COLLECTION: Mechanical Arts & Arms

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British "dog's head" hanger

ca. 1690
Origin: Britain
OL: 31 1/4" Hilt: 5 1/4" Blade: 26 5/16" x 1 3/16"
Iron, steel, brass and wood
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2014-210
Dog's head hanger composed of a brass grip cast in two halves and a cast brass knucklebow/counterguard combination. Pommel in the form of a grimacing dog, perhaps a mastiff, biting the end of the knucklebow, thereby securing it. Grip halves cast with gryphons, foliage and a grotesque mask at the back of the pommel. Guard composed of a scrolling quillon, two triple-lobed shell guards and a knucklebow decorated with calyxes at the midpoint. While the outboard shell curves downward and is cast with a grotesque mask on its top, the smaller inner guard is curved upwards and is plain. The blade is of standard hanger form for the period, and is slightly curved with a narrow fuller running down its spine and a slightly swollen tip.
Label:Of the many different hanger varieties used by the British armed forces during the late colonial period, ones with dog's head pommels may be the most distinctive and attractive. Those commonly carried by infantrymen during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars are direct descendants of this hanger pattern, which first arrived in Royal Armouries stores around 1690. These dog-headed hangers may be the most verifiable British military sword type of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The documentary trail of these hangers begins with the 1703 sinking of H.M.S. Stirling Castle, off the southeast coast of England. A number of intact hilts, identical to that on this example, were recovered from the site of the wreck, suggesting such swords were aboard for use as ships cutlasses. A few dozen others described as "Hangers with brass handles and Dog's heads" had to be sent out of the Tower of London in 1709 for refurbishment, after seeing some length of hard service.

Dog-headed hangers of this pattern have also been found in colonial-era European and Native American archaeological sites spanning from the Gulf Coast to the Canadian Maritimes. As a further testament to their popularity in early America, numerous examples have been studied which have been contemporarily cut down into knives, thereby extending their usefulness.
Mark(s):Blade struck on both sides with a mark resembling an anchor.