Small sword with original scabbard and waistbelt

about 1735
Jacob Hurd (American, 1702 or 1703–1758)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

77.47 cm (30 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

1984.109.1-3

Medium or Technique

Silver, steel, leather

On View

Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Gallery (Gallery 132)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver

The sword has a silver hilt with turned tip; flattened spherical pommel; and twisted wire-wound grip with plain ferrel. The knuckle guard and pas d’anes are simply curved and slightly molded. The quillion ends in a bulb form; the bivalve shell guard has molded edges. The plain, unmarked tapering steel blade is hollow ground and triangular in section. The tooled red (Morroccan?) leather scabbard, waist belt, and frog are original.


Rare in its survival from the colonial era, this sword by Jacob Hurd is even more remarkable for the detailed inscriptions on the blade that identify the owner, Col. Richard Hazen, and for the fine condition of its original red leather fittings. Hurd fashioned the silver hilt and mounts; he likely also provided the silver buckles and scabbard tip, called a chape; the leather belt and scabbard were probably made by a local craftsman. The forged steel blade may have been made locally or procured from abroad.
In his long career, Hurd produced domestic and ecclesiastical silver. Between 1730 and 1750, he made about ten swords, far more than his peers, most of whom made only one or two. Two of his distinguished patrons include Col. William Prescott (1726 – 1795), commander of the American forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and Gen. John Winslow (1703 – 1774), grandson of Gov. Josiah Winslow.
Richard Hazen (also Hazzen), eldest son of Richard (1669 – 1733) and Mary (Peabody) Hazen (1672 – 1731) of Haverhill, graduated from Harvard in 1717. By 1726 he had become one of the original proprietors of Pennycook (also Pennicook, Penacook), now Concord, New Hampshire, where he took an active role in its settlement by undertaking land surveys. In 1741 he was appointed by Governor Belcher and the Council of New Hampshire to establish the boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The settlement of this border ended a long and bitter struggle between the two colonies that was caused by an error in the original royal charters. In his report to Belcher, Hazen described the wintry weather that he and his chainmen encountered while performing their job in March of that year:

The Journey was very fatiguing the Snow for 60 or 70 miles was near three feet deep & in many places four or five so that we were oblig’d to wear snow shoes till the very last day. We lodg’d about twenty nights on the snow without building any Camp to Cover us being favour’d with fair weather & we were oblig’d to wade some Rivers which we could not raft over & climb such Mountains as seem’d to over Top the Alps but through Divine goodness all are return’d in perfect health in thirty seven days.

As is true for most American silver-mounted swords of the eighteenth century, Hurd’s example is characterized by clean lines and simply formed elements, unlike its European counterparts, which were elaborately pierced and modeled. A member of the small sword family because of its light weight, it was the preferred shape for fencing in late-seventeenth-century England, which may account for its rather formal use in the colonies. Delicate in appearance but lethal in use, this example is of a type known as a “simple small sword,” a term referring to the blade that tapers evenly from hilt to point. Austerely handsome in line and form, silver-hilted swords were worn as an accessory in civilian life or as a dress sword when in uniform. The survival of a sword such as this can be attributed to its largely ceremonial function.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

Engraved "R.H." on one counter guard, "1735" on the other. Scabbard mount engraved "R. Hazen Of / Haverhill A:D./1735" and "Cost £13= 15= 9.

Markings

On shell of hilt within an ellipse: "Hurd"
Ada Mark E123

Provenance

Col. Richard Hazen (1696 – 1754) and Sarah Clement of Newbury, m. 1719; to their daughter Elizabeth Hazen (1734/35 – 1808), m. Joseph Little (1730 – 1792) of Newbury, Massachussetts, in 1757; to their daughter Lucretia Little (1759 – 1851) and her second cousin Silas Little (1754 – 1845), m. 1786. By descent to their son Joseph Little (b. 1799) and Elizabeth Moody (b. 1799) of Newbury, m. 1821; to their son Joseph Little (b. 1833) and Sarah C. Hale (b. 1840), m. 1861. By descent to their son Joseph Danforth Little (b. 1868) of Nutley, New Jersey, who placed the sword on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1926 to 1940. Purchased sometime thereafter by Mark Bortman (1896 – 1967); by descent to his daughter Jane Bortman Larus, who made it a gift to the Museum in 1984.

Credit Line

Gift of Jane Bortman Larus in honor of Kathryn C. Buhler and in recognition of her warm friendship and association with Mark Bortman and Jane B. Larus