Congressional Presentation Sword with Scabbard of Colonel Marinus Willett (1740–1830)
C. Liger (French, Paris, recorded 1770–93)
hallmarked for 1785–86
Steel, silver, gold, fish skin, textile, wood
sword L. 39 5/8 in. (100.6 cm); scabbard L. 33 1/4 in. (84.5 cm)
Bequest of George Willett Van Nest, 1916
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 753
This sword is one of ten "elegant swords" awarded by the Continental Congress to various officers for meritorious action against the British during the American Revolution. Owing to lack of funds, the swords were not executed until 1785–86. They were made not by an American craftsman but by one of the finest fourbisseurs (sword retailers) in Paris. The decoration, in part prescribed by Congress, includes the coat of arms of the United States on one side of the grip and an appropriate presentation inscription on the other. This example is inscribed "Congress to Col. Willett, Oct. 11, 1777." These congressional swords are the first in a long tradition of specially designed presentation swords that would be awarded to America's military leaders throughtout the next century.
Inscription: On the reverse of the blade: LIGER fourbisseu de S: A Msgr Le Duc de Chartre & Comte de Clermont Rue Coquilliere à Paris. On the grip: Congress to Col. Willet Oct. 11 1777 Paris silver marks include: (1) crowned P with 85 (on base of grip, pas d'ane and shell guard; wardens mark for 1785–86; (2) interlaced L's (on base of grip, pas d'ane, and shell guard; charge mark for small work, 1783-1789); (3) a parrot's head (on button of pommel, knuckleguard and base of grip; discharge mark for small work, 1786–1789); (4) maker's mark consisting of the letters CL, surmounted by dots, flanking a sword in pale the point in chief (on pas d'ane and shell guard).