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Thread: M1840 Artillery Saber 1st S&K Contract

  1. #1
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    M1840 Artillery Saber 1st S&K Contract

    I just purchased a sword listed as “S&K Sword – Civil War Era”. I believe it is a rare M1840 Type 1 Artillery Saber from the initial 1840 contract with the Solingen firm Schnitzler and Kirschbaum.

    In 1839 the US Army decided to adopt new cavalry and light artillery sabers based on the French M1822 models. In August 1840, two US officers visited Solingen and signed a contract with S&K to manufacture the newly-adopted models, including 500 light artillery sabers. The contract was awarded to the German firm because it was prepared to go into production immediately, whereas Ames would need time to tool-up to make the new models. The contracted sabers were to be ready for inspection by April 1841, and were to be inspected IAW the procedures of the Prussian service. The inspection was to be arranged through the American Minister in Berlin. This was done, and the new sabers were received in New York on 31 Oct 1841.

    Although they were likely re-examined when they were received by the Army, no US inspector marks were applied; the swords bear only the Prussian inspectors’ marks. At the time, in was customary for Prussian inspection marks to include a two-digit date stamp. These 1840 contract sabers, however, do not. Thillmann comments “It is not known why the 1840 contract sabers do not have a date stamp as on the trial (39) and 1847 (47) contract pieces. It is likely a verbal agreement was reached to omit the date stamp. The reason is not known and unless currently undiscovered correspondence, notes or records are found, it may never be learned.”

    The markings on my new sword are consistent with those usually seen on these first contract swords, i.e. the spine of the blade is stamped “S&K” and the inspector mark of a crown over a script letter “D”; two other inspectors marks are found on the hilt, a crowned letter “D’ on the knuckle bow and the crowned script letters “RC” on the side of the guard. Thillmann tells us these are quite scarce in any condition, not only since so few were made in the first place but that they also were subject to hard ware throughout the frontier and Mexican wars as well as the Civil War. Despite their rarity I don’t think their market value is that high because I don’t think many collectors really know or care about them. I still think I got quite a bargain at less than $300. If only it had its scabbard...

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    The above is a somewhat edited version of a thread I posted on 10 November and which was lost through the reset. Since then I've done a lot of internet searches for a photo of another example of a S7K 1st contract Artillery saber so as to make a visual comparison of the markings. Thillmann unfortunately did not include photos in his Civil War Cavalry and Artillery Sabers. I was unable to find an artillery saber, but I found a number of the M1840 cavalry sabers which S&K made under the same contract and which were inspected by the same Prussian inspectors at the same time. The markings seem consistent with those on my saber.

    Name:  Cavalry M1840 S&K PA 4.jpg
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    I would still welcome a photo of another example of the 1840 contract artillery saber and its markings. Do any Forum members have one?

  2. #2
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    One of the photos of the M1840 cavalry didn't get posted:

    These cavalry swords are more common since the original contract was for 2000 pieces as opposed to the 500 artillery.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 11-12-2017 at 12:40 PM.

  3. #3
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    The "Crown/RC" markings are Prussian inspection markings applied by the Revisions Control. This marking indicates that the firearm or sword did not pass some minor part of the inspection process but the shortcoming was not enough to disqualify the weapon from being accepted for service. This inspection commission marking absolved the other inspectors of any responsibility for passing an otherwise serviceable weapon. It is interesting that both the Cavalry and Artillery swords have this RC marking. It may be that the swords are simply out of spec for Prussian weapons but were otherwise acceptable in the agreed upon inspection process.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  4. #4
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    Thanks George. That really is interesting. In addition to the sabers in Thillmann's book, I found four other examples of the 1840 S&K contract sabers, all cavalry. Every one of them had the crown RC stamp. Your explanation sounds plausible, and certainly more edifying than the alternative explanation that the Prussians used the contract to dump a bunch of sub-par swords that had piled up on the stupid Americans. Actually, I suspect it may have been used specifically to show the swords were not intended for Prussian use, even if there were no defects.

  5. #5
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    Yes, the Crown/RC marking indicates the weapon is fit for service. One will find this RC marking on Prussian arms that were accepted for military or police service so it is not a dis-qualifier in any sense of the term. The only dis-qualifying marking in US service would be the stamped "C" marking indicating the weapon failed inspection and was condemned. I only have one CW period Austrian imported bayonet with this marking so this condemnation mark does appear on imported edged weapons. What typically happened was that the edged weapons that failed the inspections were returned to the dealer or manufacturer, stamped with the C marking, who was then able to sell them on the private market to individuals or militias but not to the US Government to fulfill contracts for arms.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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