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"Figure of Eight" Naval Cutlass

Origin: England
Length: 33 1/4" Blade: 28 3/8" x 1 5/16"
Iron, steel and wood
Gift of Brian Hendelson
Acc. No. 2018-254
Standard Royal Navy cutlass of the "Figure of Eight" type, including a sheet iron wrapped wooden grip, a straight, single edge blade with a narrow fuller for most of its length, and a sheet iron counterguard-knucklebow-pommel cap component.
Label:Called a "Figure of Eight" cutlass for the distinctive shape of its handguard, this pattern evolved as the standard British "Sea Service" sword during the first quarter of the 18th century. Equally unique is its tubular iron grip, which hides a wooden mandrel inside of it. To prevent glare and rust during long periods in the hold of a man-o-war, these swords were "blackened," and this example shows much of its original black coating.

The first significant quantity of these swords first arrived in the American colonies early in the French & Indian War. When all sorts of arms and supplies were being requested from the Crown by Virginia and North Carolina in 1754, 3000 of these cutlasses were dispatched from stores kept at the Tower of London.

Still serviceable at the start of the Revolution, some 1500 of these cutlasses, complete with scabbards, were still kept in Williamsburg's Powder Magazine, as per the inventory of June 5, 1775. Furthermore, Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists have recovered a number of detached "Figure of Eight" hilts at the Anderson/Armoury site, suggesting they were being re-hilted during the Revolutionary War.
Mark(s):Blade struck with a "Crowned Broad Arrow" of the type used by the Board of Ordnance in the late 1740s to the early 1750s.