VERY SCARCE US INSPECTED AMES M1850 FOOT OFFICER’S SWORD DATED 1851

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Item Code: 721-114

Ames received a contract for the new pattern foot officer’s sword in April 1850. The total was just 800, delivered in batches from March 10, 1851, through February 25, 1852. To accommodate differing heights of officers, two blade lengths were requested: 250 were to have 32-inch blades and 550 were to have 30-1/2 inch blades. This is one of the latter, actually measuring about 30 inches. The company did not receive another US contract for the pattern until 1861. Consequently, these survive, if at all, usually in heavily used condition, having seen long service on the antebellum western frontier and then during the Civil War. Thillmann says those with 1850 and 1851 dates are, “scarce in any condition.”

This one is dated “1851” on the reverse ricasso and “US / RPB” on the obverse for Robert P. Beals who was a U.S. Inspector in 1850 to 1852, before going to work for Whitney. The pommel bears inspection marks as well: a small “B,” likely for Beals again, and “JWR” for James Wolfe Ripley, a prominent Ordnance officer acting as superintendent of contract arms. The rayskin grip wrap is very good, showing a typical narrow shrinkage gap along the seam on the underside of the grip, but with good gray color showing some small stains and only minor rubs and abrasion spots. The wire binding is all there, through a tad loose. The leaf decoration on the edge of the pommel, the openwork floral elements of the guard and scrolled quillon disk are quite good and there is an unusual amount of muted gilt finish remaining in the recesses of the quillon disk and the flats of the counterguard: Thillmann noted that the gilt finish on these early examples was applied in a thicker coat than on the later ones.

The blade is smooth metal with good point, and the edge showing only some tiny nicks. The blade is a muted silver gray mixed with dark gray spotting, giving a mottled appearance in places. The principal motifs like the “US” and Ames eagle are readily apparent. Some of the floral elements and vine entwined stands of arms, etc. are visible but more difficult to make out in detail. The obverse has a typical sunburst/flower with latticework at the bottom, followed by a stand of arms with a US shield, spears and flags, followed by scrolling floral motifs leading up an Ames eagle crosswise on the blade with upraised wings US shield on it chest, holding arrows and olive branch with an E PLURIBUS UNUM scroll overhead, and finishing with more floral motifs. The reverse has the etched Ames three-line company address at bottom, just above the ricasso, with letters on the right, near the back edge easier to make out than near the cutting edge, followed by several narrow floral bands, a stand of arms, block sans-serif “US,” more floral elements and another stand of arms showing spears and banners.

These US government inspected 1850 officer’s swords are many, many times rarer than their directly purchased, commercial brethren and closely associated with the regular army, particularly in the antebellum era. This comes with a reproduction scabbard for display, but the sword is scarce enough not to need any help.    [sr]  [ph:L]

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