Officer's sword

about 1805–12
Thomas Ellicott Warner (American, 1780–1828), Andrew Ellicott Warner (American, 1786–1870)


Object Place: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Dimensions

Overall: 99.1 x 2 x 14 cm, 1.83 kg (39 x 13/16 x 5 1/2 in., 4.03 lb.)

Accession Number

1973.481a-b

Medium or Technique

Silver, ivory, steel

On View

Kristin and Roger Servison Gallery (Gallery 133)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver

This large sword has an eagle-head handle. The silver scabbard is engraved with a Greek fret border, overlapping eagle feathers at the end, and two passages of bundled lightning bolts between oak leaves. Two applied bands of holly leaves hold silver rings from which to hang the sword. The eagle’s neck feathers on the handle are carved ivory, and the head is cast. A scroll handle, with a female head on the outside, emanates from the bird’s beak. Each side of the steel blade is blued and etched in gilt. One side is inscribed with the motto “Liberty and Independence” and an arm wielding a sword. The other side is inscribed with “1783” and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and is decorated with an American eagle.


Although many American silversmiths are known to have made swords, relatively few have survived. This presentation or commemorative dress sword (or saber), complete with a rare silver scabbard, can be dated within the working years of the well-known and prolific Baltimore partnership of brothers Thomas and Andrew Warner.
According to family history, the sword was owned by a member of the Van Deventer family, either Peter, who served with the New Jersey militia during the Revolution and was active during the War of 1812, or his son Christopher, a West Point graduate who fought with distinction in the War of 1812. The engraved date of 1783 probably refers to the signing of the Treaty of Paris, and the nationalistic and classical emblems mark it as a product of its time.
In a detailed, unpublished analysis of a related sword in the collction of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Gary Albert presents a subtle case study of the use and origin of such weapons, including the possibility that they were imported (in whole or in part) from Britain or France by the Warners. Albert suggests that the blades of the MESDA and MFA examples, in any event, were probably produced in Solingen, Germany.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

Inscribed "Liberty and Independence" on one side of blade and " E PLURIBUS UNUM "/ " 1783 " on the other

Markings

"T [pellet] & A [pellet] E [pellet] WARNER" within rectangle struck on underside of cross guard, and with an eagle's head mark in a rectangle

Provenance

Probably made for Peter Van Deventer (1755 – 1837) or his son Christopher (1788 – 1838); by descent in the family; purchased from Firestone and Parson, Boston, in 1973.

Credit Line

William N. Banks Foundation