Farnham is known to have designed presentation objects for numerous patrons, including ceremonial swords for Admiral George Dewey and General Nelson A. Miles. This sword, which dates to just before Farnham assumed the directorship of Tiffany's jewelry department in 1891, follows that tradition and reflects his training as a jeweler, particularly through the use of gemstones and inset diamonds. The Dewey sword (commissioned in 1898) is now at the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington D.C., and is illustrated along with its design drawing in Janet Zapata, "The Rediscovery of Paulding Farnham, Tiffany's designer Extraordinaire Part II: Silver," The Magazine Antiques, April 1991, 722-723.
The Boston Globe commissioned this sword from Tiffany's with a huge purse of $1,000 in 1890. The sword was presented to the winner of the Globe's competition for the most popular member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the fraternal organization of Union Army veterans. The readers voted overwhelmingly for Richard Francis Tobin, who had helped organize the 24th National Encampment of the G.A.R. at Boston in August 1890.
The Boston Globe announced the competition by publishing a drawing of this sword, described as "the richest prize ever offered in a similar contest." Accompanying the drawing is a letter from Tiffany & Co., describing the sword as follows:
June 11, 1890
Col. Charles II. Taylor, Boston Globe, Boston:
Complying with your request of the 5th for design and specification for the manufacture of a dress sword of the value of $1000, we submit the accompanying drawing:
The blade is to be 30 inches in length, of finely etched and gilded steel, and the entire mountings of sterling silver.
The guard is to be richly chased in flutings, with five bosses, in the center one of which will be set an American pearl; in the others an amethyst, a tourmaline, a golden beryl and a spessarite or cinnamon garnet.
In the terminal forming the hilt will be a large garnet.
On the wrist-guard will be the letters G. A. R. in bold relief, floriated style, set with 26 diamonds.
The grip will be of silver, chased in diaper pattern. The grip and guard being surmounted by a head in helmet very richly chased, study of Crawford's "America" on the dome of the Capitol at Washington.
The scabbard will be of polished silver, with mountings in silver-gilt. The upper band will show a group of arms and armor, the second a scroll entwined with oak leaves, and the toe or end floriated scroll encircling the letters "U. S.," with oak and laurel leaves.
All the work will be gilded on silver except the scabbard and grip, which, for effect by contrast, will be of bright polished silver, and the face of the head at the hilt, which will be oxydized. . . . It can be delivered on or about the 15th of July.
Tiffany & Co.
The above letter provides unusually specific documentation of a Tiffany special commission, including the identification of the design source of the pommel as Thomas Crawford's famous sculpture of the figure of Armed Freedom atop the Capitol dome, completed in 1863 at the height of the Civil War.