"Do you want to be?"
Remember in National Treasure when young Benjamin Gates finds grandpa's Knight Templar sword in the attic? That scene gets repeated in real life every day in dozens of attics and basements. They can be from the Masonic Knights Templar, the Knights of Pythias, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, the Grand Army of the Republic, or a bumper crop of other fraternal groups who jumped on the drill team bandwagon after the Civil War. When the war ended, the military uniform and sword suppliers went looking for new business, and like Harold Hill selling band uniforms in The Music Man, they created a craze for marching and sword drilling in parades. Men returning home from the war sought the camaraderie and the trappings of military life (made far more enjoyable by not having people shooting at them anymore, and knowing they could go home at the end of the day). Thus, the fraternal sword came to be a treasured possession for literally hundreds of thousands of men across the US, from the 1860s up through today (albeit in much smaller numbers these days). Some were plain, some were ornate, but all were the symbol of a modern knighthood, and a tradition of honor and chivalry.
A new book has just been published that will make identifying that long hidden fraternal sword simpler. The American Fraternal Sword: An Illustrated Reference Guide by John D. Hamilton, Joseph Marino and James Kaplan. According to the website, it contains more than 900 color photos, showing almost 600 different swords, arranged by organization, with a directory of manufacturers, organizations and their insignia. Pricey at $79.99, but absolutely invaluable for collectors, dealers, and your Templar commandery.
John D. Hamilton was the curator at the Scottish Rite's National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts for many years, and he is the author of "Material Culture of the American Freemasons."
Thanks to Mark Tabbert for the heads up on this.