Sale 10AM01 | Lot 155

An Important and Historic Revolutionary War American Silver-Hilted Eagle Pommel Sword signed by John Bailey on Scabbard Mount

Catalogue: American Furniture & Decorative Arts
An Important and Historic Revolutionary War American Silver-Hilted Eagle Pommel Sword signed by John Bailey on Scabbard Mount

Lot Details

Lot 155
An Important and Historic Revolutionary War American Silver-Hilted Eagle Pommel Sword signed by John Bailey on Scabbard Mount
John Bailey, Verplanck's Point, New York, circa 1777
HILT: Eagle pommel silver hilt (signed on accompanying silver scabbard mount) large finely executed eagle pommel, detailed feathers and beak, topped by capstan rivet; spiral-channeled unstained ivory grip with inlaid wide silver ribbon; finely engraved elliptical floating four-slot guard, the smooth inboard edge with a thin iron strip inset; outside edge scalloped; top of guard decorated with shell motifs on the quillons, upper quillon ring-pierced at end for chain guard; chain guard from quillon to ring in eagle's beak. With original leather scabbard.
BLADE: Likely American forged, unmarked with single wide fuller.
THROAT: Top leather scabbard silver mount with ring and ruffled bottom edge to locket; decorated with simple inscribed rules, engraved J. Bailey. in script above Verplank's Point in block letters.
Length of hilt 6 1/4 inches; length of sword and hilt 33 5/8 inches.

An extremely early American Eagle Pommel, executed by George Washington's sword maker, John Bailey, while in exile from the city during the British Occupation.

Silversmith and cutler John Bailey (circa 1737-1815; active circa 1775- circa 1815 ) was arguably the most famed member of three of New York City's Revolutionary era silversmiths, each having made an item for George Washington and each a patriot exiled from the city following the British occupation. While Bailey's peers Ephraim Brasher and William Gilbert were also makers of fine silver hilts, the genteel cutting sword-the renowned 'Battle Sword' now in the Smithsonian-was Bailey's work for Washington. This commission places Bailey swords as the most sought after by collectors. The sword offered here is a rare example (all Bailey signed examples are scarce), whether from his workshop in the city, or from his post-exile shops at Verplanck's Point or subsequently Fishkill (where the Washington sword was made in 1778).

Bailey's work includes hilts in a variety of styles, from the plain hilt of the Washington sword to lion and dog pommels. A commonality to his work is the elliptical floating guard with inset iron strip as evidenced by examples in the Lattimer Collection and most closely, the example sold by Christie's New York in the Mrs. J. Insley Blair Collection (21 January, 2006, lot 545, for $130,000), which was signed on the scabbard mount exactly as the present example. Another sword bearing the same signature is in the Lattimer Collection of Silver Hilts.

Some resources state that as few as ten signed Bailey swords are extant, but even if the number is in fact perhaps twice that, only the present sword and one other eagle pommel by Bailey is known (permanent collection of the New York Historical Society, see Peterson). In fact the present item might possibly be the earliest signed American eagle pommel silver hilt, a style that while nascent during the Revolution, grew to immense popularity during the post-war and early Federal Period.

If Bailey's methods at Verplanck's Point (which was en route to his subsequent workshops at Fredericksburg and Fishkill) are similar to those at Fishkill, then the present sword is likely entirely from his own workshop. Unaided he forged out the blades, mounted them and even tanned the leather for the scabbards, which his industrious wife stitched into shape; in this manner up to two dozen weapons were frequently completed in the course of a week. (See Greenwood. Memoirs of John Bailey and the War Sword of George Washington. Mss. of a speech read at the New York Historical Society in 1864, later published in Magazine of American History (1887), Vol. 17, pp. 351-352.)

A remarkable Revolutionary War silver hilt of rare design as made by the most famed of American sword makers.

Hartzler, Daniel. Silver Mounted Swords. The Lattimer Family Collection. New York, 2000.
Mowbray, E. Andrew. The American Eagle Pommel Sword. Lincoln, RI, 1988.
Peterson, Harold. The American Sword 1775-1945. Mineola, 2003.

Estimate: $35,000 - $45,000
Sold for $74,500 (includes buyer's premium)

Additional Notes & Condition Report

Any condition statement is given as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Doyle New York shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.

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Estimate: $35,000 - $45,000
Sold for $74,500 (includes buyer's premium)

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American Furniture & Decorative Arts

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 10am EDT
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