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Old 24th September 2021, 11:17 PM   #1
awdaniec666
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Question A saber of unknown origin and age

Hello there,

I would like to ask for advice when it comes to this saber I bought today at a Polish online auction. My knowledge about sabers from after 1800 ist very sparse, but nevertheless I was interested in that sabers blade and so I bought it.
The auction description has been "An officers saber from before world war I".
And that was it, nothing more. The scabbard looks very funny to me and somehow not matching the weapon, but that i secondary for me.
There is a stamp on the knuckle-bow: "MORSDD*C*" or "MORSUD*C*", I may be wrong.
Something shall be 95 cm long here, the seller didnt specify if it is with or without scabbard, just the blade (I doubt it) or whatever.

I attach all photographs from the auction and wait for the arrival now.
I also hope the image resolution wont be awful on your display, if so, apologies!
Hope you can help and thanks a lot in advance.
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Last edited by awdaniec666; 24th September 2021 at 11:24 PM. Reason: added image of lion head from above
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Old 29th September 2021, 08:15 PM   #2
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A quick update what I have found so far. Probably obvious to some of you:

- Blade style is called "pipe-back". A known maker has been Prosser located in London, early 18th century. Such blades were introduced in 1822 as regular pattern to the british army (infantry)
- Hilt: Most ugly, yet still interesting, lion head I have encountered so far. I still dont know anything about that makers mark.

Probably some Prussian copy of a british saber from the 1830´s???
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Old 29th September 2021, 09:41 PM   #3
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I can't identify it but here are som observations that might help.

Pipe back blades were also used by other European countries, eg. the Prussians in the 1879 redesign of the M1852 Cavalry sabre. But the pipe back blade design originated in the middle east and was imported into Britain following the Egyptian campaign of the Napoleonic wars. It occurs on a few of the unofficial infantry sabres that proliferated prior to the adoption of the 1803 pattern.

Pipe back blades were common in the Ottoman empire but I agree the hilt styling looks very European.

British 3 bar hilts also had a smaller D ring on the thumb side which yours lacks.

The raised yelmen on the false edge is particularly long on your example, that may be a clue.

I have seen that 'ugly lion' referred to as a dogs head as lions weren't the only animal used for pommel decoration.

I'd agree that the scabbard is not the original one for that blade.

Robert
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Old 29th September 2021, 09:47 PM   #4
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Just remembered that the officers model of the 1821 Light Cavalry pattern had a pipe back blade (troopers model had a fuller) and a 3 bar hilt, this hilt doesn't really fit the pattern but officers were known to deviate from it to suit their own taste so that would be where I would start looking.

What is the blade length, Infantry swords were around 31 - 32" while cavalry were 33 - 35" (in general of course individual officers still broke those rules).

Robert
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Old 29th September 2021, 10:17 PM   #5
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Hi Robert,
Sorry to not have come in sooner. Im a bit surprised nobody has responded, but you have moved along pretty well with the research you've done.
The lion head was used on Continental swords as well, especially in Holland, which I thought this might be.
The flowing mane of course supports that it is a lion, not dog.

The three bar hilt was of course also quite well known on the Continent.
With the cartouche with name imbedded in the hilt, this is in my thought a very French affectation so need to look more into this.

Infantry did not carry swords except officers and sometimes the flank companies in some degree. Cavalry blades were typically 35-36" with the shorter blades of 29-33" usually officers sabers.

The blade form with raised yelman is termed 'quill point' and these were known on British swords in Napoleonic, but as you note, these became popular in Solingen blades after 1850s, which of course were supplied to Austria etc. as well as German states.

Possibly Wagner (1967) or some of the other references might have options. I will check later. Interesting sword!
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Old 30th September 2021, 01:53 AM   #6
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The scabbard frog stud is German style. The scabbard is incorrect for the sword and does not fit well being far too wide and too long.
Continental is a term used for "who knows, somewhere in Europe".
The lion head pommel is typical of British 1803p swords. The pipe back blade can be German and British since both used the type.
Could be French made for the British market. Note the scabbard mouth indentation on the brass guard around the blade, only a steel mouth would do this being harder than the brass guard.
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Old 30th September 2021, 09:31 AM   #7
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For my two cents, I don't think the lion head is typically British at all. Instead, it is more like this cavalry sabre from Solingen.
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Old 30th September 2021, 10:19 AM   #8
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The key to the solution is certainly the signature at the hilt. I can read MORSDL & Cie", the "DL" is uncertain. Maybe someone here knows this name?
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Old 30th September 2021, 10:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by corrado26 View Post
The key to the solution is certainly the signature at the hilt. I can read MORSDL & Cie", the "DL" is uncertain. Maybe someone here knows this name?
Steve Langham is compiling a database of British Makers and Retailers that is available online: British Sword Markers and Retailers

But a search for MORS doesn't turn up any likely candidates, alas.
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Old 30th September 2021, 10:59 AM   #10
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After my understanding this name cannot be English, because in the English language the word "company" is written with an "y" at the end, not with an "ie" as is the case in France or Germany
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Old 30th September 2021, 11:54 AM   #11
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How about "& Cº" ?; hardly, i know .
MORSDL would not make much sense ... in any language, i guess; it would be missing a vowel ... or two. Definitely the way to a right answer would be easier to find if Patrick posted a more accurate picture of the mark .
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Old 30th September 2021, 06:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando View Post
Definitely the way to a right answer would be easier to find if Patrick posted a more accurate picture of the mark .
And he will! I am still waiting for it to arrive
Exact measurements and better images will follow as soon as I hold it in my hands.

Thank you all for this interesting aspects so far!
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Old 30th September 2021, 10:46 PM   #13
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G'day Guys,
Definitely not British. My vote is European, possibly Swedish.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 30th September 2021, 10:57 PM   #14
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Most interesting discussion!
The term 'Continental' indeed does refer collectively to 'Europe' in describing the use of the lion head pommel feature, as in checking references with these on examples I found them in France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Hungary to name several. These with flowing mane down backstrap typically were of course very much like the M1803 infantry officers sword in Great Britain.

The 'dogs head' term used for the often admittedly somewhat grotesque face on some lions heads pommels seems to have arisen during the Revolutionary War. As noted by George Neumann in "Swords and Blades of the American Revolution" (1973, p.101, 119.S); "...many of the animal headed pommels, especially American, are so crude that identification is resolved by calling them 'dogs heads".

This is noted further in "The Dog Head Sword of Succasanna", (J.Brashier, 2016, p.79); "...dog headed swords that appeared at the beginning of the war and disappeared soon after it from the long departed lions heads, and may have embodied anti British feelings. Political cartoons of the day often depicted dogs harassing Britain".

Getting back to this example:

in Wagner ("Cut and thrust Weapons", Prague, 1967) these examples illustrate both the form of 'pipe back' blade seen on the one posted. These seems to have been in use from Solingen (on M1854, Danish sgt sword Moller, 1963, p.67) and was used past the 1900 mark on various 'European' swords. These blades seem to have been used mostly in the German states however.

With the lionhead, one Prussian officers sword is shown (p.267, Wagner) but the three bar guard is more full. I would note that here it is noted to be of 'French' style.

That suggests that perhaps there was a notable possibility of French producers providing hilts. The cartouche with name in the hilt guard is very much a French tradition, and the use of a German made blade not at all unusual.

I would suspect this may be French or German produced by an unrecorded outfitter probably toward latter part 19th c. and for a unit of 'guard' or other auxiliary type . These kinds of units often had unspecified type swords and hilt patterns.

On a side note, Prosser was a London outfitter, cutler of early years of 19th c. and as with most cutlers of the time used German blades.
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Old 30th September 2021, 11:02 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
G'day Guys,
Definitely not British. My vote is European, possibly Swedish.
Cheers,
Bryce
Quite likely Bryce! All of these countries cross diffused influences as well as often imported weapons. I always forget how close all these European countries are, here in Texas you drive days to leave the state.
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Old 6th October 2021, 01:22 PM   #16
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The sword has arrived today.
The mark is very small, no wonder pictures with common lenses fail at displaying the stamp correctly. I attach one image of my saber (better quality wasnt possible) and few of other sabers with the same mark.

It says "Morell & Co.". I have found several sabers from past auctions with that stamp and similar pipe-back blades, mostly coming from Sweden. Even one with a very similar lionhead. My quick search has not brought more informations about that maker.
Despite its look, the leather scabbard seems to be actually made for the saber. Its not too long. The only thing that doesnt match is the opening which is a bit wider than it should be for that saber in my opinion.
The hilt was abviously gilded.

Measurements in cm:
Blade lenght: 78
Curvature: 2
Broadenessat at hilt: 2, mid: 1,5, feather/yelmen max: 1,8
Hilt lenght: 11,5
Scabbard lenght: 82,5

What wonders me is the complete lack of sharpening! Even the point is not "pointy". Can it be the blade has been made, mounted on the hilt and left for sharpening elsewhere which has not been made ultimately?
Were parade sabers sharp?
It has few chips here and there but that could have been kids playing with it.
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Last edited by awdaniec666; 6th October 2021 at 04:07 PM. Reason: removed useless folding knife image
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Old 6th October 2021, 02:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdaniec666 View Post
... My quick search has not brought more informations about that maker, except for a "John Morell & Co. - since 1827" on an antique folding knife...
Mind you Patrick, that folding knife is a marketing gift from the meat processor John Morrel ... not Morell; has nothing to do with your sword.

Quote:
Originally Posted by awdaniec666 View Post
... has few chips here and there but that could have been kids playing with it.
I appreciate such honest and realistic assumption; in general, folks like to think that chips are signs of battle; maybe one in a thousand, i would guess .. I recall, when in my youth, helping to vandalize a friend's grandfather military sabre.
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Old 6th October 2021, 02:19 PM   #18
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Thank you Fernando. Did you hear about blunt sabers and can tell me something about this?
Keeping in mind my sabers size, the gilding and the still (for children) dangerous point I wouldnt think that this is something for a child. Was there a different view on safety back then?
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Old 6th October 2021, 02:27 PM   #19
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I wouldn't think the explanation for this blade being blunt is due to it being a child sword; the reason must reside elsewhere. Some of our members could help to clarify this.
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Old 6th October 2021, 05:15 PM   #20
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I have a pallasch from an ancestor who was an officer in the Kungliga Norrlands Dragoner in early 20thC which is unsharpened. I believe the reason for this is that the swords were only sharpened for war, and Sweden was luckily not involved in wars since the days of Napoleon. Had Sweden been involved in war and my ancestor called into the field for war service, then I believe the sword would have been sharpened. There are 19th Swedish swords marked Morell & Co. I think they may have been cutlers?
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Old 6th October 2021, 06:44 PM   #21
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A rather plausible explanation, no doubt .
And yes, that Morell & Co. stamp looks like the cutler's type, "& Co." and all.
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Old 6th October 2021, 08:46 PM   #22
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I would like to throw the question into the room: How sharp are battle-ready but unsharpened blades, like right after forging it into its final form.
I dont have this kind of knowledge. What makes me wonder is that for my understanding that blade (edge and tip) we are talking about is rather round-dull. Even so, that it occurs to me that you have to put extra work to create that round edge, but thats a question for a bladesmith which I cannot answer.
It seems to me that you would have to take away a lot of steel until you finally get your edge to a degree of at least 45°. Of course depending on the angle you want the edge to be in, which can vary because of different reasons.
I attach another image with the edge on the blades last third with a 1 euro cent coin for comparison. I think the coin is 1 mm thick. Keep in mind the back is a thick "pipe" of 5 mm, so the edge looks even thinner in comparison.
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Old 7th October 2021, 05:03 AM   #23
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G'day Patrick,
I can only comment from a British swords perspective, but like Victrix said, British swords were only sharpened when the owner left for active service. The type of edge they had prior to sharpening varies greatly depending on the sword. Here is an example in my collection circa 1814 which has a pipe-back blade similar to yours. The forward half of the blade was beautifully sharpened (probably only once), while the half closest to the hilt was left unsharpened. Sharp on top and unsharpened bottom.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 7th October 2021, 12:13 PM   #24
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Hey Bryce, thanks for sharing that.
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Old 9th October 2021, 02:58 PM   #25
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Here are some pictures of my unsharpened pallasch. In Sweden it’s defined as Cavalry Sabre m/1893 for Officers. The blade is in good quality steel with two fullers. Although the tip is sharp the sides of the blade are slightly rounded.
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Old 9th October 2021, 05:13 PM   #26
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Interesting point Victrix! As far as I know Pallasch´s were not used for cutting. In fact heavy cavalry members were told to thrust only. So sharpening the edge is obsolete from this point of view! (source: Matt Eastons Youtube channel "schola gladiatoria")

Last edited by awdaniec666; 9th October 2021 at 05:14 PM. Reason: added source
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Old 10th October 2021, 11:37 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdaniec666 View Post
Interesting point Victrix! As far as I know Pallasch´s were not used for cutting. In fact heavy cavalry members were told to thrust only. So sharpening the edge is obsolete from this point of view! (source: Matt Eastons Youtube channel "schola gladiatoria")
My sword is only good for pricking with in its current condition. In the early 20thC Swedish Dragoons were trained in cut and thrust sabre (more correctly termed pallash) fencing. First they received dismounted training, and on mastering the technique they continued with mounted training (source: Umeås Blå Dragoner, Norrlands dragonregemente, 1994). Apparently they had to be trained to avoid the risk of mistakenly cutting off the ears of their horses with wild and undisciplined cutting movements.

In terms of older pallashes they were either single or double edged. How sharp the edges were probably varied.
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Old 11th October 2021, 02:42 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdaniec666 View Post
Interesting point Victrix! As far as I know Pallasch´s were not used for cutting. In fact heavy cavalry members were told to thrust only. So sharpening the edge is obsolete from this point of view! (source: Matt Eastons Youtube channel "schola gladiatoria")
French troops of the Napoleonic era were consistently under-equipped and had to make do with the equipment at hand.

Which included officers instructing their troops to use the sharpened forte of the blade to cut wood and the sharpened tip for combat. Troopers even resorted to using their blades as a spit to cook foraged meat over a fire!

This came from the notes of a German Officer's experience in the French army. But I can't find the source sorry.
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Old 11th October 2021, 06:49 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
Troopers even resorted to using their blades as a spit to cook foraged meat over a fire!
Oh, tempering goodbye :P
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Old 16th October 2021, 12:07 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
French troops of the Napoleonic era were consistently under-equipped and had to make do with the equipment at hand.

Which included officers instructing their troops to use the sharpened forte of the blade to cut wood and the sharpened tip for combat. Troopers even resorted to using their blades as a spit to cook foraged meat over a fire!

This came from the notes of a German Officer's experience in the French army. But I can't find the source sorry.
Ramrods as spits I believe, but not blades.
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