Eighteenth-century gentlemen and officers wore smallswords on dress and ceremonial occasions as part of formal civilian attire, or as part of their uniform. George Washington owned several of these jewel-like, lightweight weapons. This particular one, with an ornately engraved three-sided hollow blade, is distinguished by being depicted in Charles Willson Peale's 1772 portrait of Washington as a Virginia colonel. Washington is also believed to have worn it when he resigned his commission as Commander in Chief in Annapolis in 1783 and when inaugurated as our nation's first president on April 30, 1789.


Smallsword with en suite scabbard. Hilt of silver gilt, features ornately cast, pierced and faceted elements, including a plum-shape pommel, knucklebow, quillon block, and slightly dished oval counterguard. Two quillons and two, vestigial (non-functional) arms-of-the-hilt or finger rings. Fluted ferrules. Grip is spiral-wrapped with pairs of gilt silver wire spaced each side and alternating with a gilt silver ribbon forming a contrasting material between. Blade is of hollow triangular form; reinforced the initial third of the length, then tapers sharply to the point. Blade is etched near hilt end with scrollwork against a field of interlaced strap-work.


c. 1767




Steel (blade); silver, gilt, wood (hilt); wood, vellum, silver (scabbard)


Overall (Overall length): 44 3/4 in. (113.67 cm)
Overall (Blade length): 33 7/8 in. (86.04 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. 1909
Conservation courtesy of the Life Guard Society of Historic Mount Vernon


Four stamps on the knucklebow’s terminus on the inner side: lion's head, leopard's head (London assay marks); "A R" (maker's mark); "M" in an incuse shield (date letter). Stamped with a lion passant on the shell guard before the blade (difficult to see amidst the faceted decoration).

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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