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Thread: The last USMC NCO sword.

  1. #1
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    The last USMC NCO sword.

    Well, not the Last United States Marine Corps, Non Commissioned Officers sword, but one of the last ones made in the USA.
    First, some History.
    In 1951 The C.E. Ward Co., New London, Ohio, (Located in north central Ohio. SW of Cleveland.) bought the assets of the Lilley-Ames Co., Columbus, Ohio. Ward, a manufacturer of choir robes, lodge regalia and distributor of L-A made swords and lodge regalia, wanted L-A's product line. This acquisition made sense because of the waning lodge movement in the US. In the post WWII years there was still a demand for swords by the US Army, USMC, Coast Guard and military schools. The US Navy stopped requiring it's officers to own swords in 1942. That order was rescinded in 1954. By 1955 the Solingen, Germany, sword makers: WKC, Eickhorn and Horster had taken over the US market. In 1985 Ward, who wanted to concentrate on choir robes, (What is cool about choir robes?) sold the lodge swords and regalia part of the business to local investors. The company continues to this day as Fraternal Supplies Inc. and Ames Sword Co. I know the owners and did some consulting. I learned a lot.

    I have several Ward marked swords in my collection.

    This USMC NCO sword is a Ward made, not private labeled, US military sword. I will go into more detail about it in additional entries.

    The quiz: What caused the demise of the American lodge movement? For extra credit, what celebrated American was (unknowingly) responsible.
    Us over 50 guys should know the answer; let the youngsters have first crack at it.
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    Last edited by T. Graham; 12-15-2011 at 08:57 AM.

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    Details about the Last USMC NCO sword

    1. The blade, originally mark "MADE IN U.S.A.", is for the M1875 USMC Officer's "mameluke" pattern sword. Look at the ricasso on the photo above. There is a 'made' under the C (of C.E.) and the N of (New London). L-A started using the "MADE IN U.S.A." about 1935 to compete with the German Imports.
    2. The grip is one of at least two different types of phenolic plastic "fishskin" grips made originally for the pre WWII M1852 USN Officers swords. Since the Navy was not using them, it was a way to use up the inventory. Officer's grips were white, so Ward painted these black and highlighted them by sanding the paint off. It does punch up the sword; but, I do not think it is regulation. The embossed wire "twist" is a neat touch.
    3. The hilt and knuckle guard are made from a very high quality, two piece investment/lost wax brass casting. These were joined at the knuckle guard. Note the poor quality of the fitting together of these parts. I was temped to blend this joint properly; it could be done in a couple of hours. I restrained myself. My collection has a set of these parts.
    4. A US Army M1902 tang screw pulls this assembly together.

    Quiz no. 2. How can you tell the blade is for an officers mameluke?

    More details on the next entry.
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    Last edited by T. Graham; 12-15-2011 at 09:00 AM.

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    More details on the last USMC NCO sword and conclusions

    The scabbard has two interesting features.
    1. The throat is a simple flanged fitting, pushed into the steel scabbard which is covered with some kind of leather like material.
    2. The upper scabbard mounting is sheet brass with a big, unique frog hook and is held in place with two Phillips head screws. L-A was using Phillips head screw before WWII.
    3. The drag is poorly made.

    Since the tang is assembled with a M1902 inside thread screw, (I prefer the term "female screw", but it only excites the 8th graders.) it was easy to take apart. But, not so easy to reassemble.
    The original assembly was badly done and may have been messed with later. The rectangular tang opening in the counter guard was several times too large. Someone had stuffed toothpicks and bits of cloth into the space around the tang to position the blade and grip, which had not been properly fitted into its recess on the counter guard.
    I shimmed the counter guard opening with sheet brass shims and epoxy. I decided not to solder the shims in place because the repair would not show and it is best to avoid unnecessary heat. Some uneven and excessive weld on the tang was thinned. A little adjustment to the grip and it is now properly fits into it's recess. The new leather buffer has a thin brass plate to lessen the pressure on the epoxied shims when it was reassembled. You can not tell it is there.
    The original lacquer coating on the brass was 50% gone. I chemically removed the remaining lacquer and tarnish. I know patina, this was not patina. After a gentle polish I relacquered the brass parts.

    I think some "Gunny" would now approve of this "last" sword.

    Conclusion: It seems Ward may have been obligated to fill some Government contracts for swords. I think, that after Ward used up existing L-A parts they stopped making swords for the US military. Also lodge swords are far more profitable.

    I will give this thread some time, before I provide the quiz answers. But, I think someone will know them.
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    Last edited by T. Graham; 12-15-2011 at 02:31 PM.

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    OK, I think I know the answer to the officer blade question on Quiz #2. The outline of the USMC Officer langet on the guard is mirrored on the etching template at the ricasso of the blade, along with the dual fullers.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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    Correct. Quiz #1 is more of a historical/sociological question.

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    If anyone cares the answer to question no 1 is: television and Milton (Mr. Television) Berle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Graham View Post
    If anyone cares the answer to question no 1 is: television and Milton (Mr. Television) Berle.
    I have thought about this for awhile and I think I might have another contributing reason leading to the demise of some fraternal organizations. Insurance. In the old days (pre-television and MIlton Berle) fraternal organizations often provided not only socialization to members but also provided some form of health or life insurance as mutual aid. In fact, some fraternal organizations ran hospitals and tonteens that paid off in case of death. Some have even morphed into insurance companies. Perhaps portable insurance provided by employeers, et. al., also played a role?
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by T. Graham View Post
    If anyone cares the answer to question no 1 is: television and Milton (Mr. Television) Berle.
    Every time I've been asked about fraternal swords, I point out that the groups had their heyday in the '30s, since there was no TV or internet to occupy an adult male's time. I'm glad I'm not the only one who says that.

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    The first USMC NCO sword.

    Could this be the prototype or the first of USMC NCO swords! I Picked it up at Maryland Arms Collectors.
    Removed from the scabbard it seems to be a M1850 Foot Officers sword, but the grip is not correct. The blade is Weyersburg (king head), Solingen, Civil War period, imported by Horstmann. It lacks the US and Eagle. (I have an Army M1850 foot officer with a similar blade.) The grip is leather over cord and wood with a wire twist. The scabbard is the type that came with some French export Horstmann "NCO" types from before the Civil War. I have one in my collection.
    I have come to this conclusion; The current USMC NCO sword was originally created by Horstmann and The M.C. Lilley Co. to use up surplus parts from the Civil War. It later was officially adopted with the lighter blade and unique etching pattern.
    Before WWII the were TWO patterns of NCO sword. The basic sergeant sword, like this one and the senior (staff sergeant on up) with a double suspension belt just like the officers belt. I have two; one is just like a M1850 USMC officers sword, but with a steel lined scabbard, and USMC officer Civil War Blade and another using the narrower blade. Both were made by Lilley or Lilley-Ames. Pictures are available.
    Has anyone ever seen a NCO sword similar to the current pattern, made before WWI? Is there a specific model year?
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    I would have to go back to recollected notes on the USMC NCO but what I seem to remember is that after the 1850s patterns were adopted for army use, the USMC mameluke was taken away and the officers asked to use a sword much like the army sword. It was then when the mameluke was brought back (1870s?) that the NCOs were gifted the short lived USMC officer sword of the French style.

    It makes some sense that Horstmann was involved in the rebirth or reuse of the pattern for the USMC NCOs because Hortmann had been a supplier for the USMC (particularly the earler nco and musician eagle pommels) before the ACW.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; there are some pdf files by Stanley Smullen writing about the Widman/Horstmann days but those regard the eagles

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    Quote Originally Posted by George Wheeler View Post
    OK, I think I know the answer to the officer blade question on Quiz #2. The outline of the USMC Officer langet on the guard is mirrored on the etching template at the ricasso of the blade, along with the dual fullers.
    I agree George. Cheap Skate etching as you say, this part of the blade covered by a langet so no need to etch it. It probably took more money in time to save some wax and acid than doing it properly!
    You DO NOT get that sort of penny pinching in a Wilkinson made US sword.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkinson-Latham View Post
    I agree George. Cheap Skate etching as you say, this part of the blade covered by a langet so no need to etch it. It probably took more money in time to save some wax and acid than doing it properly!
    You DO NOT get that sort of penny pinching in a Wilkinson made US sword.
    I have yet to see a "Made USA" marked sword that didn't have shoddy etching.
    Motivated buyer of US Cavalry sabers.

  13. #13
    Here is just another tidbit of info. I work at MCAS Yuma and of the 2 NCO swords I just checked at our site,one was made in Taiwan and the other was made in Toledo. I Just asked our Captain where his Mameluke was made and he said he got it at the Quantico base store and its was made in Solingen.

    Semper Fi
    Phil
    Last edited by Phil Hettel; 03-27-2013 at 10:22 AM.

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    Here are some of my observations:
    Because of relativity small size of the pre WWII USMC and therefore small market for swords; The M.C. Lilley Co. and Lilley-Ames could supply the requirements for officer and NCO swords. Demobilization likely put a lot of used swords into the market. Lilley-Ames ceased production in 1951 and was purchased by The C.E.Ward Co. (See top)
    In the early 1950s Wilkinson started making officer swords that were imported by Hilborn and Hamburger. I have not seen a Wilkinson NCO sword.
    The 1950's brought the Japanese makers: Fugi and Japan Sword on to the scene with very high quality swords; including M1902's.
    By the mid 50's till now, the Solingen makers have held the high end quality market for both Officer and NCO swords imported under various trademarks.
    The early 1970's brought on the Spanish makers Bermjo and Marto, both of Toledo, who can cover the entire US military sword market. The quality is good, but somewhat light weight. They have several importer trade marks.
    In the mid 1980s Zubco from Boston imported some OK quality NCOs and M1902's from Taiwan.

    Note 1: USN officer swords were made in Japan and Spain before WWII.

    Note 2: Any sword marked stainless was made after 1960.
    Last edited by T. Graham; 03-28-2013 at 08:59 AM.

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    Wilkinsons seem, from the surviving Price Lists not to have made US Marines (Enlisted) swords until the early 1950's and they were still listed in the 1987 pice list.

    Here are the details of what was listed in the 1949 price listing which shows Marine officer swords (and parts)
    I have the full size official drawings of the Officers Sword Drawing 20091 signed by the Depot Quartermaster, the Wilkinson copy issue date 27-10-1949. The drawing, however is dated April 1 1904. Approved by the Colonel Quartermaster USMC.
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    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 03-29-2013 at 01:59 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkinson-Latham View Post
    Wilkinsons seem, from the surviving Price Lists not to have made US Marines (Enlisted) swords until the early 1950's and they were still listed in the 1987 pice list.

    Here are the details of what was listed in the 1949 price listing which shows Marine officer swords (and parts)
    I have the full size official drawings of the Officers Sword Drawing 20091 signed by the Depot Quartermaster, the Wilkinson copy issue date 27-10-1949. The drawing, however is dated April 1 1904. Approved by the Colonel Quartermaster USMC.
    I actually got a hold of one of the Wilkinson made NCO swords (I posted pics in another thread). I just sent it up to Crisp & Sons for refurbishment because it was in a pretty sorry state. The blade was pretty good and so was the material for the grip (real fishskin vs the standard black leather), but the castings were pretty crude (maybe an early example?)

    Robert, can you post the drawings? I have a Wilkinson USMC mameluke from the 1950's and one of their last ones before they shut down (2004 maybe), and a catalog pic from 2003.... all three are very different

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    While not looking for one of these, I stumbled on a blog post with an 1864 picture of some mMarines. The officer has his "new style" sword.

    http://www.victoryinstitute.net/blog...the-civil-war/

    Cheers

    Hotspur; the search had been of cross belts and led me there
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Hoq View Post
    I actually got a hold of one of the Wilkinson made NCO swords (I posted pics in another thread). I just sent it up to Crisp & Sons for refurbishment because it was in a pretty sorry state. The blade was pretty good and so was the material for the grip (real fishskin vs the standard black leather), but the castings were pretty crude (maybe an early example?)

    Robert, can you post the drawings? I have a Wilkinson USMC mameluke from the 1950's and one of their last ones before they shut down (2004 maybe), and a catalog pic from 2003.... all three are very different
    here are photos of the drawings _They are BIG drawings!!!)

    Robert
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    Glen,

    One correction in your description of the USMC sword shown in the photograph. This Marine on the end is a NCO and not at Officer. The NCO sword was worn in the white frog as shown while the Officer sword had a leather scabbard with two rings for wear with slings.

    George
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  20. #20
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    Thanks George

    As mentioned in the picture captioned at the blog linked

    Five U.S. Marine Corps privates with fixed bayonets under the command of their noncommissioned officer (NCO), who displays his M1859 Marine NCO sword. Navy Yard, Washington, DC, April 1864.

    The image there bigger than the SFI compressor as well.

    http://www.victoryinstitute.net/blog.../Marines01.jpg

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    Look carefully; that scabbard is suspended by a white frog and is hung curve back. With a two strap and hooks suspension the scabbard would hang curve forward.
    So it appears that officers and NCOs word the same sword with different scabbards.

    So, my sword described above could be an original Horstmann USMC NCO ACW sword?

    Questions:
    Why are there M1840 NCOs etched USMC that appear to have been made post ACW?
    Has anyone reading this ever seen a USMC NCO, either type, that can be positively dated from the ACW?
    The "M1859' became non-reg after the ACW and was replaced by the M1840 type and after WWI reappears?

    Add this with the later Horstmann/Lilley creations and chaos rules.
    Here some other period photos.
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    Last edited by T. Graham; 04-23-2013 at 09:06 AM. Reason: More thinking; always a bad sign.

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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Graham View Post
    So, my sword described above could be an original Horstmann USMC NCO ACW sword?
    You directed me to this old thread in your response to my post on the M1859 NCO sword on the USMF site. By now, you probably have answers to most of the questions you raised in this thread, but in case you haven't, here are my thoughts on this question: The sword you pictured and described above is not a Civil War era USMC NCO sword. CW swords had plain, unetched blades. It probably dates from the period 1872-1875. In 1872, "decorated" blades were authorized for Marine sergeants, and in 1875 the uniform regulation was changed to require blade etching to include "U.S.M.C.". I suspect this is a fairly rare bird since the period in which the regs allowed etched blades without USMC included was only about 3 years. I have nice examples of the earlier and later versions, but not this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Schenk View Post
    You directed me to this old thread in your response to my post on the M1859 NCO sword on the USMF site. By now, you probably have answers to most of the questions you raised in this thread, but in case you haven't, here are my thoughts on this question: The sword you pictured and described above is not a Civil War era USMC NCO sword. CW swords had plain, unetched blades. It probably dates from the period 1872-1875. In 1872, "decorated" blades were authorized for Marine sergeants, and in 1875 the uniform regulation was changed to require blade etching to include "U.S.M.C.". I suspect this is a fairly rare bird since the period in which the regs allowed etched blades without USMC included was only about 3 years. I have nice examples of the earlier and later versions, but not this one.
    Tim,

    Just re-looking at the pictures of your sword and noticed another detail which indicates a relatively early date for your sword: oak leaves are used for the decoration around the rim of the pommel. Horstmann used oak leaves on its Civil War swords, but by the time of the USMC had adopted the M1859/75 with its "U.S.M.C."-etched blades, Horstmann had changed the pommel decoration to laurel leaves. I'd love to have this sword. If you ever decide to sell...

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    Tim.

    - You note in your post above that the Navy and USMC did away with the requirement for officers to own swords in 1942 and did not re-instate the requirement until 1954. I have copies of the 1942 circular letter abolishing the requirement, but not the document re-establishing it. I know in the past I have read correspondence, I believe between the Commandant and SecNavy, on the proposal to re-establish the requirement to maintain valuable tradition and esprit, etc., but for the life of me I cannot now find it. Do you have copies or a link to where they can be found?

    - If the requirement was not reinstated until 1954, it appears individual Marines were choosing to buy swords even in the absence of the requirement. Note in Wilkinson product list in Robert's post above that Wilkinson includes Marine Officer swords in its 1949 product line. They were obviously making sales because I own a Wilkinson mameluke which the original owner, a graduate of the USNA Class of 1950, bought when he was commissioned that year.

    Dick Schenk

    p.s.: Did you get the PM I sent you last month about your M1859 NCO sword with etched blade but no "U.S.M.C."?
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 02-20-2017 at 12:27 PM.

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