1861 PRESENTATION M1850 STAFF AND FIELD SWORD WITH GUTTA PERCHA GRIP: DRILL MASTER AND ARTIST DAVID DALHOF NEAL, SUMNER HOME GUARD, SAN FRANCISCO

$2,250.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 766-1064

This is a very nice example of a Klingenthal made U.S. Model 1850 Staff and Field Officer’s sword with an 1861 presentation. The sword follows the U.S. regulations, which derived from French patterns, but shows some of the elements characteristic of Klingenthal. The grip has a very pronounced swell. The wire grip binding comes out of the guard at steep angle. The blade has an unstopped broad central fuller and a narrow secondary unstopped fuller near the back edge of the blade that exits from the guard and runs out very close the end of the main fuller very near the tip of the blade.

The hilt has a mellow brass patina overall, showing a little brighter on the protected underside of the guard. The pommel cap is the standard form with leaves along the edge and the guard has the standard cast and chased floral open-work (or knuckle-bow with two foliated branches) with a floating “U.S.” The scarce gutta percha grip is in excellent condition with very nice dark gray color and texture imitating sharkskin and a twisted brass wire binding. The underside of the guard has remnants of the thin leather washer. The blade has visible etching on both sides, with smooth metal, good edge and point. The obverse shows the two stamps of the French receiver and inspector at the base. On both sides the etching begins with a palmette, followed by floral scrolls in two sections separated by a tall stand of polearms and flags, with the frosting ending in a scalloped or Arabesque spear point. The obverse etching is brighter than the reverse, which shows some wear and gray spotting. The back of the blade is floral etched and engraved, “Manufre de Klingenthal Coulaux et Cie.”

The scabbard is excellent, just a few small dings along the bottom, with very pretty plum coverage to the body, and a nice mellow, aged patina to the brass mounts matching the hilt and having just a few brown age spots. The upper mount is professionally engraved is script, Old English and small block letters, “Presented to / D.D. Neal / by the / Sumner Home Guard / San Francisco Sept. 23d / 1861.”

San Francisco had a sizeable contingent of militia organizations in the 1850s and they increased with patriotic fervor when the war broke out. Named after General E.V. Sumner, head the Department of the Pacific in 1861 after Albert Sidney Johnston resigned his commission to join the Confederacy, the Sumner Home Guard was formed by fourteen young members of the First Congregational Church in San Francisco who signed the following statement: "Believing that our duty to our God and our country is paramount to every other duty, and that our country's safeguard consists in the ability of her citizens to defend themselves against the assaults of foreign and domestic foes, we, the undersigned, hereby form ourselves into a military corps."

They called meeting at the Church on 10 August 1861, elected a President and Secretary of the organization, and formed committees to make necessary arrangements. These included the use of the Turnverein Hall for meetings and drills and the appointment of D.D. Neal as a drill instructor, “a gentleman of varied acquirements, who has since achieved quite a reputation as an artist in Germany” according to a short history of the unit.

David Dalhoff Neal was born in Lowell, Mass., in 1838. He studied art at the Andover Academy until age 14 when his father died, leaving the family in difficult circumstances. He reportedly struck out on his own soon after, reaching New Orleans by age 15, where he worked on the docks and saved enough money to reach San Francisco, where he settled in 1857 and found employment supplying sketches for woodcuts and studied under German-born artist Charles Nahl, gaining some exposure at art fairs. Whether he had any prior military experience to drilling the Sumner Home Guard is unclear, but there were a number of militia companies in San Francisco in the 1850s and they increased dramatically with patriotic fervor when the war broke out. In any case, he was a satisfactory enough drill instructor to merit a very nice sword from his aspiring citizen soldiers. The company did well enough to be accepted into the militia organization of the state 14 October 1861, later changing its name to the Sumner Light Guard and earning a good reputation for its rifle team in later years.

The sword may, in fact, have been something of a going away present for their instructor. By his own account, he was encouraged by a wealthy patron in 1861 to study art in Germany and in a rather spur of the moment decision sailed to New York and then on to Munich, which he reached New Year’s Day of 1862, leaving not much time other than for travel after presentation of the sword on September 23. In Germany he gained entrance to the Royal Academy in Munich, married the daughter of an instructor in 1862, raised a family, and embarked on a long, successful career as a painter of portraits, architectural and historical scenes. He maintained his U.S. citizenship, was member of several American art organizations and made a number of U.S. tours with exhibitions and commissions, but continued to reside in Munich, where he died in 1915.

This is a fully regulation U.S. m1850 staff and field sword with a scarce California presentation. The gutta percha grip is also not easily found and, despite French swords serving as the pattern for the U.S. models, Klingenthal imports are not all that common, perhaps in part because of the pro-Confederate leanings of Napoleon III. In our listing we show a later portrait of Neal and a circa 1866 member of the Sumner Home Guard in their post-1863 incarnation as the Sumner Light Infantry.  [sr]

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