Ethnographic Arms & Armour

Ethnographic Arms & Armour (
-   European Armoury (
-   -   A lion pommel hanger (

M ELEY 5th October 2011 09:25 PM

A lion pommel hanger
4 Attachment(s)
Fairly recent acquisition is this English or possibly American hanger with brass lion pommel cast as a whole piece. 4-slotted brass hilt and serrated copper wire wrap. I suspect the grip might be cherry (American??), but still have to look into that one. In any case, as these were popular officer's swords in both the armies and navies of the Amer Revolutionary war period, I'm glad to have it as a representative piece of possibly naval origin.

Norman McCormick 7th October 2011 10:15 PM

Hi Mark,
I don't know how I missed this thread :o . Love it, hangers of all descriptions are one of my favourite forms and these lion pommelled slot hilted types, I think, are so evocative of the latter part of the 18thC. It's a great addition to your collection and it would be nice if you could tie it down to a naval connection but I think that's going to be a difficult if not impossible exercise. Great catch.
Kind Regards,

M ELEY 7th October 2011 11:42 PM

Hello Norman. Thanks for commenting on this hanger. Agreed, these are great swords for the period. Also agreed, almost impossible to tack down to naval. It's enough for me to say that these types were popular among naval officers of the period. Seems they are becoming harder to come by (I've wanted one for awhile and just had to get it). If I could at least pin-point the wood of the grip being cherry, I believe that might at least lean it toward country of origin. Whether Brit or American, though, I'm happy with it.

Dmitry 8th October 2011 02:43 AM

A very nice English officer's hanger!

M ELEY 8th October 2011 03:29 AM

Hello Dmitry. Good to hear from you and thanks for your input. Yes, I am leaning more toward the obvious conclusion that it's English. The decorative wire wrapping, quality of the brass casting of the hilt and one-piece well-defined lion pommel have more quality than the colonial American pieces of the time (with some exceptions, of course :cool: ).

Dmitry 8th October 2011 04:41 AM

Hi, Mark.
There is no doubt on my part that the hilt of your sword is not American-made. There are several reasons; for one, it looks to have been gilt, a feature you will pretty much never see on American-made swords of that vintage [I'd date it ca. mid-1770s - very early 1790s].
The naval attribution is a strong one, even though it doesn't have an anchor. Of course it could also have been an army officer's sword, but if I had it, I would definitely have considered the navy or a privateer officer.
I have two British officers' swords with very similar lion head pommels in my collection. One is a cavalry officer's piece, silver-hilted and hallmarked with a London date letter 1780. The other is naval officer's.
Yours's a very nice, clean sword. Enjoy!

M ELEY 9th October 2011 01:36 AM

Thanks Dmitry. Now is there any chance you might post a pic or two of your examples? I understand if you are too busy, but they sound like fantastic examples, especially the silver hilt...

Dmitry 9th October 2011 03:20 PM

5 Attachment(s)

Jim McDougall 9th October 2011 10:51 PM

Hi Mark,
I just wanted to join in to admire this outstanding sabre! I know that in noting material pertaining to naval situation during the American Revolution here my notes will be superfluous as you know this stuff inside out! but I will anyway as its how I learn.
As Gilkerson (p.111) points out, "...during the American Revolution almost all Continental Navy officers used swords of English or European pattern and manufacture as the Colonies had little capability to produce blades of quality".
Actually I think personally that it was simply that the American navy, rather than being a standing service with ships of the line, was mostly small ships often commercial with letters of marque issued by congress. Obviously the Bon Homme Richard and John Paul Jones come to mind as one of the exceptions. Privately held weapons were of course already in place and the volume of British and European weapons available as opposed to the very small number of swordsmiths active in the Colonies. These makers, though only several, were more than capable of producing good quality weapons in those times.
In Neumann, there is an example remarkably similar to yours (p.108, 140.S) which is English c.1770-80. The lionhead, like yours, is characteristically British in style, and the also British style slotted guard has multiple slots a bit different. The blade appears of the same cross section and curve of yours.

I think that much as in most cases looking for maritime potential with swords of these times, unless they are with fouled anchor as with examples of British navy of the period or otherwise distinctively decorated, we can at best equate the sabre as of the type likely used. Considering the number of small vessels privateering (up to 600 British ships were seized) there is certainly every possibility of this sabre, or examples like it being used by those Americans on these vessels. The navy was disbanded after the end of the war until the Naval Act of 1794.

Again, all of this is added here for my own learning mostly, and for readers here, you guys already know all this stuff :)

All the best,

Norman McCormick 10th October 2011 06:23 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Another silver lion for the 'pride'.

M ELEY 10th October 2011 09:01 PM

Dmitry and Norman,

You have both reduced me to tears!! Absolutely beautiful examples that anyone would be proud to own. Remember me in your wills- ;) Thank you for posting them here for this thread so that others can see how amazing this sword form truly is.

M ELEY 10th October 2011 09:13 PM

Hello Jim and thank you so very much for your valuable comments!
Quite to the contrary, what you said is probably the most important part of this discussion. One must differentiate between the points that although my hanger is English made, it very possibly could have ended up in a colonist's hands. There were very few quality American sword makers during this period and while blacksmith-made swords were more common, a sword of quality had to come from outside the colonies. Considering the vast numbers of American soldiers of the period, arms were desperately needed.

One of the crucial ways this could be accomplished was through capture. Considering the numbers you quote of captured merchant ships alone, one can see where the necessity was met. Whether through capture in battle, plundering from ships or supply lines, or through illicit purchase (there were still those on the continent selling to the colonies), it definately leaves the door open for American use. Your point drives home the reason Neumann's guide contains so many different weapons from other nationalities and periods: for the colonists, it was make do with what one could get their hands on. They did what they had to do to survive, like a certain occupation of 'sea robbers' I'm familiar with- :D
Thank you for reminding me of this fact and keeping me on my toes, Jim :cool:

Dmitry 10th October 2011 10:58 PM

Most small arms came into continental hands not through capture, as heroic and romantic as it sounds, but by banal purchases and 'foreign aid', mainly from the French, who have shipped thousands of strands of muskets and piles of swords, and through the Dutch merchants in St.Eustatius and other Caribbean ports. Instances of arms capture from the British ships are known, and are few. Officer weapons were all private purchases. I would assume that 'certain English cutlers' continued to trade in them through third parties even during the Rev.War.
The interesting part of these lion-headed hangers is not just the hilts, but the blades as well, which for the most part are uniform in shape, as shown above, and are mostly undecorated. I would wager that they were made in Solingen, and hilted in England, London, for the most part. My silver-hilted example is an exception, it's mounted with a trophy Seven Year War period blade marked Grenadiers de France. It was discussed on the sword Forum some years back. But the rest are all the same, more or less. Just my $.02.

M ELEY 10th October 2011 11:17 PM

Thanks for that valuable information as well, Dmitry. Filing it away in my records for future reference, as I do with so much of the info here...

Jim McDougall 11th October 2011 06:49 PM

Hi Mark, and thank you so much for the kind words as always. I always very much appreciate your personal response and recognition of my comments, that means a lot.
I think that the most fascinating thing about history is gaining realistic perspective on the actual texture of people and events, and moving toward the less embellished features away from the exciting and ever valued literature which can of course mislead in degree. The fact hardest to remember about America in those colonial times is that the citizens were still in essence British. Naturally most weapons and materials were acquired from England, and these were in use at the time the revolution evolved.

Much as during the Civil War, there was prevalent trade through third party suppliers, actually a constant in most periods of war and conflict involving countries . It would not be at all surprising that these sabre blades described might be Solingen produced. It seems if I understand correctly the cross section on these are of what was known as 'Montmorency' form which seem to have originated or become popular around this time in the 18th century, and known on a number of British blade forms. I have seen blades by Wooley, post Revolution of course, using this section (think of our brass hilted,ebony grip sabres).
During the time of the Revolution and after, the 'sword scandals' in England were the result of British makers calling out against the prevalent use of Solingen blades.

I think that sabres and hangers of these types were well in use by individuals and officers in the Colonies in the period of thier development as recognized forms in England through the regular means of acquisition, through purchase or trade. While there was a powerful desire for firearms as primary weapons, swords were well recognized as a secondary weapon of defense in the heat of combat once these were discharged, however knives and axes would be used as available also. It seems that swords were more esteemed as icons of authority and status, thus more aligned with officers. I think these would have been realized more as trophies in the case of captured items.

M ELEY 12th October 2011 01:47 AM

I absolutely agree, Jim. The colonists were still very much a British sovreign, so it makes sense that many of these were already here before and as the fighting broke out. Likewise, as you said regarding captures, as a "spoil of war", a sword like this would have been much desired. I've often wondered if any of the merchant fleet taken just off Britain's coast might have had a store or two of these on board (they were obviously popular). In any case, I'm glad to have one in the collection. Thanks!

Dmitry 24th October 2011 03:59 AM

A similar hanger is in the British National Maritime Museum.

Again, without any naval attributes or family history, it's not possible to prove the naval provenance. NMM collection contains all kinds of swords, not necessarily naval in origin. Still, stylistically a sword similar to yours, albeit with a beefier blade of familiar style. Unusual to see a blade this stout.

M ELEY 24th October 2011 02:38 PM

Wow! Look at the blade on that thing! Another fantastic example with some of its gilding still intact! The National Maritime Museum has some great pics online of other naval pieces and I love to stumble upon them now and again. Hope to someday make it there.

All times are GMT. The time now is 06:02 AM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.