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Old 16th November 2022, 09:46 PM   #61
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Default The 1804 is a great cutlass

........ and they are to be thanked & lauded for sharing the results of their long years of dedicated research and for their passion and enthusiasm which many benefit from & share.

I agree with this thought and have the utmost respect for those researchers who must have spent hours and days poring over documents, searching out examples and corresponding with museum curators. We have it a lot easier with the web, access to auction pictures and online museum collections worldwide.

The forum is also a major factor in sharing knowledge and I was struck when discussing the Tower of London fire that information came from completely different sources depending on whether the perspective was from firearms or cutlasses. All improving the understanding.

I was hoping that there would have been a few more 1804 cutlasses posted on Mark's excellent idea for a thread. But there are not so many 1804 survivors.

Often military firearms are talked about in the 100,000s while for cutlasses it is more like in the 1000s as they were assigned to ships not individuals. There is no standard because it would depend on the size of the crew but roughly 350 cutlasses for a British Ship of the Line and perhaps 280 to a frigate. A requisition order for the first three US Navy frigates states 550, which equates to around 180 per ship.

We know from Swords for Sea Service that a total of only 30,000 were ordered in 1804/1808 and Mark has listed the suppliers already in post 5. There are probably a few more than this number as it is also noted that Hadley was permitted to deliver more that his order of 2500 and there are also examples marked to Harvey, Eddels and Tatham and Egg.

The 1804 cutlass does not look pretty and the flat plain blade necessitates a fairly heavy blade for strength but it is still a very well balanced sword. Good enough to be in service for 30 years or so.

The construction is not as simple as it looks as the blade is made up of two parts. The tang and lower section of the blade is made from iron or mild steel (I am not sure which) which is more resilient to shock impact and less likely to fracture. It is scarf welded during the forging process to the rest of blade which is of of higher carbon steel more able to take an edge.

Sometimes, on worn blades, the scarf is visible with very faint lines and sometimes the texture of the surface is different because it has corroded in a slightly different way. The cypher is normally stamped into the softer steel.

The 1804 is still one of my favourites.
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Old 17th November 2022, 04:20 AM   #62
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The construction is not as simple as it looks as the blade is made up of two parts. The tang and lower section of the blade is made from iron or mild steel (I am not sure which) which is more resilient to shock impact and less likely to fracture. It is scarf welded during the forging process to the rest of blade which is of of higher carbon steel more able to take an edge.

Wow, CC! I had no idea about the two-part construction of these cutlasses! Makes total sense in that a heavy blade imparting with something hard (someone's skull, for instance!) would put a great deal of shock to the tang. As you point out, these are 'beefy' weapons, very heavy and built to do some serious damage! Thank you for this information and for your kind words.
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Old 17th November 2022, 04:27 AM   #63
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The forum is also a major factor in sharing knowledge and I was struck when discussing the Tower of London fire that information came from completely different sources depending on whether the perspective was from firearms or cutlasses. All improving the understanding.
I agree as well. Sometimes, you just don't know where a thread will take you! In regards to the Tower fire, I certainly think it possible that such stores of cutlass that were there would have been lost. As these utilitarian weapons were considered more 'munitions grade' and not as important (not my opinion, but many) as firearms, it wouldn't be a surprise if said losses were under-reported. I do want to thank everyone for their contributions thus far, but as CC pointed out, it would have been great to see a few other examples posted.
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Old 17th November 2022, 10:44 AM   #64
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The tang and lower section of the blade is made from iron or mild steel (I am not sure which) which is more resilient to shock impact and less likely to fracture. It is scarf welded during the forging process to the rest of blade which is of of higher carbon steel more able to take an edge.

Musket bayonets are also constructed with an iron socket, elbow & up to about a third of the blade of iron scarf welded to steel. Ramrods likewise were iron & steel - the stem being steel & the head iron.

However, having harped on about muskets so much I'd better post a few photos of a P/1804 cutlass that used to be in my collection (sold to help fund a musket purchase!)
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Old 17th November 2022, 11:49 AM   #65
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Great example Adrian and with a rare scabbard too.
I can't make out the maker's name, do you recall it?

It is interesting that there are so many variations of the cypher, from the block GR to the fanciest scrolled text. This one is different as well. All 1804s would have been made during the reign of George III (1760-1820). Does this mean that manufacturers made their own interpretation of the cypher rather than a standard one?
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Old 17th November 2022, 05:12 PM   #66
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Default 1804 or Private purchase.

The navy had been asking for an improved cutlass for some time as the double disk gave insufficient protection to the hand. The reduction in fleet size since the end of the Napoleonic wars meant the navy probably had plenty of 1804s in stock. There was plainly some long standing disagreement between the Board of Ordnance, the Admiralty and serving personnel.

In 1840 it was decided to modify 10,000 existing 1804s with a new grip and a steel half basket guard amply large. Only about a 1000 cutlasses had been modified and re-issued when the fire in the Tower put a stop to the modifications.

Referencing the recent discussion around the amount of equipment lost in the fire it has occurred to me that maybe the navy took the opportunity to exaggerate their loss in order to facilitate a new and improved cutlass! They had been trying since 1827 when Harry Angelo first pointed out that the 1804 could be improved.

I am not sure, but could this be one of the 1000 modified cutlasses.
It has a straight flat plain blade, slightly shorter than a standard 1804, the end has been reshaped into a more pronounced point and it has a large half basket guard and a finger sculpted grip.

The sculpted grip was definitely new and although it is often described as 'experimental' it does appear on private purchase cutlasses and also the 1850 Royal Artillery sword. It may be ok for hacking with a cutlass but not for any finer sword work and it was not adopted by the navy when the format of the 1845 was finally decided.

This cutlass is not so well balance as the original 1804 which may indicate it is modified but on the other hand it has no markings so could be private purchase. It is the only flat straight bladed cutlass with the later 1840s guard that I have ever seen.
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Old 17th November 2022, 09:16 PM   #67
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I can't make out the maker's name, do you recall it?

HADLEY (the H quite faint).
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Old 17th November 2022, 09:23 PM   #68
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I am not sure, but could this be one of the 1000 modified cutlasses.

Does it bear any Ordnance stamps? If it was an Ordnance made or altered sword one would expect to see an inspection stamp at least, especially if it dates to about the 1840-50s and it being a peacetime item. If a prototype or commercial item then an Ordnance view stamp would not be present.
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Old 17th November 2022, 09:37 PM   #69
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Those are both incredible cutlasses! Adrian, I would have loved to have had that Hadley model!

CC, I would think a prototype is possible, but I also agree with Adrian that if it were used by any govertnment-associated parties, I'd expect to see the ordnance stamp. If purely a prototype that saw no service, then who knows? Still an amazing piece! Is it from your collection?

I think Gilkerson pointed out quite succinctly that the vast majority of ships that would have carried the m1804 were the merchantmen. Their ships vastly outnumbered the Britisuh Navy and were always under the direct threat of being attacked by the French (and their allies, Danish pirates, etc) and later American privateers during conflicts. Here's an old broadside from my collection stressing that point-
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Old 17th November 2022, 10:00 PM   #70
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So, I hate to be redundant and beat a dead horse, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around a few final questions. CC, on your m1804 with the crown mark only. Do we know that this model was only exported to Sweden? In other words, this type probably didn't go to Portugal or another friendly nation? Were they used by their navy or strictly their merchant fleet? Were they only distributed during the time of the troubles or did they continue to produce this type (as indicated by another source I read claiming large purchases into the 1830's?). I would assume with rare exception that swords marked GR, WR and VR were used by the British naval ships only. Would you mind showing us a closeup of the Swedish crown marking for posterity? (sorry to trouble you. I myself am not so great at posting pics, let alone using software/electronics/social media, etc, etc. As I always say, "Luddite and proud!"

In looking at the 'oddball' S&K model from Boarders Away (pg 88 and the spurious GR marking on 86), Gilkerson implies that the reason the German manufacturer, who made these up until mid to late 19th, apparently, used the obsolete marking was to show "quality". Hmm, well it was an ordnance stamp showing government use and much as the broad arrow, was meant to detract from blokes stealing the swords after their tour of duty ended. I personally believe this GR stamp was used both out of reverence for the old popular British model and a reminder of Great Britain's kind friendship in helping her allies. One will note this spurious crown, as it is different from most others. It is three 'lobed', tilted slightly backward to show the inner rim of the interior and has a small cross at it's peak. Familiarizing oneself with this mark and also noting the subtle differences in this German model's design should help distinguish models made in England during the period and those that created at a later time.

Last edited by M ELEY; 18th November 2022 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 18th November 2022, 12:13 PM   #71
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Does it bear any Ordnance stamps? If it was an Ordnance made or altered sword one would expect to see an inspection stamp at least, especially if it dates to about the 1840-50s and it being a peacetime item. If a prototype or commercial item then an Ordnance view stamp would not be present.[/QUOTE]

No markings and this is obviously the stumbling block!
The puzzle is the disparity between the 1804 blade and 1840s guard. Private purchase generally differ little from the military version, although the use of brass (it being cheaper than steel at the time) is sometimes seen on hilts and guards on private cutlasses.
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Old 18th November 2022, 01:33 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by M ELEY View Post
So, I hate to be redundant and beat a dead horse, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around a few final questions. CC, on your m1804 with the crown mark only. Do we know that this model was only exported to Sweden? In other words, this type probably didn't go to Portugal or another friendly nation? Were they used by their navy or strictly their merchant fleet? Were they only distributed during the time of the troubles or did they continue to produce this type (as indicated by another source I read claiming large purchases into the 1830's?). I would assume with rare exception that swords marked GR, WR and VR were used by the British naval ships only. Would you mind showing us a closeup of the Swedish crown marking for posterity? (sorry to trouble you.
I have never solved the Swedish? crown on the 1804.

I think that some 1804s may have been sold off from Britain but most were copied and manufactured by different countries.
SSS has a picture of one in the National Maritime museum which was dated as 1820 by the Norwegian donor. Norway started up a manufacturing factory at Kongsberg in 1814 and I think the Norway version was produced there but I can't find where I know that from at the moment!

SSS also says Spain and Sweden followed British patterns of cutlass in the 19th century but whether that means exact or not is unclear.

Sim also shows an 1804 with similar crown but only identifies it as Scandinavian(?) and he also thinks that there were signs of a previous cypher polished out of the blade.

So conflicting information all of which can probably be resolved by a Swedish or Norwegian expert!

Here are pictures of the crown from my example and Sim's book.
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Old 19th November 2022, 06:13 AM   #73
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Thank you for posting these, CC! These crowns look nearly identical to the 'spurious' crown marking on the S&K in Gilkerson! Maybe we are onto something! Note the crown is tilted to expose the interior rim and both have the small cross at the top. As you pointed out, apparently other markets were making the m1804, so perhaps S&K used the crown mark on their exports and just added the GR for reminiscence sake!
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Old 19th November 2022, 04:20 PM   #74
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I think indeed you guys might be onto something. It seems of course that it was long a Solingen convention to use spurious markings and other favored phrases etc. to appeal to certain clientele. For example, the fabled ANDREA FERARA for Scottish blades and SAHAGUN, the Spanish maker for North Europe.

In the 19th century Solingen produced many blades for Mexico, America and others using their symbols, devices and motif. Why not use a Swedish crown for cutlasses going there?
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Old 19th November 2022, 04:33 PM   #75
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Hi Mark,

Look closely at the crown in Boarders Away it only has 3 lobes the Swedish one has 4.

I have done a bit more research. If you look up the online collection in Swedish Marine museums there are a number of 1804s with this crown. Interesting that their other cutlass models do not have it. It may indicate that these were manufactured in Britain and sold to Sweden to help arm them against Russia (history repeats, I guess).
https://digitaltmuseum.se/011024801576/huggare

I was correct about the Norwegian 1804 in SSS. These were produced at Kongsberg 1817/18 and were copied from captured British 1804s. The Greenwich museum has it online now - I believe the same sword as in SSS. It has markings on the hilt - no Swedish crown.

https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/ob...c-object-78687

So much more to the history of the 1804!!

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Old 19th November 2022, 04:36 PM   #76
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Hi Jim, our posts crossed, but yes there is no indication that the Swedish model was made in Britain so could well have been supplied from Solingen with the crown added. Other Swedish cutlasses do not have the crown.
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Old 29th November 2022, 02:40 AM   #77
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Hi Jim, our posts crossed, but yes there is no indication that the Swedish model was made in Britain so could well have been supplied from Solingen with the crown added. Other Swedish cutlasses do not have the crown.
CC
Thank you CC, I totally missed your response.
Solingen did seem most obliging in producing blades with whatever identifying markings or phrases were favored or required by clientele.
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