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Old 11th January 2022, 06:06 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default The Espada Ancha-

In recent research, traveling over old roads from years ago on these intriguing short swords of the frontiers of New Spain, I was informed of the source for the curious misnomer referring to these.

The term 'espada ancha' in Spanish translates to 'BROAD SWORD', which of course might figuratively apply to some of the wide heavy blades on many of these. However the term more properly applies to the heavier, full size 'broadswords' typically known as 'bilbo's'. Sidney Brinckerhoff ("Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial America 1700-1820", Brinckerhoff & Chamberlain, 1972) apparently once noted that he had apparently applied the term to the short, heavy swords used on the trails for clearing brush etc.

These were actually in the period and regions termed by the locals 'machetes', which is technically better describing what they are.

While these were typically worn by horsemen on the trails in general, the true weapons for any sort of engagement were primarily the lance, the 'broadsword' (typically the bilbo) and occasionally the escopeta or other pistol types.

I am posting a grouping of espada anchas showing the general form but with certain variations, and would appreciate anyone showing other examples, especially if they might lend to regional provenance.

Also posted is the typical military arming broadsword known as the 'bilbo' (a Victorian collectors term, correctly termed 'boca de caballo) which in use as early as 17th c. became known as M1728 and M1768 models by regulation.
While other types of sword were also known, such as crude versions of cup hilt, these were more common. By 1800 military saber hilts also fitted with these long broadsword blades came into use.
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Old 11th January 2022, 08:01 PM   #2
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Very nice, I did a write-up about my 1728 here:
https://sbg-sword-forum.forums.net/t...y-sword-review
You'd probably find it interesting.
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Old 11th January 2022, 09:38 PM   #3
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JT, absolutely brilliantly written and outstanding documentation on these venerable Spanish arming swords. They are believed to have been around since reasonably early in the 17th century, possibly deriving in degree from the well known 'pappenheimer' swords of Northern Europe. With Spain in the Netherlands that seems quite likely.

Whatever the case as per the manner of military regulations, the regulations would establish a form of sword to become standard and these were typically those already in use, thus these became 1728.

Thank you very much for entering this!!!
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Old 11th January 2022, 10:12 PM   #4
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Many thanks for this. Very much a "live " subject.
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Old 12th January 2022, 12:36 AM   #5
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Many thanks for this. Very much a "live " subject.

You bet David
It truly is, and while we have brought it up for many years around here, we still have barely scratched the surface. Granted there is not a huge number of enthusiasts in this field, but there is remarkable history in these, and they deserve more serious study.

There has only been one reference book and three articles ever written on these, and trying to establish any regional consistencies has fallen notably short of the goal.

My hope is that those out there holding examples might share them here as well as any observations, notes or provenance on them. This might give a good overview of this interesting form and toward some sort of regional distinction.

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Old 12th January 2022, 01:15 AM   #6
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Default The Avila Sword

This is an example of the 'espada ancha' type hilt but mounted with one of the double edged dragoon blades typically found on the bilbo as well as the later cavalry hilt (three bar guard) sabers of c.1805+

This example dramatically parallels one like it with ornamented leaf shape shell guard which is in the Los Angeles County Museum and attributed to Captain Jose Maria Avila of the Pueblo of Los Angeles.

On Dec. 5, 1831 in a rebellion against Governor Manuel Victoria, Avila was leading rebel forces and met government forces at Lomitas de la Canada de Breita (near Cahuenga Pass).
Leading the government forces was Capt. Jose Antonio Romualdo Pacheco.
As components of both forces were related; brothers, cousins etc. none wanted to give battle.
In frustration, both Avila and Pacheco rode at each other with lances.
After three passes, Pacheco knocked Avilas lance to the ground.

Astonishingly, Avila shot Pacheco, killing him, and stunned at what he had done, sat dumbfounded in his saddle.
What happened next is confusing, some say Gov. Victoria shot Avila, others say another, but he was shot dead there on the field.

They say both men fought with swords and lances, but that remains unclear.

This example I have as noted is quite similar to what is known as the Avila sword, which is said to have been his and became property of Del Valle family, who donoted it and other to LA County Museum.

This information from "Swords of California and Mexico" Arthur Woodward,
'ANTIQUES MAGAZINE, Vol. L, 1946, pp.102-104

It is noted that while Avila had his sword in 1831 as per the museum catalog, it is believed much older late 18th c.
While the machete type (espada ancha) hilts were usually with short heavy blades, it is clear that rancheros had the longer dragoon blades fitted as these swords became mounted on saddles under mochilo.
Thus my example here would appear to fall into that category.

Illustrations of Cahuenga Pass area 1847; Pueblo of Los Angeles c. 1869; my example of espada of Californio form (by comparison to the Avila example) with bone grip late 18thc
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Old 12th January 2022, 01:58 AM   #7
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Default Espada Ancha -Potosi style

This is an example of espada ancha that has been claimed to be of San Luis Potosi/ Guanajuato regions (just northeast of Mexico city). This is noted in "The Unique Swords of Old Mexico" (Bill Adams, "knives '85" , DBI Books, 1984.).

These hilts are distinctive for overall metal hilt with downturned pommel which nearly meets the half knucklebow. Many of these have zoomorphic terminals.
The Potosi region was closely connected to caravan trails northward from Mexico City to the Frontera regions of Arizona and into Santa Fe, N.M.
This one was found in Tucson.

Note the uptick and sharp point on the blade, which seems to have become notable in early 19th c.on these 'machetes'.
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Old 12th January 2022, 02:22 AM   #8
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Default Round tang espada

This is a form known as a 'round tang' espada, as per Adams, (1984, op. cit.). as it is stated the hilt, typically wood or horn, is drilled out to receive the tang. This seems unusual as some of these seem to have cut down saber blades but the tangs could have been ground.

The branched guards it seems I was once told were termed gavillas (Sp. -sheaves, of wheat), and this form seems of probably first quarter 19th c.
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Old 12th January 2022, 03:52 AM   #9
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Default Espada ancha -Nuevo Laredo

In keeping with what I have asked here, I am going through old notes (Ive been on this topic since early 90s and earlier) and am trying to add what I can to the examples I have.

This example was located in Houston some years ago, and said to be from the Nuevo Laredo region. (#3 from top in OP).
This is of course the famed Laredo, Texas which is right on the Rio Grande.
As a settlement of New Spain, it was founded in 1755 as Villa de San Agustin de Laredo. This was named for the city of Laredo in Cantabria, Spain.

In 1840 this became the capital of the Independent Republic of Rio Grande which was in opposition to Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
In 1846 it was occupied by Texas Rangers, and later Laredo became Texas territory, while Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas was across the Rio Grande .

What is noticeable is the familiar uptick at the point of these 19th c. espadas which I was told in conversations in 2003 with Enrique Guerrera of Texas, was responsible for these on the frontiers being called 'frog stickers'.

Also notable is the artwork inscribed in the blade, which I am hoping might compare to other material culture regionally and give us more on regional attribution.
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Old 12th January 2022, 04:08 AM   #10
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Default Heavy espada ancha ' New Mexico?

This example is extremely heavy and seems an earlier form, of 18th c. and is said to be from New Mexico, so presumably Santa Fe regions. Note the detail in the guard and the elaborate engraved panel along blade back. This seems like the example from Nuevo Laredo which is however much later in my view.
The convention of this inscribed art along the blade hopefully might give more insights into this convention.

The bone grip slabs are riveted directly to tang and these heavy blades seem to have been forged by blacksmiths in these areas.
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Old 12th January 2022, 04:53 AM   #11
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...and Eric Fairbanks addition at SFI
http://www.swordforum.com/vb4/showth...3-Espada-ancha

The pdf mentioned by Javier Ramos and among other links are fascinating reading

https://publicaciones.defensa.gob.es...s-de-cuera.pdf

https://www.geografiainfinita.com/20...t-era-espanol/

http://kappostorias.blogspot.com/201...0-apaches.html

Cheers
GC
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Old 12th January 2022, 05:19 PM   #12
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Interesting.
Actually the 'espada ancha' (in period termed machete) was indeed worn 'on the trail' by horsemen, both civilian as well as soldados.
The machete was never intended as a combative weapon though it certainly could have been in situations.

The soldado's primary weapon was his lance, though in some cases swords might have been worn, as well as a firearms, typically the escopeta or pistols in some cases. The sword was considered not particularly effective in fighting the Indian tribes. The machete was the edged weapon most commonly carried by soldados on the trail. In the presidios they did wear swords, usually of bilbo form.

The espada ancha did later begin receiving the dragoon blades when the sword began being placed under the saddle in civilian cases. While in some cases the hilts were of the 'espada ancha' form (see the example I term Californio for the Avila comparison) mostly they were on cavalry form hilts c. 1805-10.

While the espada ancha was developing in the regions of New Spain in the Caribbean and throughout what is now Mexico (possibly the hilts derived from hangers and cutlasses used on vessels) ....California was not settled until 1769 (San Diego) and then only sparsely. So the period of evolution in Alta California for the espada ancha.

The arming sword known as the bilbo (two shell guard) was most commonly used by military in New Spain in the frontier regions and most of northwest Mexico. The 'cup hilt' forms seem to have been more prevalent in the Caribbean and Spains colonies there in coastal areas.
As always there were of course exceptions, but nominally.

While swords might have been dismantled to preserve heirloom blades, in most cases there were considerable volumes of blades being sent to the colonies to either remount swords or for newly produced hilts.
Large bundles of sword blades of various forms, but mostly the double edged broadsword blades in use through the 18th c.

The attached are examples of the 'cavalry' hilts that began being mounted with these 18th century straight broadsword dragoon blades in the early 19th century, seen being worn under the saddle and left leg as in this painting by James Walker of a vaquero. It is believed this was Don Peralta,the sword shows the branched guard.
The one with dragoon blade and espada ancha hilt with leaf shaped shell on crossguard is as previously discussed similar to the Avila sword c. 1831 Los Angeles. It is noted on the Avila sword, the blade is much earlier.

Thank you for the links. The information on the presidios does give good information regionally on where these types of weapons may have evolved. Now if we can find provenance with examples.
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 12th January 2022 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 13th January 2022, 01:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
JT, absolutely brilliantly written and outstanding documentation on these venerable Spanish arming swords. They are believed to have been around since reasonably early in the 17th century, possibly deriving in degree from the well known 'pappenheimer' swords of Northern Europe. With Spain in the Netherlands that seems quite likely.

Whatever the case as per the manner of military regulations, the regulations would establish a form of sword to become standard and these were typically those already in use, thus these became 1728.

Thank you very much for entering this!!!
Thanks Jim, I find the 1728 a highly interesting model as it was the last gasp of the Spanish Empire into the pre-modern world. It's an incredible sword, probably the one I'd pick for an actual fight of all the blades in my collection.

Cheers
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Old 13th January 2022, 06:44 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by JT88 View Post
Thanks Jim, I find the 1728 a highly interesting model as it was the last gasp of the Spanish Empire into the pre-modern world. It's an incredible sword, probably the one I'd pick for an actual fight of all the blades in my collection.

Cheers
I agree, while its been over 40 years since I fenced, I know how important balance is, and these I have handled are typically remarkably balanced .
It seems no wonder they remained in service with Spanish military for nearly 150 years.
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