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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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PostPosted: Wed 19 Sep, 2007 1:43 pm    Post subject: Swords carried by NWC & HBC Fur Traders -1800-1840 ?         Reply with quote

One of the things that I am involved with is doing research into the Northwest Co's.(NWC) & Hudson Bay Co's(HBC) activities in the NW (USA) 1800-1840. There a a number of references to employees of both Co.s carring swords.Also references of them being used.

I do know that the Posts had cutlasses in their armoury, but these were for gen. defence & not the personal arms of the employees. The only ID of swords carried ( only a coiple of ref.s) were "hangers" Dose anyone have info. on possable other types ??

Jack
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Eric Meulemans
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2007 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you looked at Carl P. Russell's Firearms, Traps, and Tools of the Mountain Men? I can't help but assume that you have, given it examines the precise era and area of your interest, but if you have not, I highly recommend this excellent resource.

http://www.amazon.com/Firearms-Traps-Tools-Mo...0826304656

My copy is presently buried away in a box somewhere, though if you'd like I can recover it and see if there is anything of use to you.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Sep, 2007 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is an illustration in Russell's "Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men" of the "Broadsword" carried by Sir George Simpson's Piper (been a while, so I'm not sure which page it's on, nor do I recall the name of the piper). Sir George was the Governor of the HBC in the 1830's and 40's, traveled widely across the continent with his retinue and was quite an driving force in moderninzing and improving the Hudson's Bay Company, and ruling it with an iron hand. The sword shown was hardly a claymore of the Victorian model, however, but looks to me to be a French Republican or Imperial Artillery short sword, often called a "gladius", with the eagle's head pommel. Rather fetching, and probably a great deal easier to manage while traversing the wilderness in a canoe than a basket-hilted broadsword would be.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Sep, 2007 7:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
There is an illustration in Russell's "Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men" of the "Broadsword" carried by Sir George Simpson's Piper (been a while, so I'm not sure which page it's on, nor do I recall the name of the piper).  Sir George was the Governor of the HBC in the 1830's and 40's, traveled widely across the continent with his retinue and was quite an driving force in moderninzing and improving the Hudson's Bay Company, and ruling it with an iron hand.  The sword shown was hardly a claymore of the Victorian model, however, but looks to me to be a French Republican or Imperial Artillery short sword, often called a "gladius", with the eagle's head pommel.  Rather fetching, and probably a great deal easier to manage while traversing the wilderness in a canoe than a basket-hilted broadsword would be.Cheers!Gordon

Gordon....

It's on page 179 and your description is very accurate. You have a good memoryy.  I doubt that swords were very plentiful in the HBC or NWC during the early days of the fur trade.  There was just no use for them. A butcher knife and belt ax were a lot more useful than a sword could ever be and no real trapper or trader would have burdened himself with anything that was not useful. Most likely there were a few military surplus swords at HQ and various trading posts. As to being worn and/or used, in almost 40 years of studying the mountain men and fur traders I have not come across a reference of either. Of course my interest has been in free trappers from the States more than the HBC and NWC. Since Jack says he has some references I would be interested in his citing them so we could learn from his research.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Daniel Statt





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Sep, 2007 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack,

I share your research interests, but with particular reference to the Pacific Fur Co. of John Jacob
Astor, which, as you know, sold out to the NWCo in 1813, after which Astoria became Fort George. There are numerous references to swords in the Astorian records, and they had enough of them to pass out to the engages when they were afraid of Indian trouble. Unfortunately nothing specific is ever said of them, although I suspect that they were some form of hanger. The gladius-style artilleryman's sword does show up associated with the HBCo, and some were made with the company's monogram cast into the brass handle, but I haven't seen it in connection with the NWCo. The "Voyageurs" Yahoo group had a discussion of this subject some months back, so you might have a look at their index.

Daniel
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Sep, 2007 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gentlemen, Thank you for your replies. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Things have been hectic around here. I do have Russell's book, but I missed Fraser's Broadsword. Thanks.

BTW - for those interested in the Fur Trade I would like to invite you to check out this forum. http://www.traditionalmuzzleloadingassociation.com/forum/ I am a moderator on it. ( AKA - PUFFER ) Let me know what you think. JEng958607@aol.com

Jack
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Sep, 2007 8:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Statt wrote:
Jack,

I share your research interests, but with particular reference to the Pacific Fur Co. of John Jacob
Astor, which, as you know, sold out to the NWCo in 1813, after which Astoria became Fort George. There are numerous references to swords in the Astorian records, and they had enough of them to pass out to the engages when they were afraid of Indian trouble. Unfortunately nothing specific is ever said of them, although I suspect that they were some form of hanger. The gladius-style artilleryman's sword does show up associated with the HBCo, and some were made with the company's monogram cast into the brass handle, but I haven't seen it in connection with the NWCo. The "Voyageurs" Yahoo group had a discussion of this subject some months back, so you might have a look at their index.

Daniel


Daniel, Here is a ref. to culasses @ Astoria. ( inv. of goods aquired by the NWC ) http://www.xmission.com/~drudy/mtman/bizrecs.html These 9 cutasses are listed with other items that seem to be from the armoury & not trade goods ( canons etc. ) See FRAME 7

Jack
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 186

PostPosted: Sat 29 Sep, 2007 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:
Gordon Frye wrote:
There is an illustration in Russell's "Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men" of the "Broadsword" carried by Sir George Simpson's Piper (been a while, so I'm not sure which page it's on, nor do I recall the name of the piper).  Sir George was the Governor of the HBC in the 1830's and 40's, traveled widely across the continent with his retinue and was quite an driving force in moderninzing and improving the Hudson's Bay Company, and ruling it with an iron hand.  The sword shown was hardly a claymore of the Victorian model, however, but looks to me to be a French Republican or Imperial Artillery short sword, often called a "gladius", with the eagle's head pommel.  Rather fetching, and probably a great deal easier to manage while traversing the wilderness in a canoe than a basket-hilted broadsword would be.Cheers!Gordon

Gordon....

It's on page 179 and your description is very accurate. You have a good memoryy.  I doubt that swords were very plentiful in the HBC or NWC during the early days of the fur trade.  There was just no use for them. A butcher knife and belt ax were a lot more useful than a sword could ever be and no real trapper or trader would have burdened himself with anything that was not useful. Most likely there were a few military surplus swords at HQ and various trading posts. As to being worn and/or used, in almost 40 years of studying the mountain men and fur traders I have not come across a reference of either. Of course my interest has been in free trappers from the States more than the HBC and NWC. Since Jack says he has some references I would be interested in his citing them so we could learn from his research.


Lin, I am currently trying to bring some order & sense to my research notes. I hope to post a summery soon on the TMA forum. If you wish, I will post it here also, or if anyone wishes, I will PM it to you.

Here are a couple to start with

Swords were a very importent trade item from the very start, here in the PNW., starting with the ships that traded of the coast, prior to posts being set up. Example - http://www.l3-lewisandclark.com/ShowOneObject...jectID=928
NOTE- here is a VERY interesting example from the inv. of the Rocky Mountain outfit- 1836 12 "Dragon" swords ( any ideas what these might be ??? http://www.xmission.com/~drudy/mtman/bizrecs.html

Here are a couple references to NWC & HBC employees using swords http://www.furtradestories.ca/details.cfm?con...b_cat_id=5 http://www.fortvermilion.ca/html/story.html

Jack
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Sep, 2007 6:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is another interesting reference to swords being carried & used by NWC
http://www.xmission.com/~drudy/mtman/html/fra...chere.html
http://link.library.utoronto.ca/champlain/ite...;Limit=All

In these 2 "journals, Gabriel Franchere ( a Pacific Fur Co. clerk, who joined the NWC when it was sold. ) recounts guarding an indian prisoner. In one account the prisoner is guarded by 2 sentinels with drawn swords.. In the other the prisoner is guarded by a guard with a "naked sword"

Jack
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David McElrea




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Sep, 2007 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"...12 "Dragon" swords ( any ideas what these might be ???"

My guess would be that it is meant to say, "dragoon swords" as per the example shown in one of the url's you linked.

David
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Sep, 2007 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very slightly off topic, but definitely related, I would offer this just to add to the weirdness of the cutlery carried by HBC employees. When Jedediah Smith traveled through the Oregon Territory in the 1820's, he accumulated a number of HBC "deserters", most of whom were Iroquois. In one incident, a grizzly bear rampaged through their camp, and one of the Iroquois stabbed it with the bayonet which was fixed to his musket. I would presume that it was a British Army surplus Brown Bess, probably of the India Pattern sold off my the bushel-basket load after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, but it could have been almost anything. A rather unusual weapons for a trapper (especially a Native American trapper) to be carrying to our minds perhaps, but obviously it came in handy.

Swords and bayonets aren't the first thing to come to mind when thinking of Frontier weaponry, but in the borderlands of New Spain and British North America, somewhat different attitudes and conditions prevailed, so there were definitely lots more strange and wonderful weapons floating around than we generally would consider being "normal". The Journal of the Fur Trade, published by the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron NE, had a series of articles some years ago on the use of swords on the frontier, and it was quite enlightening. A LOT more swords were in evidence than one would expect, considering our standard concept of the Frontiersman with Long Rifle, Tomahawk and Bowie Knife being rather universal.

For some good referrences to the more outlandish firearms of the Frontier, check out Firearms of the American West by Worman and Garavaglia ( http://www.amazon.com/Firearms-American-1866-...0870814664 ) and excellent resource for such things.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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Posts: 186

PostPosted: Sun 30 Sep, 2007 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David McElrea wrote:
"...12 "Dragon" swords ( any ideas what these might be ???"

My guess would be that it is meant to say, "dragoon swords" as per the example shown in one of the url's you linked.

David
I think you are right. If so, the next ? Could a "horsemans sword" be called a "dragoon sword",Or a calvary sword ??

The reason I ask is that both Daringer & J. Henry were very involved in selling guns to the fur trade ( Henry had many contracts with AFC ) In this article, both of these gentlemen were also involved tn making &/or supplying swords. Could this be a possible source ?? http://americansocietyofarmscollectors.org/89/swordtest2.htm

Jack
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
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PostPosted: Sun 30 Sep, 2007 2:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon, Yep, that Iroquois sure could have gotten that "pig Sticker" & gun off your wagon. But as you pointed out it could have come from a lot of places. @ different times they were supplied with military arms by the French, Brits etc. It could have also come from one of the fur co.s. The Iroquois were used as trappers, here in the NW, from early on. We also know that The NWC raised Militia units during the war of 1812. ( not only the Voyageur corps But local units, like the one David Thompson joined) & they were ared with "Bess's"

Jack
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