No museum can ever employ a subject matter expert for every type of object in their collection—especially when their collection is as vast as ours. While we do have a staff member who can usually handle the identification of our weaponry, I recently asked him question that he couldn’t answer.
The question involved a boarding axe that had four very distinctive stamps on the blade (only one other boarding axe in the collection has a mark—a stamped anchor that immediately identifies it as a French Model 1833). The stamps are a crowned “M”, a crowned “B”, an anchor that looked like a grappling hook, and an indistinct crowned “something or other” (sorry about the technical term). At first we thought it was an eagle, then an elephant, and then a little cleaning showed it to be a couple of decorative letters; a script “R” followed by a letter that looked like an “S” or “F”.
So what do you do when you have an object with distinctive stamps that you can’t identify? Google it. This quick search lead me to the wonderful David Lee in Scotland and his site boardingaxe.com. I’m not lying…check it out if you’re a fan of historical weaponry–you’ll love it.