Page Last Updated: Wednesday, 04 November 2015 13:35 EDT, 1970 by The Free Lance-Star, 2007, 2008, 2010

The Swords of Samurai

The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, VA, April 25, 1970, Town & Country Section

Story by Linda Stevens; Photos by Barry Fitzgerald



Mask of Samurai
This Tengu iron mask was worn in ancient times by Japanese Samurai during battle.
It is part of an extensive collection of Japanese swords and artifacts owned by
Col. Dean S. Hartley of Quantico.
     

A Japanese sword is a thing of beauty, an art object of great historical value to the island country.

The Japanese count the best among their national treasure. But in order to be a "Nippon to" (of the finest quality), the sword must be capable of withstanding the stress of battle.

Col. Dean S. Hartley, director of the Extension School at the Quantico Marine Base, is a collector of such swords. In fact, he is reluctant to have any one of his swords fully certified for fear that the Japanese government might rate it of the quality belonging in the national treasure.

According to Hartley, who began his collection during the World War II (he traded a camera for his first sword), the ancient sword reflects the history of the country.

The best swordsmiths usually made their products by special commission for a particular event or family. Even the earliest of these commissions was recorded.

The great swordsmiths usually signed their products, but each had such a distinct method of producing the blade that even the oldest is traceable.

Hartley pointed out that while these swords were weapons in battle, like all of Japanese customs, they could also be used as symbols of peace.

 
The Hakata doll depicts high ranking samurai examining blade.
     
Hartley noted that if a high ranking officer were to visit a member of an opposing faction, he would leave one of the two swords he wore on a rack at the door. If the issue of the day were particularly touchy, Hartley said, the officer might leave both as an act of confidence in the other's good will.

The oldest verified sword, Ko-Bizen Masazane, in Hartley's collection was made by a sword smith known as Masazane from Bizen Province on the southeast coast of Japan in 1065.

Hartley said that when he acquired it other collectors doubted it as genuine. the reason - an authentic sword that old would not be for sale. But the sword was proved authentic.

Hartley has some 50 swords in his collection currently but has acquired and traded more than 200 since he began his collection.

 
Butt end of sword bears name of maker.

Another interesting sword in Hartley's collection is called naginata. It is a lady's weapon made in Seki, Mino province in about 1675. The blade is mounted on a long pole and was used by the lady of the house standing on her porch to spear enemies riding on horseback.

The blade is easily recognized by its heavy tip and curve.

In order for swords to remain valuable they must be kept in perfect condition. The tang or butt end of the sword is never polished. The swordsmith signs his name and date on the tang, which is covered by the mount.


Hartley holds naginata or lady's sword (sic).


Armor worn by high ranking officers.
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Website created by Dean S. Hartley III.