Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 113: Gold Plated Mexican War Ball, Tompkins & Black Sword

Auction Date: December 1, 2017

Rare and Historic State of Illinois Presentation Inscribed and Gold Plated Mexican War Ball, Tompkins & Black Sword

Estimated Price: $17,000 - $25,000

Rare and Historic State of Illinois Presentation Inscribed and Gold Plated Mexican War Ball, Tompkins & Black Sword

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 1429
Catalog Page: 62
Class: Other

The scabbard of this sword is engraved: "Presented by the State of Illinois to/ Lieut. Col. John Moore, for services in the/late War of the United States with Mexico/and especially for his gallantry at the battle of/Cerro Gordo". This sword is one of three Ball, Tompkins & Black swords presented by the State of Illinois to Illinois officers for service during the Mexican War. Two of these swords are illustrated and described on pages 474-476 of "CIVIL WAR ARMY SWORDS" by John H. Thillmann. Although this sword has the same general configuration as the illustrated swords, the cast hilt has significant differences. The pommel features two faces: the 'Emperor Head' and a second female head which possibly represents 'Victory'. In addition, the grip which is smooth on the illustrated swords, is decorated with relief cast oak leaves on a pebbled background. Finally, the half-shell counter guard which is plain on the illustrated swords is engraved on this sword with the script letters "US". The sword has a 31 1/2-inch spear point blade with single fuller. The bright blade is acid etched with dry needle engraving on a frosted background. The obverse is finely etched with foliate at the base, an eagle, panoply of arms, caudecus, urn and foliate. The reverse is etched with an eagle and serpent, panoply of arms, foliate, a depiction of the road to Mexico City, and a fountain. The etching is intricate and exceptionally well executed. The reverse ricasso is etched "BALL/TOMPKINS/& BLACK/247/BROAD WAY/NEW YORK". The underside of the hilt is stamped "BALL TOMPKINS & BLACK" behind the counterguard with "CC&D", "N.Y." and proofmarks stamped on the opposite side. The gilded brass scabbard is decorated with engraved scrollwork and floral designs and features unusual rectangular cast loops fastened to the wide suspension mounts. This is a very distinctive, very high quality and striking looking sword with unique pommel and engraving. Presentation swords from the Mexican War are very rare.

Rating Definition:

Very good. The highly detailed relief cast hilt and guard are very fine with sharp casting and crisp engraving. The surfaces of the hilt have a very attractive patina. The blade is very good overall with exceptionally sharp etching and dry needle engraving. The blade may have had the same gold wash finish as the other two Illinois presentation swords, but now has an even silver gray finish. Wear is limited to some light spots of age discoloration on the front of the blade beyond the decorative etching. The scabbard is very good with some tarnish and has a mottled gold patina. The engraving on the scabbard body is sharp and the presentation is crisp and fully legible. This is a very rare and distinctive sword that would be a stand out piece in any collection of U.S. martial arms.

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