Among the grandiose inauguration rituals Governor Maura Healey participated in Thursday was the presentation of an antique silver sword, supposedly cast by Paul Revere. So, you might be wondering: How did this tradition start?
The sword itself has a storied history. On June 2, 1817, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, or AHAC, North America’s oldest chartered military organization, first presented the blade to John Brooks, a former Massachusetts governor and military officer.
Lieutenant Chuck Fazio, the AHAC’s museum curator, said it’s “an extra fancy sword” made of either pure sterling or coin silver. There’s no exact casting date in the AHAC’s records, but its style is similar to symbolic swords presented to soldiers for outstanding service during the American Revolution, Fazio said. It’s hard to estimate its value, Fazio said, because there are few remaining swords to compare it to.
“There are other models of this sword, but nothing quite like this,” Fazio said. “You’ll never see another one like it.”
An inscription on one side of the scabbard notes the date the AHAC presented the sword to Brooks, and the other side reads: “TO HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN BROOKS, COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE MILITIA OF MASSACHUSETTS AND TWICE COMMANDER OF THE ANCIENT AND HONORABLE ARTILLERY COMPANY. THIS SWORD IS MOST RESPECTFULLY PRESENTED BY THAT ANCIENT CORPS IN FULL CONFIDENCE THAT IT WILL BE WIELDED WITH GLORY AND SUCCESS IN WAR AND BE PRESERVED UNTARNISHED IN PEACE.” The scabbard also includes an engraving of the state seal.
There’s no telling when and how the governor’s sword presentation began, but Fazio guessed it could’ve started in the early 1900s. It’s modeled after the honorary ceremonies of military units, in which a new commander is given a sword that holds some historical significance to the regiment.
“It’s the ceremony of the change of command,” Fazio said. By wielding the sword, “[the officer] is being vested with the duties and responsibilities of [the] new office.”
Healey doesn’t keep this relic, though; it goes back into the AHAC’s collection until the next inauguration.
Instead, Fazio said the AHAC will gift Healey with a newly engraved sword purchased by the group nearly a century ago.
Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.