This rare American sword was made by Bilious Ward of Middleton Connecticut and bears his mark on the knuckle bow terminal. Ward was born in Guilford in 1729. His mark is shown p.320, American Silversmiths, Old Silver, English, American and Foreign which is considered the standard reference for silver marks. His Father, William Ward Jr. and his son, James Ward were also silversmiths (Early Connecticut Silver, Bohan). Yale University Art Gallery has five spoons by Bilious War, 3 identified as C.1750-70 and two C.1755. New York Historical Society has a single spoon dated to 1750-70.
The form of the sword is iconic. 1740s and 50s in America was the period of the Great Awakening, a time of strengthening religious values and reverting to basics. In a sense, a return to Puritanism. In American Silver Mounted Swords
, 1700-1815, Peterson states “American silver hilted small swords are characterized by simple chaste lines. In Europe, most of the silver mounted smallswords of the same period were completely covered with heavily modeled or pierced decoration. In this country, however, such surface decoration was extremely rare as American craftsmen relied more upon the pure beauty of line and form to attain their artistic effect.” He illustrates and discusses 16 examples. #1-4 dated 1722-30. Three of the four incorporate traditional (European) decorative elements. #5-13 date C.1740-50 and are all of the same spartan form of this example with the iconic ringed slightly elongated pommel. In fact, the ten including this one are nearly indistinguishable but for minor details. #14-17 date C.1770-1815 and fully embrace the later European forms. Also notable is that of #5-13, eight of nine are maker marked, while none of the first four are and two of the last four are not. The blade of this example is flat, 28 5/8” in length, undecorated with a narrow fuller to the forte. Of the comparable group, seven of nine are triangular and two flat. At that time (1955) five of the nine comparable examples were in museum collections. Silver hilted swords in Colonial America were very rare and the zenith of gentlemanly style. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reports, in a description of a sword by Jacob Hurd “Between 1730 and 1750 he (Hurd) made about ten swords, far more than his peers, most of whom made only one or two.” The 1762 inventory of silversmith John Edwards includes “One silver hilted sword at 60 pounds, 3 shillings” at a time when the per capita income in America was 15 pounds, 12 shillings. A historic Colonial American sword for which there have been no comparable examples on the market for decades.