His Ames Presentation Sword, given by the officers and members of the Union Riflemen; A citizen of Flushing (Queens), New York, 1820-1896.
This well rounded collection of material once belonged to a Flushing, New York resident, Captain John P. Ellis. Not only was Captain Ellis a member of the First Company of the Union Riflemen of that city, but was an active civic leader, an inventor having obtained patents through the U.S. Patent Office, and a published poet and writer. The material in the collection reflects on all of these life-long accomplishments.
Ellis’ military career in the New York State Militia is the most highlighted aspect of his life through this material. He joined the Union Riflemen on February 4, 1839, it then being a part of the 51st Regiment of the State of New York Infantry, and later transferred to the 142nd Regiment in October of 1838. Captain Ellis’ signature can be found on the 8 foot vellum muster roll (literally) under the February date. A copy of The Family Companion newspaper, Vol 1., No. 17, dated Saturday, March 11, 1848, gives the account of the presentation to Captain Ellis of a fine sword (and epaulettes), give by the his fellows of that unit.
The sword is a militia staff pattern with helmet pommel and fancy patriotic embellished cruciform hilt with Liberty caps and eagles with olive branches on double quillions meeting at the center of open rectangular panels on either side of the guard, reeded bone grips, and a chain guard. All brass parts are in gilt, as is the scabbard, with two floral ring mounts, and engraved panels to the front. The reverse side of the scabbard is plain, and it is here were the presentation was placed between the ring mounts; a decorative acanthus leaf edging and finial on a simple drag.
The 31 inch straight elliptical blade with central fuller is signed “N.P. Ames, Cutler, Springfield,” at the ricasso, and etched with floral and patriotic motifs. Overall condition is very good, with 45-50 percent gilt remaining, with most of the wear occurring on the area of the presentation (most likely due to cleaning and the usual place for typical handling of the sword). The blade retains a good deal of original bright finish and etching. The original thin leather washer is still present.
The scabbard is engraved:
Capt. John P. Ellis.
by the Officers & Members of the
Union Riflemen, N.Y.S.M.
(On the center of guard facing outward)
Lieut. John Gilliooly
Lieut. Robt. Brown
Wm. A. Gamble.
The collection contains two portraits for Ellis; the earliest is a half plate Daguerreotype circa 1850, wearing a fine suit of clothing. The leatherette case shows some damage, missing the lower section of the back case and having a broken hinge. The image is clear, showing some oxidation under the glass. The other portrait is a full plate albumen image that was hand tinted in monochrome, circa 1860s. The outer mat is cut with an elongated oval trimmed in gilt, and some of the corners are heavily chipped, but would look nicely in period framing.
John Ellis’s scientific prowess is evident in the form of two different inventions that he had patented through the U.S. Patent Officer in Washington, D.C.; his first being an Improvement in Window Sash Fastenings, dated 28 June, 1864, a large engraved vignetted document featuring the U.S. Patent Office. This patent document is accompanied by a “Assignment” document, and the original pre-printed shipping envelope with printed frank of the Commissioner, D.P. Holloway. The second patent, a bit smaller in size, and bearing an elaborate engraving encompassing many forms of invention, was awarded to Ellis for his Improvement in Water Proof Safe, dated January 7, 1868.
His writings are represented in a small soft marbled board notebook containing several of his poetic works that he had published in various newspapers and periodicals, most prevalent being The New Era, a New York City paper beginning from what I can find, in 1836. It may have some relationship to another New Era, begun in 1860, in Washington, devoted to Abolition, freedmen topics, later taken over by Frederick Douglass in 1870, the first newspaper devoted to Black issues. In one of the small printed works (Handbill format) by Ellis, entitled “The Citizen,” the work is largely about slavery, dated December, 1841. There are four handbills, and the remaining are cut from the newspaper. All bear is name or initials in print. There are 8 newspapers from the 1840s through the Civil War era. The Scottish American Journal, Vol. VIII., No. 16. dated Saturday, April 22, 1865, contains a lengthy article concerning the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, with mention of Andrew Johnson, John Wilkes Booth, etc. Each column is printed with black mourning borders. The other papers have some of Ellis’s poetry printed within. Condition of the newspapers is good, showing wear in folds, or worn edges, etc.; and mostly all are NYC area papers.
There is an informative broadside entitled, “To The Citizens Of Flushing.,” and in essence related to an election on May 7, 1872 for a Police Justice, and “Mr. John P. Ellis, respectfully propose him as a suitable candidate for the office.” Three columns of male citizens supporting him are printed. The broadside had some issues with small tears and opening in folds, and I have taken the liberty to conserve the document with acid-free tape.
Contained within the rolled up muster document were a number of speeches made by Ellis about New York Tax Law, and how it related to Flushing, NY in 1894, landmarks, churches, etc.
This is an exceptional grouping sharing the many attributes of a life-long citizen from Flushing, New York, during an important American Era; wars, slavery, westward expansion, and the ever changing American scene of the the later half of the 19th Century.