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Thread: US Naval Officers Swords 1872 to 1942

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    US Naval Officers Swords 1872 to 1942

    This is the first outline of a series of articles that I hope to submit for magazine publication. All rights are reserved, but I hope that members of this forum will contribute.

    The 20th Century Model 1852 US Naval Officers (USNO) sword has been ignored by all sword reference books; possibly because their modest value does not make them worthy. I think it is necessary to promote the modest valued swords that most of can afford.

    About 1935 US sword importers and distributors stopped importing swords from Germany. This is, I think, because the Solingen makers were major supporters of the Nazis. Thus the "Made in USA" marked swords; all of which were produced by the Lilley-Ames Co. (L-A) , Columbus OH, the only surviving US sword manufacturer.

    The DAMN picture manager will not put them in the correct order. Can this be fixed?

    Photo 5 shows five very different USNO's swords. Since I know of no Specific designation, I have created my own; from left to right they are:
    1. Type I FSG with fish skin grip. Likely a special order for Gaunt Uniform Co., NY. Note: the pommel is a separate piece from the knuckle guard and the counter guard is the M.C. Lilley pattern.
    2. Type I PG with round plastic grip. The knuckle guard and pommel are separate and the counter guard is the Lilley pattern.
    3. Type II slightly angled flat side plastic grip. The knuckle guard is separate from the counter guard is the Lilley pattern.
    4. Type IV has more angle on the flat side grip. The knuckle guard and the pommel are one piece and the counter guard is the Ames Pattern.
    5. Type V has an even greater bend with a flat sided plastic grip,one piece knuckle guard and pommel with an Ames pattern counter guard.

    Pictures 4 and 6 show more detail.

    Picture 3 shows the only real difference between a Lilley and Ames hilt. This applies to all their production. Note: Karl Eickhorn, Solingen Germany patterned their USNO hilt from the Ames pattern.

    Picture 2 details the type IV and V

    Now I want everyone to closely examine photo 1; this shot has the pommels in the same order as picture 5.
    Quiz, one of the pommels if different, which one, how and why.

    The answer and and more about the L-A's USNO sword in a couple of days.
    Attached Images Attached Images       

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    I am amazed that no one has answered the quiz. Should I continue this thread?

  3. #3
    OK..I'll make a guess..photo 1..the rightmost sword..the eagle on the pommel is facing right, the others all face left ( not totally sure about the 4th sword..guessing to the left)
    Last edited by Ralph Grinly; 04-30-2013 at 02:55 PM. Reason: error

  4. #4
    About 1935 US sword importers and distributors stopped importing swords from Germany. This is, I think, because the Solingen makers were major supporters of the Nazis. Thus the "Made in USA" marked swords; all of which were produced by the Lilley-Ames Co. (L-A) , Columbus OH, the only surviving US sword manufacturer.



    Mr. Graham
    Your above statements need a little adjustment.
    1. The Solingen makers were for sure Importing complete swords and sword parts into (at least 1939-40) and I will have to check my Company files as it could be later.
    2. Supporters of the Nazis. Yes Eickhorn sure was in the right circles but in the end this had little to do with it...Again Information from my company files.
    3. Eickhorn sold many blades to Lilley and others marked GERMANY on tang only.(In the letters this was all spelled out in there orders. This was done for import reasons and marked on the tang so when assembled either the Germany name would not show or they ground it off.
    I will try to post a picture of a page in my files. It is a Christmas Card from Meyer DEC. 1937
    I have thousands of pages of Eickhorn factory papers...
    Regards: James

  5. #5
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    As always, everything you put up has been informative to me but I often have nothing to contribute.

    Except maybe

    The DAMN picture manager will not put them in the correct order. Can this be fixed?

    Frustrating at best sometimes, I agree. However, if you click on the paperc;ip after you have uploaded images, you can place the thumbprints inline with the text and order them in the context you want (insert attachment via the paperclip icon). The other method with the system is to build an album at SFI and dthe copy&paste the links with the img tags already in place.

    http://www.swordforum.com/forums/album.php

    Alternately, outside sources for hosting images allow a greater flexibility. I often just use www.tinypic.com if I don't want to bother with my Opera albums.
    http://my.opera.com/3sails/albums/

    Cheers

    Hotspur; now I need to go back and learn what you posted

  6. #6
    Took a quick look at a few files.. Meyer stopped for war Sept. 1939 Regards: James

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by James Brown View Post
    Took a quick look at a few files.. Meyer stopped for war Sept. 1939 Regards: James
    What I mean to say is Meyer stopped buying from (Eickhorn) in Sept. 1939 until after the war.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Grinly View Post
    OK..I'll make a guess..photo 1..the rightmost sword..the eagle on the pommel is facing right, the others all face left ( not totally sure about the 4th sword..guessing to the left)
    You are correct. In 1941 the US Navy in its infinite wisdom decided that the eagle on buttons and sword pommel caps, currently facing to his left, the sinister side, will face to the right. It has also been been mentioned that the German sword and button eagles faced to the left. Because of this change, the German Navy was not able to infiltrate the US Navy.
    I wonder what this change cost the tax payers? After all, those admirals and captains has to travel to meet and then generate a lot of paper to make this change. (Did someone push my skeptical button?)
    Does anyone know of a good reason for this change?

  9. #9
    After looking in the Eickhorn Lilley file I found that between 1935 and 1939 Lilley bought 1000s of sword blades from Eickhorn...
    While I'm not sure if Alexander Coppel later known as Alcoso Company was a big player in export at this time. ( The company was for sure one of the top 5 in sword manufacturing in Solingen) It is known that the Coppels did not survive the war because of there religion, but the company did under management of a relative by marriage. There is a book written in German about this..The company name has been sold and is still making shears. I know this is off subject. Do you have any feedback at all on these posts T. Graham?? Just trying to keep things straight..
    Regards: James
    Last edited by James Brown; 05-01-2013 at 08:51 AM.

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    James,

    I have seen a few copies of the correspondence between Meyer and Eickhorn concerning the purchase of swords and these letters are great primary source material. I recall one series of letters between them where Meyer stopped buying from Eickhorn at the start of the war and the correspondence was very friendly with both parties hoping to continue their business collaboration after the end of the war. Of course, they did just that and Meyer once again bought Eichorn made parts and M1902 US Army Officer Sabers after the war.

    Tim,

    You might want to point out that the pommel eagle facing either sinister or dexter is really just a rule of thumb for dating these US M1852Navy Officer Swords. Some of the early pommels can face either way... particularly the imported ones. Never say never as most of these rules are not carved in stone.
    Last edited by George Wheeler; 05-01-2013 at 08:32 AM.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  11. #11
    George:

    You are correct that letter was dated Sept 1939, Some of the files were done in duplicate and sometimes you may see a copy of a letter for sale...The person I bought them from years ago was not totally honest about selling all the files and he sold a few ( duplicates) he had left on e-bay. Regards: James

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    James,

    Yes, I saw some of this correspondence that was sold by Manion's Auction some time ago. I am pretty sure that is where I saw the Meyer letters.

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

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    The Mansfield, Ohio Civil War show is over and we can get this thread back on track. The very interesting "German" connection needs a separate thread. I picked up an interesting m1902 that relates. But let us put that aside for now and get back to " Made in U.S.A." L-A USN sword.

    These swords are usually easy to take apart. Just unscrew the pommel cap, remove the nut and apart it comes. The grip may need a tug. Re-assemble in reverse order, but do not over tighten the nut, it may need to be adjusted to get the pommel cap to set with the eagle up. That nut is usually not very tight. A socket driver and a light touch is all you need. If the knuckle guard is still loose, take it apart and bend the top curve up ever so slightly and then reassemble.
    Pictures 1 and 2 are the type I FSG with fish skin grip. Do you see the fish skin grip seam and the 'Lilley' pattern on the counter guard?
    The Type I PG and the type II did not readily want to come apart and I do not think there any useful information there. To take them apart requires leather covered channel locks to pop the pommel cap loose.
    Picture 3 is the Type IV with the one-piece knuckle guard/pommel and picture 4 is the type V. Both have the Ames type counter guard. To dis-assemble these may require a slight bending of the knuckle guard. When you re-assemble let the nut pull things together. Do you see the change in the eagle?

    Do not try to dis-assemble any other USN hilt, they are very different. This includes the German ones that seem similar


    I just noticed that there isn't a type III. Please forgive the error. Maybe I could assign that designation to the Coast Guard versions. Does anyone want to see them?

    Picture 5 shows the only scabbard difference is the method of fastening the mounts to the scabbard. The scabbard on the left is found on the type I PG, II, IV and V. Note the 'German' type headless screws on each side one the 'edge'. The Type I FSG scabbard has the pan head screw on the leather seam side. Sometimes these screws are a Phillips head. This is correct on any L-A sword. L-A quality control was based on the individual ability of the assembler, polisher, etcher etc. L-A was cranking out a lot of swords in the pre WWII period.

    Are more photos of these swords wanted?

    The German import swords were first to use the steel lined and plastic scabbards with the headless screws and the screw on pommel caps. I can start a thread on the pre WWI and pre WWII German and English imports, pre WWI and WWI period US made if there is interest.
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    Excellent information on an often overlooked sword. The photos are very telling.

    Do you know when the plastic scabbard bodies were first used? I presume post WWII with the metal bodies being generally pre-WWII?
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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    I have Horstmann marked, plastic scabbard. USNOs made by Eickhorn; which I would date around 1930. The only way to notice them is the lack of a seam and decorative molding. It appears to be a form of Bakelite cast or injected molded, very thin. I am amazed that it was not broken. The example shown has a 'crack' along it. I think there is a reinforcing material under the smooth coating. I'll bet there are German market swords with this type of scabbard.
    There were post WWII German USNO's with fiberglass lined leather scabbards.
    Note the 'painted fish skin grip. This was found on the less expensive Ames WWI swords.

    The between the wars swords are a thread of their own.
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    Last edited by T. Graham; 05-11-2013 at 09:28 PM.

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    Here are a couple of post 1955 Wilkinson drawings of the USN Hilt and scabbard mounts.
    Attached Images Attached Images   
    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 05-12-2013 at 12:37 AM. Reason: add picture

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    Moderator, I am thinking that it may best to change the name of this thread to 'US Naval Officers Swords 1872 to 1942'. I can add a lot to a thread named as such.

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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Graham View Post
    Moderator, I am thinking that it may best to change the name of this thread to 'US Naval Officers Swords 1872 to 1942'. I can add a lot to a thread named as such.
    Done!
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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    For me personally the vast majority of the later USN swords are of little interest, unless they are marked with the officer's name, which can lead to interesting historical anecdotes. The sheer abundance of these swords, coupled with the thin blade, the near-identical etched decorations...none of these help with collectability.
    I have a sword of a USN officer that served in the Russian North during the intervention in the Russian Civil War, which is interesting to me on a personal level. The sword itself is not interesting as an object, being a typical thin-bladed, generically-etched variety.
    That being said, I'm not critiquing or looking down on anyone who collects these swords, just offering my perspective on why and why not.
    Anything of age can be a collectible...it's good for the preservation of the object, at least.

  20. #20
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    I recently picked up a 'budget' USNO sword. The interesting lack of usual features make this a unique variation.
    The grip is a smooth plastic, possibly celluloid and the scabbard mountings lack the the 'knot' bands. The un-plated blade is just barely etched.
    I was able to determine that it was made by Weyersburg, Kirschbaum Cie. and it is marked 'Germany'.
    Likely made for a naval cadet program before WWI.
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    Now that is an interesting variation. Certainly a low budget import sword. I notice that the top and middle suspension bands have been reversed and that now puts the sewn seam of the scabbard toward the front. The bands look to be glued in place rather than stapled in the typical German manner. They did not spend a lot of time or money making this one.

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

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    Thanks George, Because of the heavy pitting on the point; the necessary refurbishing will justify fixing the scabbard, assuming I can get it apart. I did not notice that the scabbard was backwards.
    I have other Imported USNOs if there is interest.

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    Two M1852 Lilley-Ames type IVB what to do?

    Lilley-Ames applied a varnish to this series of USN swords. As you can see it has to be removed. The grip embossed strip of the top one had to be replaced with wire of the same type as that used on the earlier versions of these swords. I have no idea where you could get this embossed strip.
    Removing this finish requires a solvent and elbow grease. These swords come apart easily so the only time consuming part is the soaking and rubbing. I have an exhaust fan by my work bench. Otherwise this should be done out side. I am going to try a paint stripper on the bottom one; it should work faster.
    The next decision is weather to apply a clear lacquer coating to inhibit tarnish.
    I am sure there are some comments.
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    "...what to do? I am sure there are some comments."

    Of course there will be opinions and comments. I have come to the conclusion (speaking for myself alone) that all patina does not necessarily have to be removed. All patina is not bad in my eyes. Over the years I have changed this opinion and come to this position after cleaning a lot of swords. Anyway, I tend to look at the amount of the finish I am looking at and how unattractive it is to make a cleaning decision. I certainly will remove active rust or crud to stabilize the condition of the sword. Cleaning is not restoration.

    Let's look at your second sword. If this is the remains of the original varnish finish it appears to be over 50% there. While it is certainly dull it is not spotty or unattractive in my eyes Well over my % benchmark at around 90% it appears from the photographs. I would leave it. I would leave it because I know what a re-finished sword looks like. You have one shown just above it.

    Just my two-cents worth of opinion... since you asked for it.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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    Not long ago I had a gorgeous Civil War period Ames M1852 sword that had almost 100% of its original varnish remaining on the hilt and the scabbard mounts. Underneath that varnish was all of its original gilding. I decided not to remove the varnish, which has darkened with time and acquired a somewhat mottled look, but protected all of the gilding. I am sure the sword's new owner appreciated that.

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