U.S. MODEL 1850 FOOT OFFICER’S SWORD, EX-MOLLUS COLLECTION

$1,250.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 1052-04

“Collins & Co.” in an arc, over “Hartford / Conn” and dated on the obverse “1861.” Interestingly, the back of the blade is etched “iron proof,” the grip has a definite down turn, and the etched eagle on the blade is rather Germanic. Although they only started in the bayonet and sword business in 1861, Collins is well respected for the quality of their swords and are known wholesalers of blades and entire swords to firms like Tiffany and Willard and Hawley.

This comes from the recently dispersed collections of the War Library and Museum in Philadelphia. Incorporated in 1888 by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, the veterans’ organization for Union officers, this was the repository for a world-class collection of artifacts housed since 1922 in a Philadelphia townhouse. The museum closed in 2008. Many of their holdings made their way to other institutions, but we recently purchased a number pieces from them at auction and MOLLUS collection number on white ground on the reverse ricasso is nice a sign of this provenance.

The sword follows the standard 1850 configuration of brass hilt with cast and chased open floral work in the guard and wire bound sharkskin wrapped grip. The pommel has the usual cast and chased leaf border. The brim of the pommel cap is not cast or chased, but has leaves shallowly engraved. The grip is in fair condition. About 30-40 percent of the surface of the sharkskin survives. The wire binding has one thick and two thin strands. These have loosened and sprung. One of the narrow strands has broken and the ends knotted together, but the wire seems all there. The blade is etched on both sides, with the upper plain sections showing as silver gray with dark gray spots.

The etching is thin but fully visible as a muted silver against the now gray frosted background. The obverse has two rectangular panels at bottom, but above the ricasso and spanning the fuller to the edge, one of which likely bore a retailer’s address. These are not legible. Above those panels are dense floral scrolls and branches leading up to a stand of arms with cannon, shield, pike and flags. Further along a Germanic looking U.S. eagle with raised wings clutches arrows and olive branch with an E Pluribus Unum ribband above, amidst more floral scrolls, which terminate the panel. The reverse is etched with latticework at the base, and a floral spray with lightning bolt-like leaves, over which a long banner hung from the cross bar of a pike folds around its staff, which is entwined by vines. More vines lead up to a “U.S.” set lengthwise on the blade in a sunburst cartouche, and at top is a swirling flag over the motto “Union and Victory” in a three-part foliate scroll.

The scabbard is a brass mounted steel scabbard, with throat, two ring mounts and drag. The mounts are plain on the reverse. On the obverse the middle mounts show cast and chased ring bands with floral motifs and the drag has nested flowers engraved part way down from its upper edge. The small screw on the reverse securing the throat is missing. The others are in place. The scabbard body is gray with dark gray spots overall, but no dents or dings. Like the sword, it has a MOLLUS collection number at the top.

The Germanic style eagle, the downturned pommel, and the etched “iron proof” on the blade spine suggest the sword or the blade may have been supplied to a Philadelphia retailer. Thillmann illustrates a foot officer sword with a Collins blade and similar address box on the obverse, above the ricasso bearing the firm name of G.W. Mintzer of Philadelphia. It has a far more ornate U.S., but the same style of eagle etched on the blade, which Thillmann notes shows up on Collins blades and those of Emerson and Silver (Army Swords 344-345.) The use of a metal scabbard with a foot officer’s sword is not regulation, but is common enough, indicating the officer expected some hard field service and this sword shows that it was carried.

This is an interesting sword with a great provenance to an historic museum founded by Civil War Union officers. [sr] [ph:m]

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