Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    John A. Sutter: A Superb Engraved Sword Presented to this Famous California Gold Rush Figure by the Sutter Rifles Militia Group. John Sutter had the good fortune to own the mill where James Marshall first discovered gold in 1848. He quickly rose to prominence, and was one of the most visible figures in California during the Gold Rush era. Perhaps largely as an honorific, he was given the rank of General in the state militia. In 1853, the unit named the Sutter Rifles in his honor presented John Sutter with a beautiful sword, the scabbard engraved "Presented to Major General John A. Sutter / by Captn / A. Andrews / Sacramento City 1853." An article in the "Sacramento Daily Union" reported on the ceremony and reproduced the principals' remarks:

    Capt. Andrews: "In consideration of your early services to the State of California, we have deemed it appropriate to prepare this sword as a presentation to you [in recognition of] your personal kindness and self-sacrifice for the good of the State. You are honored and esteemed by not only those who have known you, but wherever your reputation has extended; and I would have you accept this sword as proof of the fact that virtue in the distinguished citizen is not always unappreciated....."

    Sutter: "I claim no credit for any service I may have rendered in the early days of California. As one of its early pioneers, I could not do less than use my best exertions to promote its prosperity, and to contribute to the comfort of those who followed me to its lovely vallies. For the expression of your personal consideration, and the sword which you present as a token of that consideration, ....I shall ever cherish as a lively remembrance of your kindness."

    John Sutter's biography is, of course, well known. Andrews had served as Captain of Volunteers in the Mexican War. He served Sutter as his aide-de-camp, and was a prominent businessman, having founded the Sacramento jewelry concern of Hiller and Andrews, and later moved to San Francisco where he built the well-known Diamond Palace jewelry store on Kearney Street. It seems likely that the presentation sword, while unmarked , was engraved by Hiller and Andrews.

    The beautiful sword features grips of mother-of-pearl, much favored by leading California knife makers of the day. It sports a fine helmet-shaped pommel, and double chain knuckle bow. The 31.5" double-edged blade is by Ames, and features motifs of flowers, trophies, a Federal eagle and the words "E Pluribus Unum". Sword and scabbard are both in excellent condition, with most of the gilt finish intact, and only scattered superficial light scratches and handling marks. For strictest accuracy, we note one tiny crack and minor chip on the mother-of-pearl grips. A photocopy of the "Daily Union" article accompanies the lot.

    One of the great early California relics, this sword received considerable interest when last offered by a major auction house in 2008, selling for $172,000 against an estimate of $30,000 - $50,000. It has not been seen on the market since, and we hope it will be similarly well-received now.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    4th-5th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,240

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on May 4, 2019 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 June 8 - 9 Books Signature® Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage Auctions and Mr. Chad Reingold were...professional and courteous in all transactions and provided outstanding service in answering my many emails. I recommend them at the highest level.
    Killy M.,
    Melbourne Beach, FL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search