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Eagle head sword and scabbard,
an unusual complete example of early American Officers sword, pre 1800

Eagle head sword and scabbard an unusual complete example of early American Officers sword, pre 1800 www.swordsantiqueweapons.com


A remarkable find from an old English Estate.

This wonderful old Federal Period Eagle head sword remains complete with its original scabbard. Out of the scabbard this sword is a little over 90cms in a straight line with a blade of 79cms.
The blade shows wonderful age patina to the gilding and blueing found on the base of the blade. The blueing now shows a dark patina to most surfaces but clear blue to other parts. The gilding remains in very good clear condition. Where the blueing ends, etched banners, an acorn, a lance, a bow, arrow and quiver all amongst wreaths and vines continue to the end of the broad fuller. From this point the spine narrows to the hatchet point.
The scabbard for a 200yo leather scabbard remains in good condition for its age. Between the throat and the scabbard slide the stitching has worn away on the reverse, being a high wear point from both saddle wear and the scabbard slide movement. It has slightly shrunk at this point as seen in the images.
The style of 'frog legged' eagle on the blued blade is old, and of the period noted after 1787, and pre 1812. The frog legged eagle (as decribed by Upchurch) is found on 'American Light Horse' and 'Pennsylvania Light Dragoons' sabres. A 'Philadephia Lancer' example is known, made in Germany with a stylized version of the eagle head hilt made in Philadelphia in this period. The gilded eagle present to this blade holds a banner in its beak that reads 'E Plurbis Unum'. This Latin motto is seen on examples as early as 1790 on French or German blades for the American market. Over time, more towards the year 1815, the eagle took on a more graceful appearance with its legs positioned in a more realistic manner and wider more outspread wings.
The finely detailed hilt is a two piece construction and shows clear traces of silvering to the bronze/brass hilt.
It should be noted that the first use of eagles for sword decoration was on the pommels (as decribed by Upchurch). It seems there were two schools of these hilts, Philadephia (with crest) and Baltimore (without).
A number of the 'Philadephia' style were being produced in England around 1800 for American officers and it can be seen this example is distinct 'Philadelphia' in style.
It can be seen in profile this rare example is distinctly British.
The blade is the M1796 style light cavalry blade with hatchet type point, the hilt is in the configuration of the M1796 light cavalry sabre.
To the decorative side of the knucklebow there is a distinct British regal lion, and above and below it, what appears to be Ostrich plumage, very similar to the symbol of the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, and commander of the 10th Royal Hussars light cavalry.
To the other side of side of the knucklebow is the four petal rosette or quatrefoil This is a symbol of positive forces, good luck (such as the four leaf clover) symmetry, harmony and in certain perspectives, the cross.

Speculation, based on design, Symbolism and location of this find does certainly raise many questions. Based on these detials, a very notable and research worthy Eagle headed sabre of high quality being from the Federal Period, perhaps commissioned to an English sword maker.

An incredibly important piece of Americana.