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Masonic Knight Templar Swords

1 April 2010 25 Comments

One of the most frequent questions we receive in our email box comes from people trying to learn about Templar swords that they have either purchased at estate sales or inherited from family members who were members of the order.

Many of those asking questions are hoping that they possess a sword from the Middle Ages when the Templars fought in the crusades. They are soon disappointed when they are told that the ornate sword they now possess couldn’t possibly be authentic as the Templar Rule forbade all ornamentation on weapons. Inevitably the sword they are inquiring about is a fraternal Knights Templar sword or “society sword” as they are called among collectors.

The purpose of this page is to explain, not only these fraternal swords but also, the different companies that manufactured them.

Description Of Swords

Pommel: Regardless of manufacturer, the pommel almost always depicts a knight’s head. This does not distinguish the sword as uniquely Templar as other fraternal swords such as the Knight’s of Pythias depict a knight’s head as well.

Grip: The grip on a Templar sword is sometimes black and sometimes ivory. Quite often it will depict the cross and crown emblem of the order as shown in the diagram to the left. Some swords will display a stylized Christian cross while others a triangle and cross. Frequently Templar swords are engraved with the owner’s initials on the grip.

Knuckle Guard: Templar sword knuckle guards typically depict the cross and crown but many of the M. C. Liley and Co. swords show a knight’s head as shown in the diagram to the left.

Blade: The blade of the Templar sword is particularly ornate and will often depict crusader scenes and lily work. Virtually every Templar sword made in the last century and a half will carry the engraved name of its owner.

Sheath: A nickel plated sheath indicates the sword belonged to a Sir Knight, while a gold plated one is that of a Preceptor (Canada) or Commander (United States). Like the blade these sheaths are very ornate and the markings will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

History Of American Sword Manufacturers

Frank Henderson, a prominent citizen in Kalamazoo Michigan and whose home, the Henderson – Royce Castle is a prominent site to this day, began selling and manufacturing swords and regalia in 1850. He remained in the business for nearly a half century until his death in 1899. The company he began would remain active until it was dissolved in 1923.

Initially Henderson sold swords under his own name Frank Henderson and would continue to do so until he formed a partnership with Theron F Giddings in 1871. The new company, Henderson and Giddings Co. was a short lived venture and in 1873, Henderson resumed trade as Frank Henderson.

From this time Henderson began an association with the Ames Sword Company and as an agent distributed their line of fraternal swords and regalia. This relationship continued for two decades at which time, in 1893, he consolidated his affairs with Ames and formed the Henderson Ames Company.

Henderson bought out the E. A. Armstrong Regalia Factory, including all machinery and inventories a year later. After Henderson’s death in 1899 the company continued on for the next twenty-four years when it was purchased and dissolved by The M. C. Lilley and Company.

The M. C. Lilley and Company purchased the Ames Sword Company in 1925 and in the same year change their name to The Lilley Company. The newly acquired equipment was moved from Chicopee MA, to Columbus Ohio.

In 1931 they became the Lilley-Ames Company continued on for another two decades but due to a lack of diversity in their product line began to fail. C. E. Ward bought them out in 1951 and at this time began to manufacture badges.

Chronology Of Major American Sword Manufacturers

With the chronological list below you should be able to get a rough date as to when your sword was made. For example if your sword carries the markings of Henderson Ames, then it was manufactured sometime between 1893 and 1929.

1850 – 1871 Frank Henderson

1871 – 1873 Henderson and Giddings

1873 – 1893 Frank Henderson

1893 – 1923 Henderson Ames
(Henderson Died In 1899)

1923 – 1925 The M. C. Lilley and Company

1925 – 1931 The Lilley Company

1931 – 1951 Lilley-Ames Company

1951 – 1953 Lilley-Ames Company
(Badge Maker New Ownership)

PLEASE NOTE WE DO NOT GIVE, NOR ARE WE QUALIFIED TO GIVE, APPRAISALS ON YOUR FRATERNAL SWORDS

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25 Comments »

  • Dave said:

    Hello Sirs

    I have a sword that belonged to my Grandfather. It reads on the blade (E.A. Armstrong MFG CO. 315 Wabash Ave Chicago) close to the handle. I want to know more about the history of this sword: date and worth.
    Thanks Dave

  • admin (author) said:

    As the article says, Henderson bought out E. A. armstrong in 1894, so one would assume your sword dates prior to that.

    As to value, as it says int he article we are not qualified nor do we give sword appraisals. I’d suggest eBay as a place to get a guideline on market value.

  • brennen miller said:

    i have a sword like this and on the blade it says ammer dersons
    and on the ivory handle there is a cross with a triangle around it
    iif you know anyhting abou this please get back to me

  • admin (author) said:

    It is a Masonic Templar sword, but I have no info on who the sword’s original owner may have been. It was and is common for them to engrave their name on the blade.

  • Josh P. said:

    Hello- I have a masonic sword that was made by the McLilley & Co., but I would like to know the approximate year it may have been made. It reads “HC 42″ by the screws on the sheath if that helps and the grip is made of ivory. Thanks a lot.

  • admin (author) said:

    It doesn’t help, I’m afraid. I’m not an expert on fraternal swords. I would google the words “society swords”. There are soem great sites out there that can probably help you.

  • Kenneth L. Peiffer Jr. said:

    I have a Knights Templar sword with the name of J.H. Ferd. Hahn, Baltimore, M.d. as I imagine was the maker. Please advise where I can obtain some information about him and the date of manufacture. Thank You
    ps thank you for the info on your site.

  • David Cooke said:

    Just to add to your body of work…. I have my Great Grandfather’s Knights Templar sword which I have been trying to get refurbished. The information you have on this site is helpful to me so I pass on what appears on the sword I have.
    On one side of the blade is inscribed: W
    CLAUBERG
    SOLINGEN
    On the other: Hart & Hull
    St Louis, MO

    The Gold Sheath has: Prices Patent
    1870
    And, as you pointed out, my Great Grandfather’s name is inscribed on the blade: J A Pozzoni.

    Thanks for you article. Should you have any suggestions for competent, trustworthy sources of restoring the sword and sheath I have, I would appreciate your forwarding them to me.

  • admin (author) said:

    I wish I did know a restoration place, as I’m asked the question often. I’d suggest dropping into the nearest antique shop as they would probably be able to direct you.

  • Chris said:

    i have a sword passed down from generations. we know my g—–great grandfather died in the 1840s and this sword was made prior to that. was made by the J.A.Merrill and Co. and stamped 17 befor the company was sold in 1836. its not very ornate but it is a K.T. sword. i have done extinsive surches and only have found that the company made silverware but no records of K.T. swords. if you know of any information on them and there swords please let us know.

  • Colleen said:

    I also am in possession of a templar sword that was my late brothers. It has all the engraving and the pearl handle with lettering. Where can I email or call to find out its value. I have some people that would love to have it, but I do not want to just “give it away”. can you help me please?

  • admin (author) said:

    Try eBay. Look for prices there.

  • Frank said:

    Dear Sir/Ma’am: I was recently given my great-granddad’s Masonic ceremonial sword. Manufactured by the Ames Sword Co., Chicopee MA. I don’t imagine he’d have been given it much earlier than his fiftieth birthday, so I’m guessing it dates from between 1915 until Ames was bought out in 1925.

    Typical society sword; knight’s head on end of handle, leaning cross in crown on the guard; filigreed on both sides of blade with Crusader motifs therein; marked ‘Ames Sword Co., Chicopee Mass.’ with the owner’s name engraved on the other side. There are two tiny holes on one side of the black grip, where it appears something had been nailed to the wood grip but came off.

    Sheath is nickel-plated; metal appliques riveted and screwed on. The one at the head of the sheath has the initials ‘KA’ and the numeral ‘1′ stamped in on the reverse by the screw. Obverse side shows St. George (judging by the cross) leaning back on the ground with his shield next to him; beneath is repeated the tipped cross in crown. The screwed-on tip shield is spatulate, showing a double-bladed battleaxe, crested helmet and Maltese cross on a shield. Owner’s name engraved.

    What’s the significance of the ‘KA1′ and what would have been on the handle?

  • admin (author) said:

    Not certain what the KA1 would relate to.

  • eric said:

    i have a couple swords that belonged to my great grandfather and my grandfather … i noticed they have personalization to them and i am wondering if you may know a place that still does this work

  • admin (author) said:

    I’m sorry, I do not.

  • veronica said:

    I would like some information on a sword I have. It is by Henderson & Ames. The name on the blade is Howard C. Crist. I am not to sure if the s is a s in christ it has what looks like to me a o with a ling through it. Any help would be greatful. Thank You

  • Zach said:

    I have this sword given to me by my aunt, i wish to learn more about it. the sheith is plated goldish color, with some design work on it, on one side it has a cross with red fill, and has a snake wrapped around it. the hilt has a twisted design with a sort of string trim within the groove of the twists, and has a knight’s head at the top of it. one one side it bears the masonic symbol of a compass and square, on the other a capital “G”. the blade, near the hilt, has “Ames sword GO(?)Chicopee Mass”, i live in massachusetts.. the blade has lily work and has an inscription “mechanic lodge A.F. & A.M.”, and on the other side the masonic symbol again with the compass and square. it has no edge to the blade, only a tip. i wish to know, especially, what the meaning of the cross and snake is? as for the origin and purpose/meaning of the sword, that would be nice to know too! email me back if you have any additional information you do not provide me on this forum-like page

  • admin (author) said:

    What you have sounds like a Masonic lodge sword. The serpent on a cross is fairly well explained here …

    http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/crosses/serpent.html

  • admin (author) said:

    No info on Howard C. Crist. It was common for every member who bought a sword to have his name engraved ont he blade.

  • Zach said:

    as for how common a sword is to bear that symbol, be significant or not, is it seen often?

  • admin (author) said:

    I couldn’t tell you. I don’t recall seeing one, but the symbol is very common in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The 25° – Knight of the Brazen Serpent – uses it as a symbol. Details on that degree can be found here.

    http://www.scottish-rite-mpls.org/degrees.htm

  • colin said:

    i also have one of these swords from my great great great great g father ithink. it says regalia co. cincinnati o. i was woundering if u had a date for it…..thanks

  • walter said:

    Dear Sir, I have a sword by The M.C. Lilley & Company, Columbus Ohio. It is a red cross and crown. On the blade it has a design of a skull and bones and has a name
    William Archer. The middle initial is hard to make out. It looks like a G or a half moon with a R in it. Could you tell me anything about this or how old it could be? I have the same leather case with writing on the back, just like the picture above.The handle on the sword looks something like the picture only mine has the silver cross on the handle. Thank you, Sir!

  • admin (author) said:

    Thank you one and all for the posts. This article was written as a general overview of these fraternal swords. I do not have the time or the expertise to date, explain or evaluate everyone’s sword for them.

    My apologies for that.