Sunday, February 8, 2015

The English Hanger

The hanger is a short sword issued to infantrymen in the 17th and18th    centuries.    With a blade measuring approximately 25 inches, the hanger was intended to serve as a secondary weapon to the infantryman's musket.  I have a feeling, however, that it also found use in  more mundane  roles such as clearing brush and cutting meat for the cook pot. 

The hanger depicted above dates from 1750-1760 and is of a British origin.  Not until the late 1780s did the Crown decree official patterns for military edged weapons.  Rather, Royal warrants only required that such weapons be carried and provided general specifications for same. The colonel of each individual regiment held the discretion to select the form of the edged weapon to be carried by the regiment.  

The hilt of this sword is known as a semi-basket, because the branches of the guard form a partial protective basket around the hand.  Due to the popularity of this form of hilt, it became known as the "pattern 1752" hanger.  However, I am unaware of any official Royal warrant decreeing it as such.  

This particular sword was made by Birmingham cutler, Drury, as is indicated by the marking on the blade. 

The blade measures 25 inches in length and is an astonishing 1.5 inches at the hilt.   In other words, this blade is one of the more stout examples  for a sword of this type. The blade is housed in a leather scabbard which would have been suspended from the soldier's waistbelt by a frog system.  The button (metal protrusion from the scabbard which is inserted into a hole in the frog to secure it) is missing.  However, the fact that the scabbard remains some 264 years later is amazing. 

By the American Revolution hangers were becoming obsolete, with more emphasis being placed upon the use of the bayonet.  By the end of the conflict the hanger was found to be carried primarily by sergeants. A Royal Warrant in 1788 officially decreed that only sergeants, drummers, fifers and Royal Highlanders were to carry the hanger.

I obtained this hanger in the fall of 2014 from a sword collecting friend in the United Kingdom.  It is the second of its type that I have owned.  18th century edged weapons are difficult to find and often very expensive to purchase. Hangers come in all forms -- based upon nationality and hilt type.  Hilts can range from the simple stirrup or D pattern to complex baskets.  The many variations are attractive to the collector.     Of course anything regimentally or government marked or of highland pattern will command a significantly higher price.  Beware of reproductions as   hangers are carried by modern day reenactors.