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Thread: Request for Help

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Request for Help

    I have asked similar questions before, but I'm going to ask again: Do any forum members have old catalogs/sales lists which show USMC enlisted swords? I have the Mowbray reprint of the c.1882 Ames catalog which also includes an insert from the 1877 Horstman catalog, and I've also seen the excerpts from various sales catalogs Bezdek included as an appendix to his book on American swords and sword makers, but none these have any Marine enlisted swords.

    It almost seems like there was a conspiracy to keep information on the design of USMC enlisted swords secret. In addressing enlisted swords, the uniform reg of 1859 said simply "Same as U.S. Infantry" with no further information. The next revision in 1875 was just as bad, saying only “For patterns of belts, complete, and swords, see patterns in the Quartermaster’s Office, Headquarters”, and again provided NFI. Things remained just as bad with subsequent editions of uniform regulations.

    I thought I might find detailed info from the contracts the Marines negotiated with the makers. No such luck. The contracts at most alluded to the patterns in the Quartermaster's office. Correspondence between the QM and the contractors filed in the national archives provides some info, primarily on the initial designs adopted. The main reason for this is that is that Horstmann, who had the contract in 1859, misinterpreted the 1859 reg to mean enlisted Marines were to wear M1840 Army NCO and musicians’ swords. The Commandant advised them through the Quartermaster that what was intended was a modified M1850 foot officer's sword for sergeants, and the M1840 NCO swords for musicians. There are a few other hints in subsequent correspondence, but even these tend to be ambiguous.

    Among things we do not know for sure which illustrations from contemporary sales brochers and catalogs might clarify include:

    - What did musician swords made after June 1861 look like? The QM instructed Horstmann to do away with the rear counterguard, but there are two known designs which seem to meet this requirement – which is the marine version, or are they both?

    - What did the large number of musicians’ swords made between the end of the civil war and the so-called M1875 with “U.S.M.C.”-etched blades look like? We know at about 300 musicians’ swords were procured by the USMC QM between the end of the CW and 1875, but nowhere have I seen even a guess what they may have looked like.

    - When was the M1875 musician’s sword adopted? I found an IG report from 1882 which seems to indicate this marking had not yet been adopted at that date. Do we have any catalog or other document that shows the “M1875” was actually in use before 1882?

    - When were NCO blades first decorated? The date usually mentioned is 1872, but I have seen nothing to support this assertion? When did sales listings or other contemporary document first offer decorated blades?

    - When was the inclusion of the initials “U.S.M.C.” in the etching of Sergeants’ swords directed? “Common Knowledge” is that this was required by the Uniform Regulation of 1875, but as shown above, this is not the case. The regulation does not address the design of the sword, and there is some evidence the “U.S.M.C.” etch may predate 1875.

    - Finally, a couple questions relating to more modern swords. First, when was the modern narrow-bladed sword with the spelled-out name “United States Marines” and the EGA etching first adopted? The date 1918 is most commonly cited, but is probably wrong. USMC QM BG Charles McCawley is credited with redesigning the sword, and he didn’t return from France until 16 December 1918. It seems unlikely redesign of the NCO sword was a top priority of either himself or the Quartermaster Division either during or immediately after the war, so I suspect the introduction of the new sword was somewhat after 1918. When did companies such as Horstmann and M.C. Lilley first start offering the new narrow-bladed sword?

    - The second question, which I have previously asked, is did any of these companies offer an option to buy the new sword with a scabbard with carrying rings instead of the usual frog knob? Uniform regulations up until WWII called for First Class NCOs to wear their swords with slings, but there is little evidence they did so. Were such sword scabbards offered?

    If any forum members have old catalogs, etc, I would truly appreciate it if they could look to see if there is anything on Marine enlisted swords and provide me feedback, including negative feedback if there is nothing. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
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    OK, I am listing a link to a Musician sword from the Bristol Artillery that may be of interest in your quest for circa 1900 USMC Musician/NCO swords.

    http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...=artillery+nco

    Hopefully this will be helpful rather than just more confusion. At any rate, the fellow named on this particular sword was listed as a Sergeant rather than a Musician. It does not mean that he was not a Musician but I have not found this to be true. So, it is possible that this was meant as a Sergeant's sword rather than a Musician's sword when it was made for the owner. Another confused use of a Musician sword or a re-designed Sergeant sword from this period?
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
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    769
    Quote Originally Posted by George Wheeler View Post
    OK, I am listing a link to a Musician sword from the Bristol Artillery that may be of interest in your quest for circa 1900 USMC Musician/NCO swords.

    http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...=artillery+nco

    Hopefully this will be helpful rather than just more confusion. At any rate, the fellow named on this particular sword was listed as a Sergeant rather than a Musician. It does not mean that he was not a Musician but I have not found this to be true. So, it is possible that this was meant as a Sergeant's sword rather than a Musician's sword when it was made for the owner. Another confused use of a Musician sword or a re-designed Sergeant sword from this period?
    Thanks George. Your sword is of course Army, not Marine Corps. Although clearly based on the Army M1840 musician's sword, it is not strictly speaking a regulation sword. You pointed out a number of small variations in the referenced thread, e.g. the silvered grip, nickel plated scabbard and blade, fuller, etc. I believe it was officially dropped by the Army in 1875, although I would need to recheck my facts. Militia units at the time of your sword had a lot of discretion on matters relating to uniforms including swords, so it seems quite possible the Bristol folks chose this musician-like sword for its NCOs. Even in CW times, I have heard that shorter NCOs sometimes wore the musician's sword rather than the NCO sword because the later was too long. The owner might have been a Sergeant assigned to the band, hard to say without researching the matter. I would guess, however, the unit just adopted this design for use by its NCOs.

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