|William Rose sword, War of 1812|
William Rose, born 13 Jan. 1754 in Blockley Township, was only 12 when his father died. William trained as a cutler and may have taken over his father's mill at some time. The W. Rose history on the Kraft Tools website gives 1798 as the date William started the business. In addition to William's first military contract in 1781, his skill as a cutler, his sons' skills, the size of his shop at his death, and the family's owning their water rights all point to the business beginning much earlier. Since trades were passed from father to son, it's possible there were other cutlers in his family. Preliminary research shows several cutlers from the 1600s in Hallamshire named Rose, a William Rose who was a cutler in Dublin in the 1580s, and another Peter Rose who was a noted early medical instrument maker in New York City.
In 1781 William received an advance from Deputy Commissary General Samuel Hodgdon of 980 pounds of iron and 12 pounds of steel to produce bayonets. He made just 200 bayonets, but produced bar iron from his own furnace for Hodgdon through the end of the war in 1783. From this beginning, William and his sons, especially Joseph, made cavalry sabers for local militias, sabers and officer's swords for the Philadelphia Arsenal, cutlasses for sailors, ramrods, and bayonets. They were best known for making blades, but could also make the entire sword. An example is a US government contract dated 9 Dec.1807 for 2,000 cavalry sabers at $5.125 each. By the War of 1812 they could make a brass-mounted artillery sergeant's sword for $4.125.
|American Revolution bayonet by William Rose|
By 1807, the business was called William Rose & Sons. The 4 sons who became cutlers were:
|1807 W. Rose & Sons sword|
Benjamin Franklin Rose (10 Oct. 1785 - 26 Sep. 1828), after getting his start with his father and brothers, moved to Philadelphia by 1819 and became a surgeon's instrument maker.
John Rose (6 May 1788 - 10 Jan. 1828) is listed as a cutler in Blockley in 1819.
Joseph Rose (20 Dec. 1788 - 27 Sep. 1819) remained a cutler in the business until his unexplained death. His brothers Benjamin and John were administrators of his estate, which is how we know their occupations.
|The Book of English Trades, 1827|
Reading the 4-page inventory of Joseph's estate from 9 years later, one gets a sense of the tragic loss of a talented and versatile young artisan. Our consolation is that it also provides us with a valuable window into his life and the business in 1819. The papers refer to a mill and a "new mill". Fortunately there is a map from 30 years later that shows "J. Rose Mills" with 2 buildings and just north of it, "Roseville". The mill was powered with a race from Mayland's Dam, a pond about 2 blocks long, in the center of the Rose property shown in on the 1777 map. We know from other sources that Mill Creek was swift and had carved a deep and narrow valley to the Schuylkill, ideal for water power. Mayland's Pond would have been deep, with the mill situated in a ravine, indicated on the 1849 map.
By 1849 the city street grid had jumped the Schuylkill River and was platted to today's 41st St., with portions of 43rd St. going from Market St. south to J. Rose Mills. This allows us to plot the location of Rose's Mill. It corresponds exactly with the location of the worst of Philadelphia's infamous Mill Creek sewer collapses, the block bounded by Walnut and Sansom, S. 43rd to S. 44th Streets. The north side of Walnut collapsed in the 1930s, and the south side of Sansom in either or both 1955 and 1971. All houses in this block were demolished. The mill's tailrace matches with 43rd St. south of Walnut, where the street has caved into the sewer several times since 1930.
The next generation at William Rose & Brothers were all sons of the younger William. William Rose Jr. (24 Mar. 1810 - 28 Sep. 1883) was in charge of shipping and sales. Joseph Rose (29 Sep. 1823 - 5 Jun. 1881) specialized in plastering trowels. Rudolph Frailey Rose (17 Mar. 1825 - 1 Jan. 1886 or 9 Mar. 1886) was in charge of tempering, and in the 1863 Pennsylvania census his occupation was cutler. John Wesley Rose (26 May 1828 - 28 May 1886) was responsible for grinding.
|McElroy's Philadelphia Directory 1839|
|O'Brien's Philadelphia Wholesale Business Directory, 1844|
|Philadelphia and Its Manufactures, by E.T. Freedley, 1867|
|W. Rose West Phila. round knife|
Older W. Rose tools have the abbreviation "WEST PHILA." stamped after the name. This term was in use before the area was incorporated into Philadelphia. After the 1854 Philadelphia city-county consolidation, the entire area west of the Schuylkill was called West Philadelphia, a name which continues to today. By 1916, Rose had dropped location from their stamp. On some tools the location is in smaller letters, and others it is the same size as the name. This article is continued at History of W. Rose, Part Two.
|W. Rose West Phila. presentation trowel, rosewood handle|
|Two versions of the early stamp on brick trowels|
The American Sword 1775-1945, by Harold L. Peterson
ArmsCollectors.com, Four Big Black Swords
Damon Mills, American War of 1812 Philadelphia Made Officer's Sword by Joseph Rose
Delaware Historical Society, Regulation 1813-21 Foot Officer's saber stamped I. Rose
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Congressional Presentation Sword and Scabbard of Peleg K. Dunham
Winterthur Museum, The Tale of the Sword: A Celebration of Patriotism and Valor