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Friday, September 2, 2016

Blades Gun Collectors Should Love

It may be the understatement of the year to say that Rock Island Auction Company sells a few guns, and if there's one thing that gun collectors like almost more than anything, it's one with real history. Something with a story to tell, that's not just a story - having the proof to back it up is paramount.

For this reason, we are always pleased to offer a wide assortment of swords and other bladed weapons in our world-class auctions. The history and artisan work on these blades should endear them to many a firearms collector, who certainly appreciates the same qualities in their guns. They vary from the battle tested sabers of the Civil War era, to the finest, gilded and sculpted presentation swords for men of great military prowess.  Here are some selections from this auction that self professed gun guys should have no trouble appreciating. In fact, I bet we have a blade for almost every area of gun collecting.


For the High End Gun Collector

Lot 1350: Historic Presentation Grade C. Smith & Son Gilt Accented Sword, Etched as a Gift from Queen Victoria to Don Rafael Carrera, First President of the Republic of Guatemala, Hero of the Battle of La Aranda, with Two Scabbards, Sword Superb and Important Historic Cased Presentation Saber by C. Smith & Sons, Picadilly, London Presented by Queen Victoria to President Don Rafael Carrera, First President of the Republic of Guatemala

Since last week's article detailing the hunting knife of Teddy Roosevelt was more than enough to satisfy this section of the article, this week we'll show you something different. This lavishly decorated sword and hilts were once presented by none other than Queen Victoria herself to Don Rafael Carrera.  Who was he? Oh, just a passionate revolutionary, the hero of the Battle of La Aranda, and the first President of Guatemala. His whole story is incredible to read and this sword is a fitting gift for such a remarkable life. It is a truly a piece of high art and a testament to 19th century master craftsmanship. This historic and beautiful piece would be at home in the most regal of sword collections or even on display in a fine museum.


For the Sporting Arms Enthusiast or Hunter

Lot 610: Virtually Unmatchable Gathering of Eleven Robert "Bob" Loveless Custom Knives Dated to the 1950s and 1960s with Sheaths, Sleeves and an Impressive Travel and Display Case

If there's one thing that hunters or sporting arms enthusiasts always require of their equipment, it's that it works how it's supposed to when called upon. Such reliability requires a certain level of quality, and these unbelievable blades have far exceeded any such threshold. This is a collection of 11 Robert Loveless custom knives from the middle of last century. To the untrained eye, they may look little different than your standard Buck knife, but their quality, rarity, and design significance make them a horse of a different color.

Those who know knives need no introduction to Bob Loveless. For those unacquainted with his significance, an apt description comes from our official catalog description.

"Entering the knife making field in 1953, Bob Loveless is one of the grand names in 20th century American knifemaking, credited as the godfather of the hollow ground drop point blade (now virtually the de-facto standard utility and multi-purpose knife blade at home and abroad), the innovator of using 154CM and ATS-34 steel for blademaking, a founding member and early supporter of the Knifemaker's Guild and a blade designer for Gerber and Schrade...

According to legend, one of the first things that spurred then-sailor Loveless into making knives professionally was being told by an A&F [Abercrombie & Fitch] clerk at their New York store that he'd have to get on a nine month waiting list for a Randall Made knife (the current waiting list for a Randall is just shy of 4 years), and responding by making a knife himself good enough for the retailer..."

Any of these knives would be worthy of an advanced knife collection, but a gathering such as this is for the most accomplished collectors or those who wish to join such ranks.



For the Cowboy

Lot 322: Scarce English & Huber Philadelphia Clip Point Bowie Knife

You love the Wild West. The idea of "prairie justice," right besting wrong, a cool head and a hot barrel. A simpler time appeals to you, and you probably wouldn't mind a ride on a horse if it was offered to you. You likely have more than one Colt six-shooter in your collection and a few lever guns to boot. For you we have this English & Huber clip-point Bowie knife. Based in Philadelphia during the 1830s and 1840s, James English and Henry Huber Jr. got their start marketing a "Sheffield Works" knife, borrowing on the name of the well known English knife-making area. Thankfully, their knives lived up to the sturdy reputation, and the pair went on to enjoy success. English & Huber are also credited as the first American smiths to produce a proper clip-point Bowie knife and were reported by some sources as a supplier of knives to Jim Bowie himself. If you're after a product from the maker of James Bowie's bowie knives, then this is clearly the lot for you.




For the History Lover

Lot 1108: Outstanding Historic High Grade Cased Clauberg Figural Statue Hilt Civil War Officer's Presentation Sword









This sword's aesthetics alone are enough to make it desirable to military collectors, but it becomes truly special when one discovers all of the documented history that accompanies this beautiful blade. 

There are more embellishments on the scabbard, guard, and blade than can be readily recounted here, so please click this link to view more photos of this exceptional sword.  In brief, the scabbard is silver plated and features highly detailed and gilded mounts with a large American shield covering its lower half. The blade is adorned to match with intricate engraving, abundant gold wash, and precise acid etching.


Regarding its tremendous history, the most readily available information comes from the scabbard which reads, "Presented to Capt. Jacob W. Clark by the members of the 59th Regt N.Y.V." His service history, time in a Confederate POW camp, and life after the Civil War are all detailed in period documents or subsequent archival research done on the man who received his remarkable gift from the members of his veterans volunteer unit. From the "Bloody Angle" to "Camp Asylum" his story is one that any history buff can dive right into and find tremendously fascinating. 

For the WWI Buff

Lot 3514: Collector's Lot of Two Variant World War I Era D-Guard Model 1917 Trench Knives with Sheaths

Trench warfare, enfilading fire, poison gas, and the advent of military dogfights are all in your wheelhouse. Giant battleships, submarine warfare, and early tanks aren't far behind. You've studied World War I, knows its ins and outs, and likely subscribe to The Great War YouTube Channel (and if you don't, you should).

For you we have this stunning pair of savage trench daggers. This simple device was effective for the up close and personal fighting demanded by the trenches. It was also a fine psychological tool to have something so mean and barbaric in one's possession. These two D-guard Model 1917 trench knives are arguably the nicest we've come across, and you'd be hard pressed to find others in a higher condition. If you're assembling as "as-issued" collection of U.S. gear from WWI, these brutal. stiletto-bladed, Hun-stabbers are just the trick.


For the WWII Historian


Lot 3469: Very Fine World War II Soviet Cossack Shashka Cavalry Saber with Attached Mosin Nagant Bayonet

By WWI, swords were all but entirely obsolete in combat, relegating their duties to ceremony and uniform purposes. That said, there are still some outstanding edged weapons to be found up through WWII (the next section on German military blades illustrates this nicely). This sword is that of a Russian shashka, used by the few Soviet Cossack regiments still maintained throughout the World War II. A note that accompanies this sword (and Mosin Nagant bayonet) states that it was acquired to pay off a gambling debt from a man who "picked the sword up" as a merchant marine in the 1940s.



For the German Military Collector

Lot 3367: Exceptional Weyersberg Production Nazi Party SA Dagger with Hangars

For many, this knife is what comes to mind when they think of Nazi daggers, even though Nazi Germany had different daggers for the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, SS, and even the Hitler Youth. This dagger is an "SA" dagger, as indicated by the roundel on the handle which bears the SA letters on a red background. SA stands for "Sturmabteilung," a paramilitary wing of the early Nazi Party known as "Brown Shirts" for obvious reasons.

Hitler formed this group with Ernst Röhm, who led the group. It initially served as brutish protection at early Nazi rallies, but eventually began committing violence against other political parties, while harassing and intimidating groups they viewed as undesirable. They are largely responsible for quashing other political parties in the early 1930s and helping the Nazi party's rise to power. They numbered over 3 million members at one time and Röhm saw them as taking over the role of Germany's national army.

The army, then the Reichswehr, was obviously concerned about this. So they convinced Himmler, Goering, and Reinhard Heydrich, to conspire against Röhm and the radical SA. They constantly fed Hitler false stories and evidence to increase his suspicions. Eventually Hitler acted against the SA to preserve his own power after he was threatened with martial law by President von Hindenburg. The result was the now infamous "Night of the Long Knives," where 150-200 senior members of the SA were killed, after which their power and influence was greatly diminished.

This dagger is in "as issued" condition and very few will surpass it - a fine addition to any German military collection. As would either of the following:

Lot 3366: Exceptional World War II Clemen & Jung Production NSFK Dagger with Sheath

Lot 3363: Attractive SS/Police Officer's Lion Head Pommel Sword with Portapee and Sheath



For the Japanese Military Student


Lot 3209: Signed Wakizashi-Length Japanese Sword with Saya

This sword could do double-duty in a Japanese military collection OR a U.S. military collection as it is accompanied by its 1945-dated bring back papers. It also comes with some fascinating research completed by the previous owner,such as a mark on the sword which may indicate a successful test of cutting through a cadaver torso just below the pectorals.



Civil War: For the Union Supporter

Lot 211: Highest Quality Clauberg Officer's Presentation Sword Inscribed to a Civil War Veteran of the Eastern Iron Brigade

For all you Yankees out there, this is one stunning piece of steel. The engraving, the gold, the carved handle, the acid etching, are all bathed in a staggering level of expertly applied details. To interest you further, it is a presentation blade given to "Col. T. Sullivan By the 48th Regt. N.G., November 21st, 1871." Colonel Sullivan has a lengthy military career that concluded at the rank of Brigadier General. He was clearly an accomplished military man to have earned such a high quality, and richly embellished sword such as this from swordsmith W. Clauberg.


As if that weren't enough to make it appealing to the Union supporter, the script on the blade reads, "For the Union and the Constitution."






Civil War: For the Confederate Son/Daughter

Lot 138: Desirable Confederate "CS" Marked Staff & Field Officer Sword with Scabbard Marked Made By James Conning Mobile, (Alabama)

Don't you worry Johnny Reb, we've got something for you too. For starters, this rare and authentic James Conning sword. It shows some particularly impressive design work on the brass hilt, especially considering the lack of resources and optimum conditions the South endured during the war. The lines of the sword are also long and elegant, which the hilt, handle, and handguard compliment nicely. As most collectors of Confederate items know, any goods that were manufactured for the war were used and used hard. To find this sword and its scabbard in this condition still make it a solid representative example of a scarce and desirable piece.





For the Curio Collector

Lot 3162: Elaborate Acid Etched and Gold Finished Dumouthier Double Barrel Dagger Pistol

A curio collector, eh?  We like you. You've probably got the type of collection that people don't need to know anything as a prerequisite to gawking at it for hours. Besides being appealing to "regular" firearms collectors, your items also appeal to those who know little to nothing about guns, and that makes you an important ambassador to the public. You didn't ask for the job, but sometimes it comes with the territory. Remind us to buy you a drink sometime. Here are a few other lots you may enjoy.

Lot 282: Unique German Silver Paneled, Finely Engraved Percussion Knife Pistol


Lot 3113: Very Fine Dolne Apache Pinfire Pocket Revolver with Knife
After all, what curio collection would be complete with out at least one Apache revolver? With iron frames, brass frames, engraved, plain, pinfire, rimfire, and several different configurations, the intimidating little revolvers are essentially a collection in themselves.





How deeply someone dives into their particular genre can be an indicator of how seriously they take the hobby. Many of these knives, swords, and daggers are a perfect compliment to weapons that many collectors already own. Such blades add depth to a collection. They add details, history, and help to paint a more vivid and complete picture of the men who carried them and their related firearms. You'll find these and plenty more in our 2016 September Premiere Auction, or any auction for that matter. Edged weapons are a mainstay here at Rock Island Auction Company, and just as these blades have been present for centuries, they show no signs of fading away anytime soon from the minds of collectors.








-Written by Joel R. Kolander



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt's Hunting Knife

To say that Teddy Roosevelt is a well-known, beloved, and important character in American history is an understatement. Though fame tends to find perspective when one's face has been immortalized with granite in the Badlands of South Dakota. TR was admired across the nation. He had a robust personality, gave profound speeches, lived his beliefs, and changed the face of this country forever with his efforts in wildlife and habitat conservation. Whether leading the legendary Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, embarking on prolific hunting adventures, offering "Square Deals" to his constituents, surviving an assassination attempt on his life, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or beginning construction of the Panama Canal, the tales of Teddy Roosevelt's life have become part of the fabric of this nation's great history.

Roosevelt in October 1910
It should come as no surprise that a knife once owned by President Roosevelt also has more than a few tales to tell. Its origin begins in 1909 when TR received this national treasure from his good friend New York Supreme Court Justice James W. Gerard. Both men served in the Spanish-American War, but upon leaving the service found opposite ends of the political spectrum. They likely became acquainted in the New York political scene when Roosevelt served as the New York governor for two years and Gerard sat on the Supreme Court bench. The story of the knife's presentation is recalled best in the words of U.S. Marshal Thomas D. McCarthy, whom Justice Gerard had asked present the hunting knife to Roosevelt with the following instructions, 

"'Be sure to get a coin, a penny from the President when you give him the knife,' the Justice told me. 'Remember the old superstition that a gift of that sort cuts friendship unless a small payment is made for it.'

     When I gave Colonel Roosevelt the knife I asked him for the penny. He didn't have one in his pocket, neither did his secretary Mr. Loeb, neither did Senator Chamberlain who was present. So I volunteered: 'Here, Mr. President. I'll lend you a cent.' He took it and put it in his vest pocket.

     After ten minutes of conversation during which time he gave me an autographed photograph for myself and a book for my father who always admired him, the President suddenly reached into his pocket, withdrew the coin and said: 'Mr. McCarthy, it gives me great pleasure to hand you in return for Judge Gerard's gift this one cent coin.' Ever since then I have prized the photograph and the book Mr. Roosevelt gave me is one of the most cherished possessions of my father. And I always have been proud of the fact that a President of the United States owed me a penny."


The knife was considered an extremely lavish gift and wore a 1909 price tag of $1,250, about $33,266 in 2016 dollars. It was such a send off to the nation's youngest president, that it warranted national news coverage. In Rock Island, Illinois, the city's newspaper at that time was the Rock Island Argus. On Thursday, March 10, 1909 they printed at article on the sixth page entitled, "Fine Knife for Roosevelt."  It reads as follows:

"Gem Studded Hunting Weapon Presented to Ex-President by a Friend.

One of the handsomest of the presents that have been pouring in upon former President Roosevelt from friends in every part of the United States who have wished to give him some token of their friendship to carry with him on his African hunting trip is a hunting knife given him by Justice James W. Gerard of the supreme bench of New York city, who is an old friend of the ex-president. The weapon is a masterpiece of jeweler's workmanship, the hilt being wrought in gold and platinum and ornamented with jewels. The top of the handle is carved in the shape of an eagle's head of solid gold. The eagle's eyes are garnets.

On one side of the hilt beneath the eagle's head is depicted a forest scene, with two American Indians behind a birch tree, one of them standing, rifle in hand, the other crouching. The tree is done in gold upon a platinum background. On the reverse side is set the arms of the United States, surmounting a wishbone and intertwining tree boughs in gold. Below is the monogram 'T.R.' The background on this side is also of platinum. Two bears' heads extending out from the handle form the guard at the base of the blade, which is of the finest steel and engraved as follows: 'Presented to Theodore Roosevelt by His Friend, James W. Gerard.' The knife is nearly a foot long and is said to have cost $1,250."

One item of note not covered in the Argus article is that of the knife's creator. That honor belongs to two separate companies: J. Russell and Co. of Green River, New York whose stamp is on the blade, and Dreicer & Co., whose name is printed on the handle's edge. It should be of significant note to collectors that Dreicer & Co, despite being in business only from 1904 - 1923, were a top jewelry retailer and a direct rival to such well-known names as Fabergé. With the split of duties for the blade and the highly ornamented handle, it is unknown which shop performed the acid etched inscription.
The knife has been passed down through the Roosevelt family for the last 107 years. It has never been made available to the public prior to this sale. When Theodore died in 1919, the knife went to his second wife, Edith (his first wife, Alice, passed in 1884). Edith in turn bequeathed the knife to her eldest daughter Ethel Roosevelt Derby. Mrs. Derby intended to present the knife as a wedding gift to her granddaughter in 1976. To secure the knife during her cross-country travels from Oyster Bay to Seattle, Mrs. Derby kept the knife in her purse. However, this was cause for alarm at the security checkpoint in John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City. Upon seeing this incredible knife and hearing its story, security allowed the knife to be transported by the pilot in the cockpit for the duration of the flight. Upon landing, it was returned to Mrs. Derby who presented the knife to the couple several days later at their wedding. Thrilled with such a historic and beautiful gift rife with family history, the couple immediately used it to cut their wedding cake.

The stories this knife can tell after scant more than a century are enough to endear it to the heart of any collector or history enthusiast. Even without the tales that have truly given this item a personality all its own, its provenance alone elevates its status to that of National Treasure.  A hunting knife given to arguably the greatest conservationist and one of the most well-known hunters of the 20th century? What could be more perfect representation? Rock Island Auction Company is honored to present this perfect slice of American history to the public for the first time in its existence, and cannot wait to hear of the new adventures in which it partakes.









- Written by Joel R. Kolander





Sources:

"Fine Knife for Roosevelt." Rock Island Argus 11 Mar. 1909: 6. Print.

Herbert, Thomas. Theodore Roosevelt: Typical American, His Life and Work. United States: L.H. Walter, 1919. 341-42. Print.