Artifact of the Week – August 12th

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At Hillary House, we are getting closer to setting up our World War One exhibit opening August 20th. We are getting materials ready and gathering artifacts, but did you know that we have some artifacts belonging to military history on display all the time? Belonging to Robert William Hillary, this sword served both him and his son in the Holland Landing Summer Militia Camps.

Decorative features of the sword on the blade reads CANADA MILITIA encircling a beaver, and a crown on the opposite side. There is a worn Black Leather Acorn Tassel attached to the sword. It could possibly be a heavily faded brown leather tassel, which would have been used almost universally during WW1 on soldiers’ swords. Although this would have been attached for decorative reasons at this time, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), some training styles made use of the tassel to keep the sword attached in case of disarmament. The makers mark reads “FIRMIN & SONS 153 STRAND & 13 CONDUIT St LONDON” and on the opposite side is a Star of David. The guard has a “VR” Victorian cypher in the center of it. This intertwined royal cypher is for Queen Victoria. The scabbard with the sword is leather and steel. The scabbard covers the blade, and on this one, the end is broken from the rest of the scabbard. For parade and combat uses, some swords came with two scabbards, one brass, and the other leather.

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Firmin and Sons earliest references go back to 1677 (older than the Bank of England) where Thomas Firmin’s name appears on the “List of Names of Merchants in London”. Firmin was a button maker initially. These buttons appeared on military uniforms from Britain, gaining world renowned recognition. In 1838, the company added “Sword Cutlers” to their list of Services. Since King George II, Firmin and Sons outfit military ceremonial dress and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment Helmets and Cuirasses by hand.

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