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Old 7th July 2021, 03:54 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Skull & crossbones sword....Masonic?

I found these two photos of a most unusual sword in my files, and if I recall, it was a query sent to me for identification about 20 years ago.
I do not have notes on it, but I think I felt it was probably a Masonic, perhaps Tyler's sword.
The blade seem like a French cuirassiers from Napoleonic period, but in these Masonic situations, it seems lodges would often use any number of sword types for this station.

The skull & crossbones was one of many regalia themes, and there are Masonic daggers with these kinds of hilts I believe.

I would really appreciate any input from others who have seen similar type hilts and edged weapons, and what sort of context they may have been from.
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Old 7th July 2021, 07:09 PM   #2
fernando
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Good old Jim, what made you resurrect these photos after 20 years ? . Are you by now willing to join the cult ? . Once the blade is no issue as already identified, have you tried posting the whole setup in a specialized Masonic venue ? .
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Old 7th July 2021, 08:43 PM   #3
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Good old Jim, what made you resurrect these photos after 20 years ? . Are you by now willing to join the cult ? . Once the blade is no issue as already identified, have you tried posting the whole setup in a specialized Masonic venue ? .
Its an affliction that has driven me my entire life, called 'curiosity' an inate compulsion.
Many of weapons in my collection, resurrected after over 15 years in storage have been seen with 'new more educated eyes', and the mountains of decades old notes and files are seen the same way.

I know what research I have found in the often very subjective review of Masonic items, but wanted to know if others may have encountered similar items out there. It is an extremely esoteric field, but why not give it a go?
My suggestion of the sometimes unusual swords that have found use as Tyler's swords in lodges of the country have many times given wonderful stories of the weapons' heritage.
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Old 7th July 2021, 11:51 PM   #4
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Jim, while skull and crossbones is indeed a known Masonic symbol most masonic swords don't seem to incorporate that symbolism. That is not to say none, and i have indeed seen many that do, however the in those cases usually shows up as the pommel as in the example i have posted here. I can't say i have ever seen the skull as a hand guard as in this case. Are there any other supporting Masonic symbols to be found on this sword? I'd have to see other angles of this sword, but the images you show make this skull hand guard seem like an afterthought, not something originally made for the sword. It really gives me more the impression of a pirate thing rather than a Masonic thing, but again, it's not impossible that this was made to be a Masonic sword. Other collaborating symbols on the sword would go a long way to place it definitely as Masonic.
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Old 8th July 2021, 01:05 AM   #5
Jim McDougall
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Jim, while skull and crossbones is indeed a known Masonic symbol most masonic swords don't seem to incorporate that symbolism. That is not to say none, and i have indeed seen many that do, however the in those cases usually shows up as the pommel as in the example i have posted here. I can't say i have ever seen the skull as a hand guard as in this case. Are there any other supporting Masonic symbols to be found on this sword? I'd have to see other angles of this sword, but the images you show make this skull hand guard seem like an afterthought, not something originally made for the sword. It really gives me more the impression of a pirate thing rather than a Masonic thing, but again, it's not impossible that this was made to be a Masonic sword. Other collaborating symbols on the sword would go a long way to place it definitely as Masonic.
Thanks very much David. Those hilts you posted are the kind of examples I had seen in regalia material but cannot recall the purpose or symbolism, i.e. particular order or award, rank etc.

The skull and crossbones as I recall represented the 'memento mori' (remember you too shall die) in some of the rather grim devices etc.
and was seen on tombstones of Masons.
Regarding the pirates as you mention, it seems there have been suggestions (as yet unsupported) that perhaps some pirates had Masonic connection due to skull and crossbones. While there were likely instances of such connections possible, the idea remains tenuous.

I wish I had access to the sword, but it was just these photos from years ago, and while it seemed a French blade, no markings are recalled.

I think you're right, this hilt seems to be a rather elaborate fabrication and seems perhaps related to the type daggers you posted.

Thank you again for answering and posting these examples.

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Old 8th July 2021, 02:40 AM   #6
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Looking further online I found the following information:

Apparently in late 18th century use of smallswords with skull and crossbones may have appeared in Scottish Rite Lodges and used in consistory degree , the final portion of the31st and 32nd degrees. It is suggested that these uses may have been worked in the French emigre lodges in New York or Charleston, but unclear on if these were only instances.

In "Swords of the Masonic Orders", John D. Hamilton, Man at Arms, May,June 1979, one of the skull and crossbone hilts as posted by David is shown, as a 'Consistory' sword of late 18th c.
While the term 'consistory' is usually used ecclesiastically in the Catholic Church, here it refers to the council in the completion of these degrees in Freemasonry.

Although it seems there were established as a form in the 18th century, these hilts were in use in latter 19th century in Ames Sword Co. catalogs.and still referring to 'consistory' association.

So while there seems to have been an established association of the skull and crossbones theme with these, it seems clear this example I have posted is as David suggests, a fabricated hilt certainly not homogenous with these sword components.
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Old 8th July 2021, 12:24 PM   #7
Norman McCormick
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Hi Jim,
I have always found these people to be extremely helpful where they can.
https://www.quatuorcoronati.com
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 8th July 2021, 12:49 PM   #8
fernando
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It is true that most (or all) examples of this type seen out there, as well mentioned by David, show a consistent construction that has nothing to do with the weird setup posted by Jim.
It is the serious blade that is preventing the transfer of this thread to the Miscelannia section... at least for now ...
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Old 8th July 2021, 05:58 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by fernando View Post
It is true that most (or all) examples of this type seen out there, as well mentioned by David, show a consistent construction that has nothing to do with the weird setup posted by Jim.
It is the serious blade that is preventing the transfer of this thread to the Miscelannia section... at least for now ...
As noted, David's most helpful entry set better context for this 'weird' fabrication, and I cannot help but wonder what prompted such a creation. I wish I had the sword so that the proper examination and better photos would provide the field to do identify the 'serious' blade.

My point in showing this was to illustrate how 'serious' swords often ended up in fraternal, particularly Masonic settings, and to try to estimate in what manner or circumstances they were associated.

As I noted, I have found numerous such cases over the years, in the relatively obscure lodges in small towns, where 'serious' swords such as various cavalry sabers, often 'combat' venerated, were held in high esteem as the sword of the Tyler.

On the other hand, there were numerous sword forms that were produced specifically for wear as regalia, much as the sword Fernando recently offered on the swap which was a most interesting example. These are intriguing as identifying them can be difficult with the associations sometimes highly nuanced rather than clear. These indeed were 'secret' societies.

I am more than satisfied with the results from this sword being posted here, and thank the staff for the forbearance. As not much more can probably be determined from the blade, please feel free to move to the miscellaneous where its category is probably better suited.

Thank you Norman for the link!!! Good suggestion
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Old 9th July 2021, 12:08 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
... On the other hand, there were numerous sword forms that were produced specifically for wear as regalia, much as the sword Fernando recently offered on the swap which was a most interesting example...
Ah, that one; not being such a weird example, still wasn't a subject for this forum discussion, due to the modernity of its hilt ... whether or not masonic, as not so proven.
In any case, and as you know, it just came to me by accident; as immediately i sent it way to a new owner; not my cup of tea .
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Old 9th July 2021, 05:26 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by fernando View Post
Ah, that one; not being such a weird example, still wasn't a subject for this forum discussion, due to the modernity of its hilt ... whether or not masonic, as not so proven.
In any case, and as you know, it just came to me by accident; as immediately i sent it way to a new owner; not my cup of tea .
Roger that! and good you found it a new home. With my example (from photos) it is suitable weird enough that I wish I had it or could find it!!!
That IS my cup of tea, as you will agree.
Thank you again for the patience with this one I posted.
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