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Old 23rd October 2016, 06:58 PM   #1
drac2k
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Default Recently Acquired Espada Ancha for Comment

It seems that recently I've drifted a little into Colonial Spanish Swords.My most recent acquisition(sounds more impressive than purchase), is a bone handled sword, that at one time must have been very beautiful.It looks like it had 2 branches and the folding guard removed .I doubt it came with the crude bone handle and I believe this to be a later addition
Any information or comments as to the age, style, location, etc. would be a
appreciated
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Old 23rd October 2016, 08:16 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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As these are grouped, in the first photo, from top to bottom,
1. These are classified by Levine (1985) as Central American dirk, seeming to be mid to latter 19th c. though he does not specify period.
2.This does appear to be an espada ancha, which technically refers to the stirrup guard hangers with large heavy SE blades of latter 18th into 19th.
These were the utilitarian hangers worn by the 'Soldado's de Cuera' or leather jacket presidial troopers in the northern frontiers of New Spain (Mexico).
This one does appear to have two branches no longer present, and as such was one of the variant espada types with such branches as seen in #3.
These according to Adams (1985) are termed 'round tang espadas' or in other references 'gavilan' ( for the branches).
The cross hatch in the bone is a motif apparent in many of these, which also are known in the same regions of Mexico as the espada ancha

3. As described above, the branched espada, but what is most interesting is the sectioned grip with metal insert at center, just as seen on the grip of #1 which as noted is stated Central America. It is tempting to presume these grips are regionally connected between these two forms, however the lack of regulation and clear diffusion of forms would preclude being accurate with this. Still it is important to observe and note .

Often the character and features of many of these swords of New Spain from South and Central America through Mexico and into American southwest was well diffused as far west as the Philippines, the outer sector of the Spanish Main in that direction.

Fantastic examples!!! and while to many these seem crude, they have a rugged charm which reflects the fascinating history of these Spanish colonial regions. It is not unusual to see these altered or refurbished with somewhat incongruent components or sometimes removed as with the example noted.
In the remote outposts of these frontiers, most everything was recycled or repurposed as much as possible.

With the numbers on the blade of the 'dirk', this seems in line with what were possibly lot or batch numbers of blades from German mfg. as I have seen sometimes on similar examples.
The E.S. in the cartouche may be initials, but more likely for a unit as many of regiments etc were named rather than numbered, especially in the very common cases of para military units. It would take quite a bit of research and luck to define I think.
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Old 23rd October 2016, 09:12 PM   #3
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Jim, I was hoping you would comment on this post as I know you are very well informed on these swords as well as others ; our previous conversations may have been the impetus for my attraction to these weapons.
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Old 23rd October 2016, 11:31 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k
Jim, I was hoping you would comment on this post as I know you are very well informed on these swords as well as others ; our previous conversations may have been the impetus for my attraction to these weapons.
David, you are definitely rekindling my fires with these great examples!!! auuughhh!! outstanding.
Thank you for sharing !!
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Old 27th October 2016, 02:39 AM   #5
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I must also thank you, David, for posting these! I have always found these colonial Spanish weapons both fascinating and historically relevant. Many approach the bounds of 'folk art' in my opinion!

Jim, you indeed are an expert when it comes to these amazing pieces! Living in the South West and assisting museums out that way undoubtedly contributed to your endless knowledge on the subject!

The second piece intrigues me, as I have seen espada where another guard or hilt is superimposed over another to create this double effect. The first one I ever saw I assumed to be a makeshift one-ff piece, but since then, it was definitely a repeated form. Frederick's Swords catalog had one years ago with a dish guard followed by up/down facing quillons before the blade. Interestingly, he listed it as 'possible Spanish pirate??', which is why I remember it so keenly! Always great to see these types of weapons, where the bladesmith used what he had in outposts limited for supplies...
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Old 28th October 2016, 12:43 AM   #6
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Thanks for the kind words;Spanish Pirate Sword, I think I like that !
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Old 28th October 2016, 03:55 AM   #7
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Well, it's not TOO much of a stretch when you think about it. Aside from the Golden Age of Piracy (1600-1718), the next largest profusion of piracy came to the Spanish Main during the fights for independence among the Central and South American countries as well as Mexico. During this era (1800-1820), piracy once again shot up to huge numbers, with an estimated 4,000 or so Hispanic pirates/privateers swarming around the Indies. Some were true patrons of independence for their country, while others were blood-thirsty murderers and madmen. Espada were, of course, used throughout the Spanish colonies (Brincherhoff's book on Spanish colonial weapons for example shows Cuban espada ancha circa 1810-20 that could easily have fit the bill). As you might know, there was no such thing as a pirate-pattern sword. Sea rovers carried the more typical types of short hangers that their fellow naval men used, along with whatever weapon they could get their hands on. We've discussed how even infantry type swords and hunting hangers went to sea. Annis proved as much in his monumental 'Swords for Sea Service'. My whole point is that I believe some espada probably went to sea. Jim McDoudall and I have discussed this topic ceaselessly and I've insisted that those massive Brazilian cutlasses would have made a fine pirate weapon! Of course, without provenance it is all just speculation, but it stands to reason that because espada were found throughout the Spanish colonies in the Americas, were short bladed and ideal for crowded situations and were easy to construct, some undoubtedly ended up aboard the scalawags!
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Old 28th October 2016, 06:40 AM   #8
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These are some very interesting and desirable swords, the finger ringed dirk is pretty typical, if a bit nicer than most but the other two have so many unusual characteristics.
On espada ancha you expect a certain uniqueness with each sword but not this much. The blades are pretty nice with both having such wide ricassos, looking nothing like the blacksmith made blades I usually see.

The spiky rivets on the branch hilt and the extra cross guard out front are features sometimes seen but not common and the provision for a folding guard on the stirrup hilt is something I have not seen on one of these in my limited experience.

The branch hilt having the same style of grip as the dirk is interesting, I saw a Caribbean cup hilt with that same kind of grip and assumed it was a replacement as it was so atypical for that sword. These seem like real outliers.
Were they purchased from the same source?
They really fill me with more questions than answers.
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Old 28th October 2016, 11:18 AM   #9
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Thank you gentlemen for your insightful comments.The swords were purchased from different vendors over a 3 year period.
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Old 28th October 2016, 04:17 PM   #10
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Mark,
Thank you for your always kind and generous comments. This genre of swords and weapons of Spain's colonies is one of the most fascinating and exciting fields of collecting in my thinking. In my younger years in California I was intrigued by the Spanish influences and perhaps too many Zorro movies but never forgot an incredible sword I had once. Years later after it was gone I found it was an espada ancha, and never stopped trying to replace it.

The history of Mexico, and these obviously powerful Spanish influences reflect the rugged frontier charm of so many of these weapons. These were largely from remote and distant outposts in New Spain known as presidios which evolved into towns and cities just as many did from the missions.

In these places throughout Mexico, and in similar cases elsewhere in Spains colonies, the profound desire to keep Spanish tradition alive in status and officialdom hierarchy often led to creative weapon forms recalling the forms of others. These are these often odd and redundant types which are comprised of features such as crossguards under cup guards etc.

I had one amalgamation like this which had the hilt of a briquette, three bar guard, and cut down dragoon blade of 18th c While an ungainly and odd looking piece, this may well have been fabricated by a blacksmith in one of these frontier places creating a repurposed sword of old components.

I have seen numbers of swords with the strange crossguard under a cup hilt and the multiple bars, workmanlike construction with heavy bolt type fixtures in such creative mixes. It has seemed these odd swords are often labelled 'old pirate' swords in equally creative descriptions.

As Mark has well noted, piracy far exceeded the boundaries of Hollywood and literature in their wonderfully romanticized tales, and the vast networks of the Spanish Main carried influences in weapons far and wide. That to me is the fascinating allure and intrigue of these often rugged and odd arms.
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Old 29th October 2016, 03:59 AM   #11
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Thanks, Jim! These pieces make me want to go and and buy one! Definitely as you described when you say they reflect the 'ruggedness' based on the territories they came from. If they could only talk, what tales they might have!
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Old 14th January 2017, 09:28 PM   #12
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thought i'd throw a picture of mine into the pot, especially as it still has it's leather sheath & fringe on the flap. kinda a falchion rather than a broadsword...

read somewhere they morphed into these at the latter part of the 19th century.
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Old 14th January 2017, 11:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
thought i'd throw a picture of mine into the pot, especially as it still has it's leather sheath & fringe on the flap. kinda a falchion rather than a broadsword...

read somewhere they morphed into these at the latter part of the 19th century.

Interesting blade, type described in post#2
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Old 15th January 2017, 08:36 PM   #14
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Default Bone grip espada

It is great to see another bone grip espada ancha with the forward quillions. The finger loop style I believe are more South American as I do not see them in Mexico or Central America so much. The cutlass style in the bottom of the photo I believe is middle to late 19th and is more Caribbean than Mexican as there are a few examples with Fedderson, Willink Co. blades and the grips have a distinct Cubano flare. I do love these Spanish Colonial blades and the more I see the more distinct the different hilt styles and blades styles become.Eric

Sorry my photos were to large and did not load. My apologies

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Old 15th January 2017, 09:00 PM   #15
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Welcome to the forum, Eric .
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Old 15th January 2017, 09:54 PM   #16
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Default Bone grip espada ancha with forward quillions

The espada anchas are truly facinating and with very distinct hilt styles in many variations over time. Aging can be a problem as many blades and hilts are married old to new. Some styles were used for many years. The blades styles are better dating. Juan recently mentioned a mid 18th century Spanish Dragoon sword with the straighter forte and sweeping upturned foible that could be inspiration for mid 18th century blacksmith made espada ancha blade. Eric
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Old 15th January 2017, 10:30 PM   #17
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Default Bone grip espada ancha with forward quillions

Sorry if I double post but trying my hand at resizing photos. The cutlass style espada in the bottom of third photo I think is more Caribbean than Mexican as some I have seen utilize Fedderson Willink blades and also would indicate mid 19th sword. The bone grip with the forward quillions is very similar in styling to mine with cross hatched bone and forward of guard quillion piece. Mine was purchased in Mexico City. The San Louis Potosi usually have the later type straighter blades, pre machete style. These espada seem easier to date with blade style than hilt as old and new parts are often together. Juan recently showed me photos of a mid 18th century Spanish Dragoon sword with straight forte and sweeping upturned up foible which could be the inspiration for the early blacksmith type blades from that period. These are very interesting swords.
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Old 16th January 2017, 01:16 AM   #18
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What a beauty and a great sword.Do you think the scabbard is newer than the sword ?
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Old 16th January 2017, 03:08 AM   #19
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Default Bone grip espada ancha with forward quillions

The Cutlass style espada in the bottom of third photo is I believe a mid 19th century type more Caribbean than Mexican and some I have seen utilize Fedderson, Willink Co. blades while all use blades similar to US m1860. It is good to see another example of a bone grip with the forward quillions also. They are very unusual. Espada anchas are hard to date as parts were reused for years with newer hilts or blades. I believe the best dating can be accomplished by the blade type. The standard blacksmith made sash langet with flat blade and upturned foible commonly dated 1740 to 1780 possibly styled after Spanish Dragoon sabers ca. 1750 with straight forte and upturned foible but if so would move start date 10 years. The San Louis Potosi styles typically utilize the straighter shorter blades associated with early 19th. These are most facinating swords and can be grouped into very specific styles even if unique to them selves. The round tangs with finger loops seem to come up more in South American context than Mexico or Northern provinces.
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Old 16th January 2017, 08:28 AM   #20
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my sword's scabbard is in excellent condition, one of the narrow fringes has broken in half, the leather was fairly dry and the bringe a bit cracking and brittle until i oiled it, now reasonably flexible. i have a few early 20th/late 19th c. leather scabbards in as good condition. my spanish american war spanish recurved 1895 artillery sword scabbard is in similar condition. i do not know if the scabbard was made/issued like that or if it is a later replacement. it does fit the blade exactly like it was made for it and has some age. the sword had some surface rust and i brass wire brushed it & treated it with tannic.

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Old 16th January 2017, 07:26 PM   #21
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Eric,
Welcome to the forum! and it is great to see another who is fascinated with these remarkable colonial arms. You show some amazing examples, and I would like to know more on your thoughts on regional aspects of the styles.

The curious birds head (?) or serpentine zoomorphic on the knuckleguard, is this in your opinion more to the southern regions and Central or South American? It seems these occur on the striated shell guard examples which we have tentatively considered South American in a number of cases.

The Potosi style hilts are it seems distinctive with the turned down, bird head type pommel (Adams, 1985 I think notes these as Potosi). I have found one of these in Santa Fe, N.M. with heavy blacksmith style, wedge type blade. Naturally that does not secure actual provenance as there are no boundaries to diffusion over years.

Another interesting feature of the heavy colonial blades, is the curious uptick at the point on it seems a good number of them.

Best regards
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Old 17th January 2017, 02:21 AM   #22
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Default espada anchas

Jim, most that I know or rather think other than what few articles written I have read is pure speculation and opinion. The espada with the bird head in the pommel end of the Potosi style saber is a very interesting piece. The hilt is bigger than most as so many have grips for a small hand. It is my opinion that all of the ornate or better made swords come from the southern States of Mexico. This one was found in Queretaro, Mexico but as you said that really does not mean much. I have found the Potosi style in south west US and in California. To me the ones some people call Texas style, the round tangs with stirrup hilts unadorned seem to turn up in the Northern States of Mexico more. Interestingly a couple of my round tangs with the riveted guard bars have hickory grips. Both are in my opinion later swords but possibly old hilt on 1840 to 1870 blade. I also have one with a shorter blacksmith flat blade that I would date earlier. It is my opinion the blacksmith flat blades with deep curve upward started around 1750 or later with the laminated sash langet hilts and get straighter as time goes by untill 1870 to 1880 when the more machete type became popular. The chiseled shell guard with straight blades that look a lot like 1750 British hunting swords like S. Harveys brass model in my opinion are south eastern Spanish controlled US and Caribbean. The round tangs with finger loops are I think south Central American and north South American. My bone grip with the forward quillions was purchased in Mexico City. I am hoping I can learn from you and others on here and will change my opinions as needed. Regards Eric
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Old 18th January 2017, 02:29 PM   #23
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Your collection is fantastic ! Thanks for posting !
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Old 29th January 2017, 08:44 PM   #24
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Default South American espada

Not a true espada ancha but never the less a good example of styles from different regions. I recently picked this up in Quito Ecuador so is a definite South American. Also it is made from I think an Ewald Broking Gevelsberg machete, acero garantizado, Steel guaranteed,. The other key is many times the Spanish backyard made or "espada ancha types" are given earlier dates than they deserve. This one cannot be earlier than 1885 or when Ewald begin in business and infact could be as late as World War II. Very late indeed for this type blacksmith sword. The simple guard style and rolled quillion is consistent with other South American blacksmith swords although I have seen very few confirmed South American.
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Old 30th January 2017, 04:53 PM   #25
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Well observed Eric!!
The thing about these ultra simple ethnographic utilitarian weapons is that the blacksmiths and whatever artisans might put these together, the use and recycling of parts was consistant as might be expected.
As you note, often there is a certain exuberant optimism in the assessment of date on these well worn and little documented weapons.

The blade, as here, with the production period of a known maker being set, clearly illustrates this circumstance. Still, the weapon itself is established as a continuation of the tradition of these durable frontier arms, and there is a charm to these rugged swords regardless of period.

It does seem possible that the hilt may be much older, as this sort of assemblage is also well known with European arms. Many of the swords seen in the Wallace collection have very old hilts placed on newer blades, and the remount simply illustrates the often long working life of many arms. In many cases the older hilts may, just as with blades, be heirloom items which were desired to be kept in use with more serviceable blades.
In the case of these utilitarian swords, it was more that it was easier to use an extant old hilt and replace the blade when availability provided.
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Old 30th January 2017, 05:24 PM   #26
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Fine pieces, thanks for posting. I do like these old colonial, slightly primitive weapons, they have lots of character !
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Old 30th January 2017, 08:34 PM   #27
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Most interesting thread! Eric, first welcome to the forum! Second, can we see please the complete swords?

Regards,
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Old 31st January 2017, 01:44 AM   #28
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Sajen, I will on my return home post better photos. I am traveling and posted what I had. Jim the dating is a complete bear as the reuse of hilts, blades and parts sometimes span a century or more.the more I look at these latin blacksmith swords the more patterns I see in style and design Bill Adams notes the heavy thick short blades may have been designed to cut the hocks of horses for men on foot. Interesting thought process. The earliest espada anchas were much longer and straight bladed, then the short straight blades (possibly reused) then the flat blades with straight forte and sharp upturn in foible, possibly copied from mid 18th century Spanish Dragoon saber with the same blade design. The straight blades with slight turn up in foible seem to start around the beginning of the 19th century. Then seem to get very crude in 1810 to 1830 and straighter still untill taking on a machete look by 1880 or 1890. Then again because as Jim said the reuse of parts disregard everything I said as there can be any number of variations of my theories. While many were used by Soldados de Cuera as many more were used by land owners, los Invalidos and peasants. If others have better information or theories I would love to hear them. Eric
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Old 15th October 2018, 09:52 PM   #29
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Jim McDougall,

Is your reference to (Levine, 1985) intended to point to "Guide to Knife Values (Levine's Guide to Knives & Their Values) by Bernard Levine (1985-12-13)", or something else?
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Old 15th October 2018, 10:36 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
Jim McDougall,

Is your reference to (Levine, 1985) intended to point to "Guide to Knife Values (Levine's Guide to Knives & Their Values) by Bernard Levine (1985-12-13)", or something else?
Yes.....should have added the title.
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