SCARCE ROSE 1807 CAVALRY SABER

$1,895.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 490-3563

This is a very good example of the Rose 1807 pattern horseman’s saber, clearly marked “W. ROSE / & SONS” by two separate stamps on the spine of the blade near the hilt. For details on the pattern see Peterson, The American Sword, Figure 21, and the much-anticipated upcoming book on Federal period swords by John Thillmann. Rose had more than twenty years’ experience in blade-making when he received the U.S. contract for 2,000 sabers of this pattern in December 1807 and delivered them in batches through 1808. They followed the hussar style saber that had appeared in the American Revolution and become popular in the decade following as the preferred saber of light cavalry, codified as such in the British army in 1788, and used as the pattern for the U.S. contracts of 1798.

William Rose (1754-1810) had Revolutionary War service in the Pennsylvania militia in 1777 and made bayonets for the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety in 1780. He built a blacksmith shop in Blockley Township in 1782 and may have purchased land and buildings from Louis Prahl, when Prahl moved to Philadelphia in 1784. Sword blades eventually became his major product and from about 1800 he operated as William Rose and Sons with sons Joseph, Benjamin, and William Sr., who carried on the business after his death, with the company lasting as a tool manufacturer until near the end of the twentieth century.

In keeping with the idea of a light cavalry saber, Rose supplied them to the government with iron framed scabbards with leather bodies that were light but robust, and could be carried on sabers slings on a waist belt rather than a baldric over the shoulder. U.S. inspection marks were placed not on the sabers, but on the leather of the scabbards, making it difficult to separate the company’s commercial products sold privately or to militia units from the government contract pieces, but this saber has the regulation 34-inch flat blade with shallow curve, narrow 26-inch long fuller running under the back edge, and slightly clipped point. The hilt is iron, with D-guard shaped knucklebow whose upper end is mortised into the pommel cap. The cap has a flat top with teardrop shape, the point extending over the bottom lip of the pommel, and the blade tang is seated in short button, rather than a taller capstan, which marks many of the commercial versions. The grip has an iron backstrap and ferrule at the guard, and is wrapped in black leather and bound with twisted, narrow gauge brass wire, typical of most 1807 contract sabers, though the first batch was delivered with the Ebony grips characteristic of their commercial swords. The condition is very good. The top of the pommel cap shows some shallow pitting and light rust, but the peen of the blade tang is not messed with and the remainder of iron hilt and the blade are smooth metal, with knucklebow showing just a couple of light dings, but the blade with a good edge and point, showing a muted silver gray mixed with medium and dark gray areas. The wire is in place on the grip and the leather shows some light rubbing and wear, but no holes or missing pieces.

Swords of the Federal period are an interesting collecting category from the variety they offer, with the government focusing on firearms production at the national armories and passing off edge weapon production to private manufacturers, and for their concrete links to the history of the country. We note in passing that the 1798 contracts for sabers corresponds to rising tensions with France and the notorious “XYZ Affair,” and that Rose’s December 1807 contract followed by just several months the “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair,” which signaled renewed tensions with Great Britain that culminated in the War of 1812.  [sr]  [ph:m]

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