By Collections Assistant Brianna Arnold
Over the past few months I have been tasked with compiling an inventory of the collection here at the Hammond-Harwood House. This has consisted of me scouring the house searching for objects and listing where I have found them. While on my latest hunt for a few hard-to-find pieces I came across a sword hidden the linen press in the upper passage of the house. I was instantly intrigued with the sword and decided to do some sleuthing to find out more about the piece.
Starting with its collection file, I found that this sword was referred to as a rapier dating from 1760-1770 and was “used for slashing and thrusting.” The file also stated that the sword was of either French or Northern German origins, but other than that it was a mystery. So where did the sword come from and when was it made? Wanting to try to answer these questions, I contacted an acquaintance who is somewhat of a sword expert. His response to the photos I sent him was quite surprising. His opinion is that the sword is a small sword (not a rapier), which was more popular with gentlemen in the later half of the 18th century, but that the dimensions of the sword are off. If the sword is in fact a small sword the blade is a bit too long. He also doubts that all the pieces of the handle are original, thinking instead that they were added later. Although he only saw photographs of the sword, he is fairly certain that it is not from the late 1700’s but rather a more modern (and by modern I mean the last 100 years) decorative reproduction.
So it would seem that I uncovered a fake! Not so fast, though, because the sword was included in a Sotheby’s inventory of our collection a few years ago and was labeled as a “French Brass-Handled Steel Rapier” dating from the late 1700’s. So is it a genuine 18th century sword, or a more modern reproduction? At this point, we are not sure, but would love to hear more opinions.