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Thread: Variant M1861 US naval cutlass seeking info and opinions

  1. #1
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    Variant M1861 US naval cutlass seeking info and opinions

    In the spirit of the recent excellent cutlass threads by CG Roxbury and Richard Schenk I thought i would post some pictures of this wide blade variant. I am looking for opinions and any info anyone has on this cutlass. The 1 1/2 inch blade is approx. 23 inches in length with a slightly rounded tip. Interesting markings are the number 1 where the standard Ames serial number would be and on the pommel. The blade has a mostly complete Ames Chicopee Mass marking. and a stamped number 28 on the grip pommel. I have seen two other identical examples all with single digit serial numbers but no pommel number. All are in similar condition as if they saw use. interestingly All three have the slight blade gap at the hilt. there are no US or inspectors marks on any of the three. Some collectors call these prototypes I lean more toward a special order of swords from Ames perhaps for a ship or unit. Anyone have another example or seen others?
    Thanks Paul GName:  cut1.JPG
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  2. #2
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    Paul, your piece looks almost identical to the Peter Tuite example which he tells me is a prototype. I have no reason to question this identification, although you could be right about it being a special order piece. If it is, however, I have found no trace of it in the Navy procurement or contract records. Here are some photos of the Tuite example:


    Name:  M1861 Cutlass Prototype 1.jpg
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    Side by side with issue version:

    Name:  M1861 Cutlass Prototype 2.jpg
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  3. #3
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    Thanks Richard Good eye, it is in fact the same sword. Pete never mentioned the unique markings on the website i believe.

  4. #4
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    Interesting the heavier blade has the smaller cup. Seems they would have used a standardized jig if a production sword, but if there are multible examples that look the same would it be a prototype or variant. It is one kool looking cutlass with the broad blade. Eric
    The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." --- Tench Coxe

  5. #5
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    Thanks Eric
    without getting the dial gauge out the cups appear to be both standard Ames measurements. Quote a different look with the blade dimensions though.

  6. #6
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    CG Roxbury what say you?

  7. #7
    Hi Paul,

    I have seen these cutlasses over the years and have read about them in the various reference books. In "Collectors' Guide to Ames U.S. Contract Military Edged Weapons: 1832-1906" by Ron G. Hickox, he quotes a letter dated May 18, 1861 from the Naval Ordnance Bureau to Ames that reads in part "Enclosed you will find the drawing of a French sword from which the bureau request you will have a specimen sword of approved steel made and forwarded with all practicable dispatch to this office." So we know there was one "prototype" sent to the navy but in reality there may have been a run of these produced by Ames that could explain the few examples that are known. In "Small Arms of the Sea Services" by Colonel Rankin, he states that "little is known about this variant although at least four specimens exist." Until any other documents surface that describe this cutlass I think it is prudent for us collectors to continue to label it as an 1861 Variant and not speculate as to its origin.

  8. #8
    Paul,

    I just acquired and example of one of the cutlass variants. I think we discussed at Baltimore that I was going to look at one. My example is marked "2" on the pommel and the Ames marks are on the reverse ricasso albeit not all visible. I would sure like to know what the history on these are.
    Attached Images Attached Images     

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by GC Roxbury View Post
    Paul,

    I just acquired and example of one of the cutlass variants. I think we discussed at Baltimore that I was going to look at one. My example is marked "2" on the pommel and the Ames marks are on the reverse ricasso albeit not all visible. I would sure like to know what the history on these are.
    Fantastic! A very nice example. That makes 4 or 5 known all with single digit numbers. More importantly at least to me is they are all in very similar condition. I as well would love to know their story. There must be more out there.

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