PLEASE NOTE We do not give, nor are we qualified to give, appraisals on your fraternal swords.
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)