Ames Manufacturing Company was one of the most important makers of swords and other edged weapons in the United States in history. Nathan P. Ames founded the company in 1791 in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Originally, the company produced a variety of tools and farm implements. By the early 1800s, it had shifted its focus to producing swords and other military weapons.
Base of Operations
Chicopee, Massachusetts is located in Hampden County in western Massachusetts. The company had several manufacturing facilities in the area. They included a large factory complex in the center of town that was known as the Chicopee Sword Factory. The Chicopee Sword Factory was one of the largest sword-making facilities in the world in the mid-19th century. It employed hundreds of workers who produced thousands of swords each year.
Ames at War
During the War of 1812, the Ames Manufacturing Company supplied swords to the United States government. In the years that followed, it became one of the leading suppliers of swords and other military equipment to the US Army. The company’s swords served in the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War.
The Civil War was a particularly important period for the Ames Manufacturing Company. Ames supplied swords to both the Union and Confederate armies. During the war, the company produced more than 200,000 swords. An Ames favorite was the Model 1860 cavalry sword, which was widely used by Union soldiers. After the war, the company continued to produce swords for the military. Ames also sold to fraternal organizations, such as the Freemasons and the Knights of Pythias.
Ames swords had a very high reputation for quality. They were durable and effective in combat.
However, it’s difficult to compare the quality of Ames swords directly to samurai swords or Arab scimitars. These weapons appeared in very different cultural and historical contexts. Samurai swords, for example, benefitted from using traditional Japanese techniques and materials. They were works of art as well as weapons. Arab scimitars, on the other hand, contained Damascus steel. It was renowned for its strength and sharpness.
Damascus steel came from the Middle East and South Asia. It benefitted from its strength, flexibility, and unique swirling patterns. The exact methods used to produce Damascus steel have been lost to history. However, it came from a process of forging and folding multiple layers of steel together. This created the distinctive patterns and helped to distribute impurities throughout the metal.
Ames steel, on the other hand, used more modern techniques and materials. It did not have the same unique properties as Damascus steel.
That being said, Ames swords were certainly among the best American-made swords of their time. They exceled with both military and civilian customers. The company’s swords had strength, balance, and excellent cutting ability.
Range of Products
The Ames Manufacturing Company primarily made swords and other edged weapons. However, it also produced a variety of other products over the course of its history. (They did not make firearms.) Here are some of the products that the company manufactured:
Swords – The company produced a wide variety of swords, including sabers, cutlasses, and cavalry swords. Many of the company’s swords were used by the US military.
Bayonets – Ames also produced bayonets for use with rifles and other firearms.
Knives – The company produced a variety of knives, including Bowie knives and hunting knives.
Scissors – At one point in its history, the company also produced scissors.
Masonic swords – Ames produced swords for a number of fraternal organizations, including the Freemasons.
Presentation swords – The company also produced ornate presentation swords. They became gifts to military officers and other dignitaries.
Epaulettes – Ames produced a variety of military regalia, including epaulettes for use on military uniforms.
Medals – The company also produced medals and other commemorative items.
Civilian swords – In addition to producing swords for the military, Ames also produced swords for civilians, including dueling swords and ornamental swords.
Sashes – Ames produced sashes for use in military and fraternal organizations.
In the Family to the End
Here is a brief timeline of the company’s ownership, which remained in family control:
1791 – 1829: Nathan P. Ames Sr. and his sons, Nathan P. Ames Jr. and James T. Ames, own and operate the company.
1829 – 1850: Nathan Ames Jr. and his brother, James T. Ames, owned and operated the company.
1850 – 1862: Control transferred to James T. Ames and his son, Chicopee Ames.
1862 – 1883: The company passes to Chicopee Ames and his brother, John C. Ames.
1883 – 1898: Ownership reverts to John C. Ames and his son, Frederick Lothrop Ames.
1898 – 1903: Frederick Lothrop Ames becomes the sole owner of the company after his father’s death.
1903 – 1916: Direction of the company passes to Frederick Lothrop Ames’ sons, Oliver Ames and Frederick L. Ames Jr.
1916 – 1935: The company is owned and operated by Frederick L. Ames Jr. and his son, Frederick L. Ames III.
Demand Dries Up
The Ames Manufacturing Company remained in business until the early 20th century, when it finally closed due to declining demand for edged weapons.
- Year Started: 1791
- Year Ended: 1935
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder / Descriptive
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Nathan P. Ames
- Owner While In Use: Ames Family
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: N/A
- Naics Code: 332215
- Location Headquarters: Chicopee, Massachusetts USA