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Old 15th April 2011, 05:47 PM   #1
Ferguson
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Default Sword in Museum Identification

Hello all,
I was in Wilmington, NC, USA a couple weeks ago and went to the Cape Fear Museum. There was a sword listed as "Scottish Double Edged Short Sword" said to have been used by a Confederate soldier. I've attached 2 poor cell phone pictures. Isn't this a Chinese sword? I wanted to run it past you guys before I send a note to the curator, as I'm not a Chinese expert.
Thanks!
Steve
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Old 15th April 2011, 05:56 PM   #2
Robert
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Looks Chinese to me but I am by NO means an expert on these (or anything else for that matter).

Robert
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Old 15th April 2011, 05:58 PM   #3
Rick
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If it quacks like a Duck ....
Chinese .
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Old 15th April 2011, 05:59 PM   #4
Henk
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I don't think you have to be an expert to see that this sword is Chinese and certainly NOT Scottish.
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Old 15th April 2011, 06:26 PM   #5
Gavin Nugent
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Now the Scots were well known inventors, copper wire for example was a Scotish invention, discovered after a Scotsman and a Dutchman were one day fighting over a penny but to have invented the Jian...that would be a long shot.

Gav, the son of a Scot
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Old 15th April 2011, 06:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freebooter
Now the Scots were well known inventors, copper wire for example was a Scotish invention, discovered after a Scotsman and a Dutchman were one day fighting over a penny but to have invented the Jian...that would be a long shot.

Gav, the son of a Scot



LOL!!!
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Old 15th April 2011, 06:43 PM   #7
David
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Museum curators on crack, a very sad thing indeed...
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Old 15th April 2011, 11:10 PM   #8
Nathaniel
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Scotch Chinese?

Hmmm....reminds me of:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHgo...feature=related
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Old 16th April 2011, 06:09 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freebooter
Now the Scots were well known inventors, copper wire for example was a Scotish invention, discovered after a Scotsman and a Dutchman were one day fighting over a penny but to have invented the Jian...that would be a long shot.

Gav, the son of a Scot


Sorry mate, but i have to correct you.
It were the Dutch who invented the copper wire after fighting over a cent with a Scotsman. And it was proven. After this invention the Dutchman wrote a letter to a friend to tell him about his invention. To save the money for the stamp he wrote on the envelop before he posted the letter: "sorry, but the stamp fell off the envelop when i put the letter in the postbox"
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Old 18th April 2011, 08:36 PM   #10
Ferguson
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Thanks for your help. I received a very nice email from the curator of the museum.

"Dear Mr. Ferguson:

Your email has been forwarded to me.

The sword you are referring to is on display in the Colonial section of our exhibit, Cape Fear Stories: Land of the Longleaf Pine. We borrowed it from Moore’s Creek National Battlefield, located in Currie, NC. When we contacted them to borrow military objects to represent this battle of the American Revolution, they offered us the sword. Their information identified it as Scottish made and probably used by a Colonial patriot soldier.

I will forward your message on to them so they may be aware of your identification. They may want to update their records.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and information. We appreciate it!

Best regards,

.................................................. ............................
Barbara L. Rowe, Curator
Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
814 Market Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
910.798.4365 (t)
910.798.4384 (f)
http://www.capefearmuseum.com
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Old 19th April 2011, 04:20 PM   #11
Jim McDougall
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While this situation seems bizarre, it is well known that many museums have obscure items misidentified and these blatant errors seem to almost roar out at well informed and knowledgeable guests. While such errors seem inexcusable, it is often interesting to discover there is much more to the story than seems apparant.

In some cases it is simply cataloging items received in groupings by workers who are not familiar with the subject matter or broad assumptions without detailed consideration.

In this case I am puzzled by the original post which notes this is a Scottish sword used by a Confederate soldier. The lady from the Cape Fear Museum notes that they contacted the Moores Creek battlefield to borrow weapons from the American Revolution, and this sword was claimed to be a Scottish made sword used by a Colonial Patriot.

How did it get from the American Revolution into Confederate hands supposedly, let alone why is this Scottish?

The single and ever paramount factor that accounts for most anomalies in the extreme diffusion of exotic weapons is trade. It is well known that many exotic weapons entered the Colonial sphere in degree through trade, and though certainly exceptions, even Japanese Samurai swords have been found in records of the times.

There has long been a fascination with the Orient among western cultures and understandably with the exciting and lucrative trade, particularly with China. American ships by the 19th century were trading with China, just as British ships had been of course long before. For a Chinese sword to end up in the hands of individuals in the colonies seems plausible, but extremely limited in likelihood. It seems much more likely than such a sword might be found later in the 19th century.

In 1872, the famed mystery of the brigantine Mary Celeste sensationalized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took place. In some accounts of the actual details rather than the fictionalized versions revealed that a sword was found in the captains cabin on the desk. It was described as an Italian sword, probably since the ship had been involved in wine related commerce and was actually destined for Genoa. In further researching I found a photo which showed the desk and the sword....it was clearly a Chinese jian as seen here!

I asked the same questions, why in the world would this be noted as an Italian sword!!?
A broad assumption derived simply by the context in which the item was found, and as it was unusual looking, it must have been Italian.

If this clearly Chinese sword was actually used by a Confederate soldier, it would be a remote possibility as the very ersatz nature of many of these forces, and thier use of any weapons at hand is well known. If this Chinese sword found its way back to America by a hand on a China clipper, and this weapon was handy, easily understood. The Scottish attribution? perhaps again context and the donor may have been a Scottish family.

If this Chinese sword was from the Revolution, again, possibly from British ships into China and someone who came to the Colonies. There was a profound emigration to North Carolina from Scotland, and many Scots were hands on merchant vessels. By being in the hands of a Scot, and since it was atypical for anything known to most in the Colonies, it becomes by association, Scottish.

These kinds of considerations are known as historical detection, and to me it is one of the greatest joys in studying historic arms and armor. With this unusual circumstance I thought it might be fun to look into it further. In the long run, the attribution in the museum needs to be reconsidered, but perhaps further investigation might reveal even more exciting details to add to the description.

My compliments to Steve for diligently noticing the error and bringing it to the attention of the museum, and for sharing it here, and to Ms. Rowe whose response was so professionally presented.


All best regards,
Jim
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Old 21st April 2011, 09:36 AM   #12
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Thanks for the reply Jim. I misspoke when I said Confederate soldier. It was supposedly used in the Revolutionary war by a Colonist. I didn't take notes at the museum, and my memory is like Swiss cheese!

Steve
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Old 21st April 2011, 03:57 PM   #13
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late Qing Dynasty Chinese jian for sure
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Old 21st April 2011, 08:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koto
late Qing Dynasty Chinese jian for sure


Thank you sir!
Steve
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Old 21st April 2011, 08:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferguson
Thanks for the reply Jim. I misspoke when I said Confederate soldier. It was supposedly used in the Revolutionary war by a Colonist. I didn't take notes at the museum, and my memory is like Swiss cheese!

Steve


You're welcome Steve, and I didn't mean to make that point critically as I couldnt make out the label myself but wanted to address as either or. What I wanted to illustrate is that these kinds of errors are not necessarily unusual in museum situations in those smaller institutions, but often the circumstances can be even more intriguing.

I wanted to commend your deftly handled communication with the museum in having the error corrected, and for sharing it here so we could experience the situation and circumstances as well. The curators response was also extremely professional resulting in a pleasant resolution and learning experience for us.

Memory????about what??? me too !!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 21st April 2011, 09:07 PM   #16
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So it is just a catalogue error. A jian could have made it into the hands of a colonist but it could not have traveled back in time from the late Qing (~1900) to the time of the Revolution.
Josh
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Old 22nd April 2011, 02:44 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by josh stout
So it is just a catalogue error. A jian could have made it into the hands of a colonist but it could not have traveled back in time from the late Qing (~1900) to the time of the Revolution.
Josh



You obviously have never seen the Chinese historical epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Flux Capacitor.
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Old 22nd April 2011, 04:57 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
You obviously have never seen the Chinese historical epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Flux Capacitor.



JUDL!!!! Chris, you are the absolute best! Fell outa my chair on that one
Thank you.

Very well observed Josh, and Koto I apologize for not noting your well placed and obviously most important observation. It would seem Steve that your reference to Confederate use was actually quite a Freudian slip and not misspoken at all
Returning to my alternate scenario with possible use in the Civil War period of an obviously trade grade weapon from China, the Qing period of course was officially considered until 1911. The China clippers bringing such items back in the mid 19th century into the American ports of course presents a means for arrival of the weapon in this country.

Naturally these scenarios are nothing more than positive speculation and exercising the historical detection paradigm which I thought would be interesting, but this indeed may be a blatant misteake in display as originally presumed

All best regards,
Jim
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