stamps are also encountered on swords made in Britain for the American market. The stamps are only found on swords of officers’ quality, rather than those of trooper or enlisted men’s quality. The G stamps are found in a number of combinations on the ricasso. There may be a single “G” stamp, or “GG” stamp on one or both ricassos of a sword. When found on swords with a hilt that incorporates langets, such as the 1796 light cavalry pattern, the stamp can be difficult to spot as it is hidden behind the langets. Also it may be covered by the leather washer that most swords of this period originally had to produce a seal with the mouth of the scabbard.

    Over the years, collectors and researchers have come up with a variety of explanations for these stamps, including that the G stands for the Birmingham sword manufacturer Thomas Gill, is an import/export mark, or denotes German manufacture.

    One feature of these swords is that when the G stamp is found on a marked blade, the maker is almost always Osborn or Osborn and Gunby. Henry Osborn was a prominent Birmingham sword maker. He was in business from around 1785, but came to prominence after his collaboration with John Gaspard Le Marchant to design and produce the 1796 pattern light and heavy cavalry swords. In 1806 he partnered with John Gunby to form the firm of Osborn and Gunby. The partnership was dissolved in 1820.

    When another name is found on a G stamped blade, it can be shown that the name belongs to a retailer, rather than the manufacturer of the blade. I have never encountered a Gill marked sword with a G stamp. All Osborn marked officers’ swords appear to have the stamp. Osborn and Gunby marked swords also have the stamp, but perhaps not all of them. As Osborn was known to manufacture his own sword blades, the most likely explanation is that the G or GG is an inspection mark used by Osborn and subsequently Osborn and Gunby. Certainly it has nothing to do with the import or export of blades. JJ Runkel marked blades which were all imported from Solingen do not have G stamps.

    Why GG was used in some cases rather than a single G is unclear. Where GG is used, it appears to be a single G stamp struck twice, rather than a single GG stamp. The G and GG stamp can be found on all blade forms manufactured by Osborn including the 1796 infantry spadroon, 1796 light cavalry, 1796 heavy cavalry, 1796 heavy cavalry dress broadsword blade and 1803 infantry officer blade forms including the highly curved unfullered version.

    The G stamp used by Osborn is usually a different font to that used by Osborn and Gunby. Osborn and Gunby used a sans serif “G”, while Osborn used a serif “G”. I have seen Osborn and Gunby marked swords with the serif G, so it may be that the change occurred shortly after Osborn partnered with Gunby. It is also possible that the difference in G stamps may just be a result of worn punches.

    I have seen the occasional Osborn and Gunby marked sword on the internet, which appears to have no G stamp. It may be that Osborn and Gunby stopped G stamping sword blades at some stage, or it may be the case that these swords do have G stamps, but they are hidden from view. All Osborn and Gunby swords that I have examined in hand have G stamps.

    If you encounter an unmarked sword of this period with a G stamp on the ricasso, you can be sure the blade at least was made by Osborn or Osborn and Gunby.

    Attached Images Attached Images      

  2. #2
    Great info but I couldn't download the attachments.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    James click on photos and choose "save image as" or "save image", if you have an Apple.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Nipmuc USA
    Bryce, post #4

    GG blade


  5. #5
    Thanks Glen,
    I don't have a copy of the revised Robson. Here is the photo from that post. This is a good photo that demonstrates that blades marked GG by Osborn, were marked with a single G punch twice, rather than once with a double G punch. You can see how one G is rotated more than the other.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    North West US
    If correct any American eagleheads with the G or GG mark could be attributed to Osborn, is that the consensus or is this a debate. Eric
    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

  7. #7
    G'day Eric,
    If the blade has a G stamp than the blade was definitely made by Osborn or Osborn and Gunby. In the absence of any other markings it is probable that Osborn made the whole sword and not just the blade. Conversely, if a sword doesn't have a G stamp, then it wasn't made by Osborn.


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