Tusk–handled swords
Siam (now Thailand)

Although a horrific looking pair, these notably large swords are completely impractical for combat. Likely they were used instead as ceremonial, presentation or perhaps decorative weaponry within the royal palace in Bangkok.  Each weighing in at a burdensome 22 pounds and measuring over 6 feet long, they are unwieldy as they are heavy and bulky. The lower half of an elephant’s tusk makes up the handle, its girth too large to grip effectively by an average sized person. Furthermore, unsharpened blades and lack of personalization on each one indicate some sort of ornamental decoration.

Born in Charleston on September 21, 1854, Dr. Thomas Heyward Hays was chief of Bangkok’s Royal Thai Navy Hospital beginning in 1886 and eventually served as the consulting physician to Siam’s Royal Court. These edged weapons are but a small part of his extensive collecting in Southeast Asia, most of which he donated to the Charleston Museum in 1924. He died on February 2, 1954, at age 99, and is buried in the Bangkok Protestant Cemetery.

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes