Sword Hilt

A piece of rusted metal with engravings.
Smallsword hilt fragment, 1680-1750

NPS Museum Collections Photo, SAMA 4861 / Emily Murphy

From the late 17th through the 18th centuries, one of the accessories carried by gentlemen was a smallsword, a smaller version of the rapier. Militia officers would carry them as a badge of rank throughout the 18th century.

This fragment of a smallsword hilt was found in archeological excavations in the yard of the Narbonne House at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. It most likely dates from the early part of the 18th century, as the raised designs are typical of the period on French and English swords, such as this 1736 French example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s another clue for us about the lives of the residents of the Narbonne House. Our smallsword hilt has just come back from the conservators, where it was cleaned and waxed to prevent further corrosion.

Part of a series of articles titled Citizen Soldiers.

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Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Last updated: June 28, 2022