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Thread: Early Marine swords

  1. #1
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    Early Marine swords

    Most collectors have little knowledge of early Marine swords, especially those carried by enlisted Marines. This is not too surprising because very little has been written about them, and much of what has been written is wrong. The primary reason for this is the lack contemporary descriptions or illustrations. The M1826 officer’s mameluke is described in detail in Marine uniform regulations and other documents of the time and is seen in many contemporary portraits and photos. The same is cannot be said of enlisted swords. Although the regs and quartermaster correspondence include many references to swords for wear by Marine sergeants and musicians, the numbers purchased, vendors, prices, etc, these documents say virtually nothing about what they looked like. We know that from at least 1832 Widmann was the exclusive supplier of enlisted swords to the Marines, and that, after his death, Horstmann took over the supplier role. Until recently, however, we did not know what these Widmann/Horstmann swords looked like. As a result, most writers, including Rankin and Thillmann, assumed the Marines used the same NCO and musicians’ swords as their Army counterparts. Fortunately, Norm Fleydermann obtained a Widmann/Horstmann pattern book dating from the early 1850s which included drawings of the patterns of the swords being provided to the Marines. Stan Smullen subsequently published these in his 2010 Man-at-Arms article “Swords by F.W. Widmann, W.H. Horstmann and the United States Marines”.

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    In earlier works, including Peterson and Mowbray, these eagle-pommel swords were identified as militia artillery officer swords. This may not have been entirely wrong. Most authorities believe these sword patterns were not exclusive to the Marines and were available for sale to militia or other customers.

    For some time, I have been trying to obtain an example of the M1832 Marine adult musician’s sword. Stan Smullen felt the adult musician sword was the rarest of these early Marine swords. He had only one example of the Horstmann adult musician’s sword in his collection and. although he was confident they existed, he had never seen an example of the Widmann. I was therefore a bit surprised that within a period of two months I was able to obtain two adult musicians’ swords, one from the 21 Oct Poulin auction and one on 2 December on eBay. The swords were both Horastmann examples of essentially identical design. The Poulin example has one interesting difference. At the base of the engraved design on the obverse side of the blade just below the ricasso is a small Widmann “W” between two parallel lines with a sprig of leaves on either side. (Widmann used a distinctive “W” which looked like two overlapping “V”s.) It would appear therefore that this is an early Horstmann example, probably from soon after 1848, using a left-over Widmann blade.

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    Do any Forum members have a Widmann M1832 Musician's sword? If so, could you post a photo of it?
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    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 12-11-2019 at 08:51 AM.

  2. #2
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    I stand by my evidences that show Widmann was importing both entire swords and major parts such as blades. I don't really have anything else to offer re the US Marines patterns, as outlined by Smullen.

    Side by side, I can show an ex Furr eagle (not USMC) marked to Widmann and only differentiated by the ferrule and this same "double V" W. Those being the big crested backstrap jobbies shown in the Mowbray early eagle book. Imo, Widmann swapping out just the ferrules to his grapes&leaves.

    The b&g the same as these USMC eagles.

    Cheers
    GC

    Oh, and for the readers that have not seen them. Smullen's pages
    http://www.bcadapa.org/smullen1-sm.pdf
    http://www.bcadapa.org/smullen2-sm.pdf
    Last edited by Glen C.; 12-11-2019 at 08:51 PM.

  3. #3
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    I do not doubt Widmann imported blades for at least some of his swords, but we really can't use this particular example to make the case. It has no visible German maker's marks. My second example, which other than having the word "Warrented" as opposed to the Widmann "W" at the base of the etching design, is virtually identical, and does have a Weyersberg king's head stamp on the ricasso under the langet.

    Since, thanks to your links above, I have Stan Smullen's article in front of me, let me quote what he says about Widmann adult musician swords: "It is also likely that a “Marine Musician” sword was produced by Widmann, but to date, the author has not seen or heard of one." Although we do not yet have a pure Widmann example, I believe my hybrid Horstmann with the Widmann blade is pretty convincing evidence that Widmann did, in fact, produce a Marine adult musician sword. If any members know of an example, I'd appreciate the details.

  4. #4
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    My only other thought on the "double V" W is that they might denote Weyersberg, even though the blade may also be stamped as the norm. Let me check some files I have saved, or indeed is in Furr's book. The blade with the "double V" but not the usual Widmann hilt stamp.

    At any rate, more interesting anomalies and stuff surfacing years after initial thoughts.

    Cheers
    GC

  5. #5
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    I'm not sure which Horstmann USMC thread is the most appropriate for this addition but I wanted to get this eagle up while I was thinking about it. It might also be useful for any of the dating and marks threads for the company.

    Another mind bender, a sword one would think more Spies than Horstmann but the blade says it all. A eagle presented to a USMC officer.

    Here is the entire set from the auction.

    Cheers
    GC
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  6. #6
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    What is it that makes this presented to a USMC Officer?

  7. #7
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    Semper Paratus

    I have my branch of service confused of course


    Call me a half wit, as at least I got the company right ?8^)~

    Cheers
    GC

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    Semper Paratus is the USCG Motto...

  9. #9
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    Yes, I flubbed this from the start. I had saved the auction for some time and had known it to be USCG and when I had first seen the listing had made a mental note to ping Rick because the USCG swords had come up in the past. Between that saved thought and other Rick threads about Horstmann marks, my cognitive process broke down somewhere along the line catching just the Semper scanning/archiving images and had remembered this recent Horstmann thread by the Schenk man. 2+3=16 right? No wait....12 images....that's the ticket.....must send to Rick.

    I needed coffee bad.

    Cheers
    GC

  10. #10
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    An interesting sword. If just looking at it in a scabbard, I'd say in was a militia officer sword from the 1840/50s or so. The blade, on the other hand, is one of those distinctive gilt and bright decorated Weyersberg blades Horstmann used on presentation and other top tier swords. I have a so-called M1851 general officer's sword (actually a gussied-up M1840 foot officer sword) with this type decoration. I believe the blade of the current sword is possibly a M1840 blade.

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    The motto "Semper Paratus" does suggest a possible Revenue Cutter Service connection (RCS was a predecessor of the USCG), but I am uncertain how long the RCS/USCG have used this motto - as long ago as the CW?. The motto is not exclusive to them - it is also used by the 16th Infantry and some other organizations. I had never previously seen it on a sword, but this afternoon someone posted on the "CW Talk" facebook site a photo of a presentation quality M1850 S&F sword with a gilt and bright decorated blade featuring the same Federal eagle as on this sword and the motto "Semper Paratus". https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...&theater&ifg=1

    So I have two questions:

    - Is the eagle pommel hilt original to this blade or was this a period or later marriage? It would be nice if we had a shot of the peen.

    - Is this an RCS-connected sword? Just don't know.

  11. #11
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    Ref my comment above "this afternoon someone posted on the "CW Talk" facebook site a photo of a presentation quality M1850 S&F sword with a gilt and bright decorated blade featuring the same Federal eagle as on this sword and the motto "Semper Paratus". I wasn't quite right. Actually the motto was in English, i.e. "Always Ready". Below are some shots of the sword. The owner believes it was carried by a high-ranking RCS officer. To me, this sword doesn't seem appropriate for wear by a RCS officer, but there is the motto and oddly this S&F saber has a Navy M1852 pommel cap. What do you folks think?

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  12. #12
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    Another interesting sword.

    A question/wonder I have is the blade decoration of gilt regarding a timeline. The eaglehead pommel could be a composite but I would not think so of the sword lasted posted. As a presentation sword, I would take a lot in stride. However, I was under the impression that the frosted gold blades belonged to post ACW years (which makes the eaglehead even curiouser).

    Cheers
    GC

  13. #13
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    I'm not sure when they started to use this style decoration, but I believe it was probably before the end of the CW since I have seen a lot of CW officers swords with such blades. Kevin Hoffmann illustrated one Horstmann M1850 S&F presentation sword in his e-book with the inscription "*PRESENTED/TO/LIEUT. J. JONES/BY CO. H. 7TH REGT./V R C/MARCH 4TH 65*". I believe I once saw one with an 1862 inscription, but I can't find the photo now.

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  14. #14
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    Very interesting thread indeed Richard. Do you have photos of the m1840 style generals sword. The other one in this thread perhaps more close to a 1796 infantry pattern. 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

  15. #15
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    I found this article on line about the origin of the motto Semper Paratus, interesting reading.

    https://media.defense.gov/2017/Jul/0...THEMEANING.PDF

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Fairbanks View Post
    Very interesting thread indeed Richard. Do you have photos of the m1840 style generals sword. The other one in this thread perhaps more close to a 1796 infantry pattern. Eric
    Here it is - essentially the same as the ordinary M1840 foot officer sword.

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    Here is another Horstmann M1840/51 General Officer sword with variant pommel and a photo of Gen Burnside wearing this model.

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