EXQUISITELY ETCHED AND BEAUTIFULLY PRESERVED MODEL 1850 STAFF AND FIELD SWORD BY GORHAM, PROVIDENCE, R.I.

$4,950.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 809-99

This sword was formerly in the Dick Johnson collection, a name familiar to any collector of American swords. If any additional testimony to its quality were necessary, it is pictured in John Thillmann’s encyclopedic “Civil War Army Swords” on pages 320 and 321, in the special color section, and also on the back cover of the dustjacket. Thillmann remarks, “This sword is in virtually new condition with all of its original gilt finish and blue on the scabbard.” We believe this sword is likely the finest example extant. We are very pleased to offer it here.

Gorham, founded in 1831, is one of the most famous names in American silver manufacture and the quality of their workmanship in jewelry, silver, silver services, trophies and even statuary gained them commissions from the White House and elsewhere. This sword shows their talent in casting, engraving, etching, and sword mounting as well. The sword of the regulation 1850 Staff and Field Officer pattern, with a gilt brass hilt decorated with cast and chased floral motifs, a cut-out “U.S.” in the guard, and sharkskin wrapped grip bound with twisted gilt brass wire, and gilt brass mounted steel scabbard. (The sharkskin grip is superb and the blade pad is in place.) Gorham, however, added an attention to detail that we don’t often see. The raised mound around the pommel tang has a finely stippled border; there is a line of minute beading around the pommel just below its brim; the back of the curved quillon is deeply chased in the image of a finely detailed feather, and the sides of quillon disk are chased to complement the open scrolling floral elements of the guard and those cast and chased along its upper branch.

Both sides of the blade have vivid etched panels with lively frosting starting at the top of the ricasso and terminating in Arabesque points, all with interior bright etched border lines. These lines define sections of the frosted panel by curving inwards, splitting to form diamonds and then intersecting to flow outward and repeat the pattern for the next section. This produces an “X” with open diamond branches and spearhead points between the sections of the panel. The obverse etching has a geometric panel at the base, above which the open geometric bordered panel features crossed flags tied with a loose ribbon at their intersection and spear points on their tips. The second section features an American eagle with raised wings trailing a leafy branch below and with rays of a sunburst overhead. The reverse of the blade has an 1862 dated “Collins &. Co. / Hartford / Conn.” blade maker’s stamp on the ricasso. The etching starts with, “Gorham / & Co. / Providence / R.I.” at its base, and sections with crossed flags, a script “U.S.” bordered with short floral scrolls, and an open wreath of two branches bound at the bottom with a knotted ribbon. The etched motifs are restrained, placing a focus on the elements that mirrors the open handling of the cast and chased floral motifs of the guard.

The scabbard preserves all of its lustrous blue and bright gilt, which matches the hilt. The mounts are simply engraved with border lines and are slightly larger than Ames mounts, with slightly larger ring bans. The upper ring mount of the scabbard is stamped on its reverse: “Gorham &  Co / Providence RI” in a manner reminiscent of Ames, but as much as Ames products are to be admired, this sword, for tasteful decoration, attention to fine detail, and state of preservation is in a class of its own. We see a few tiny pinpricks of age brown on the pommel and slight bit of darkening in the curve of the quillon. Otherwise it is just as it was received by a fortunate officer. They don’t get any better.  [sr]

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