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War of 1812 Officer's Eagle Head Sword & Scabbard Simon Helvig and Fils

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WAR OF 1812
OFFICER'S EAGLE HEAD SWORD FROM FRANCE
 Simon Helvig and Fils    
 

DIMENSIONS: Sword 33 1/4 long overall. 28 5/8" blade length    
Max width of blade 5/8"                                      Sword weight 2 lbs 2 oz   
Max thickness 1/4"      Fuller 1/2" W x 15" L         False edge 12"


Presented is a straight eagle head officer's sword that is decidedly of French origin. Its straight blade suggests it may be an infantry officers sword, but it may also have been used by an officer of the mounted artillery. There  what appears to be engraving under the obverse langet which may be S. H. J. or F. 
 
MAKER'S MARKSHF is the mark for Simon Helvig and Fils who was active in the Alsace region of France from about 1820 - 1840. Reportedly, he exported many swords to the U.S. for sale by his agents. His mark was traditionally placed under the langet so the likelihood is that this firm was the maker.
 
Other than that, there are no other maker's marks. Whatever gilding was on the hilt has worn off completely. The prominent lion’s head or Medusa on the langet dates from the French First Empire.
 
The hilt has an Eagle head pommel and stirrup guard both of which are unusual for a French sword as is its bone grip. However, the authoritative book, “American Swords from the Collection of Phillip Medicus“ by Norm Flayderman and Stuart Mowbray discusses two near exact matches to this sword on page 100, Item 46b and 46c attributing 46b to French manufacture. Combined they have a similar bone grip, forward facing quillion with rosette, Medusa langet, embellished ferrule, hip on the head for tang, and curved stirrup guard.

   Plate 46b alongside plate 46c from the Phillip Medicus Collection

And, the definitive work by Lhoste on this topic, "Les Sabres Portes par L'Arme'e Francaise", shows a few examples of each. That said, there are contra-indicators which make it imposable for us to classify the sword's origin with certainty.


                    Masterful Eagle Head with Lion Langet and bone grip


An example of the eagle head on this sword is pictured and discussed on page 102, image 116a, in "Les Sabres Portes par L'Arme'e Francaise" by Lhoste and Resek.
 

THE HILT: The eagle head is well formed with a slight dip to its crown just above the eyes and its main blends into the backstrap. The round tang comes through a flat ledge at the turn of the neck. The ferrule is quite wide with a series of stalks and leaves. There is a star in the forward facing upper quillion which leads to the Langet which has a lion’s head with prominent main. The cross guard then becomes a stirrup guard which is embellished with ornate designs. There is no obvious crack at the low point of the guard, but a 1 ” stiffener has been added on the inside. The stirrup guard is a common American shape and unusual for a French sword.


         Details of engraved blade with engraving under the Langet


THE BLADE: The 28 ”  x 5/8” wide and ” thick blade with a false edge and has a single 15” x ” wide fuller. It was likely at one time blued and gilded, but none of this is remaining. It is straight and simple with no maker’s mark. The main design on the obverse is a kettle drum and horn with simple flower and leafs above. The main design on the reverse is a cannon with crossed spears, with a wreath and flower above, none of which are American. There is engraving beneath the langets on both sides which makes the blade more than likely from Solingen. The blade is slightly loose in the hilt. 

 

                                       Detail of eagles main showing tang

Noteworthy descriptors are:
  • Eagle's head matching Lhoste 
  • Lion or Medusa on Langet
  • Embossed figural panels on scabbard
  • Luxurious fittings and embellishments
  • Engraving under Langet
  • Ornate ferrule and stirrup guard underside
  • No American markings such as the American Flag or E. Pluribus Unum
 CONDITION: Please refer to the individual sections.


THE SCABBARD: The sword came with a very ornate scabbard that is not original to it and is most likely from the Knights of Pythias Society. We are including it without assigning any value. There is a clip missing from inside the scabbard which would keep the blade from moving. It is missing and may have fallen to the bottom. The large, very ornate drag and the “UR” are seen on some Knights of Pythias' Society swords. 

Scabbard 29“* *without the drag  In scabbard 35"    

Heraldic Symbols on this Scabbard 

  • Axe - execution of military duty
  • An open book - an indication of devotion to duty
  • Flowers - in general - hope and joy
  • Lily - purity
  • Two right hands co-joined represent union and alliance
  • Lance or javelin - perfection of martial affairs; emblem of knightly service; devotion to honour
  • All swords and edged weapons - justice and military honor

 


 

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