Westport Historical Society Mystery Object #5

Once again, the Westport Historical Society stumped its visitors. No one identified this object:

It was part of their “Westport in 100 Objects” exhibit. The featured item changes every 2 weeks. If you stop in and identify it, you win something from the gift shop.

So what was it?

Known variously as a sap, slapper or blackjack, the heavy leather pouch is 8 12 inches long, and filled with lead (sometimes a flexible steel rod too). Unlike a baton, a sap’s size and shape allows it to be concealed inside an officer’s pocket.

Saps may not look as intimidating as a gun or a baton, but they sure are dangerous. A sap is dense enough to break bones, and the leather edge is rough enough to cause a dull, ripping laceration to the face when jabbed. Slappers are ideal in tight quarters, like a fight on the ground against a large suspect.

Slappers are rare these days, forbidden by many jurisdictions across the country. Even so, some uniforms still come with a sap pocket.

14 responses to “Westport Historical Society Mystery Object #5

  1. Jack Backiel

    I think slappers should be used liberally on those who don’t donate to 06880!

  2. My great grandfather was the Danbury police chief in the 1920-30’s and I have his sap.

  3. Tammy Barry

    Dan Just thinking today if nominating the two women who organize the Westport Librarys tent sale— they have been doing for years and saving all those books from getting thrown away!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Linda Tufts

    Have two from my step-father who was a Westport Policeman

  5. Luke Garvey

    My grandfather was a New York City cop in the early 1900s. One of his possessions was a blackjack. It had a flexy spring handle, and a woven leather “head” filled with lead shot.

  6. Patrick Eastin

    I’m guessing these tools of the trade were effective back in the day when there weren’t so many guns on the street.

    • William Strittmatter

      Probably worked pretty well when cops could just work over miscreants with impunity. Might still work except for those pesky civil liberty thingies and rules about excessive force. 🙂

  7. This tool and its younger brother which was flatter were very effective in close quarter confrontations., like a bar fight or an up close scrap. It lived in a “sap” pocket on my right rear hip. Never ever left home (PD) without it.

  8. This one, which is an accessioned item in our collection, actually belonged to the former Chief of Police for Westport!

  9. It probably speaks well of our community that we had trouble identifying this one!