The Revolutionary War sword of Commodore John Barry will be displayed
at the Museum of the American Revolution beginning September 13.
The sword of Irish-born Commodore John Barry, considered the “Father of the U.S. Navy,” will return to Philadelphia for the first time since 1939. It will be on view at the Museum of the American Revolution starting September 13, which is celebrated as Commodore Barry Day.
The sword, which is on loan from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, was displayed in the Oval Office during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.
In April 1776, near the Virginia Capes, Barry oversaw the first capture of a British ship by the young Continental Navy. In 1794, he was given the first captain’s commission in the newly established United States Navy.
President Kennedy’s decision to display Barry’s sword in the Oval Office stemmed from the President’s own naval service during WWII and his Irish ancestry. County Wexford, where John Barry was born, is also the ancestral home of President Kennedy.
Dr. Philip C. Mead, Chief Historian and Curator for the Museum of the American Revolution said: “We hope that by bringing Commodore John Barry's sword to Philadelphia, we will raise awareness of Barry's role as an exceptional commander in the Revolutionary War and as a central figure in the creation of the United States Navy,”
“As an Irish-American Revolutionary, Barry's story has long held particular importance for Irish-American communities in the city of Philadelphia. We are grateful for their encouragement and support of this effort.”
A private unveiling event will take place at the Museum of the American Revolutionary War on Wednesday, September 13, from 8 – 10 a.m. The sword will then be on view to the general public in the Museum’s McCausland Foundation gallery, exploring the “War at Sea,” through July 2024.
On Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, from Noon – 12:30 p.m., during Philadelphia’s celebration of Navy Week and Marine Corps Week, a public event will be held on the Museum’s outdoor plaza, immediately following the Commodore John Barry Commemorative Mass at Old St. Mary’s Church in Old City, where Barry’s grave is located. The ceremony will include representatives from the Museum and the U.S. Navy discussing Barry’s history and significance as well as a musical performance by the U.S. Navy brass quintet.
This event is free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to purchase a ticket to the Museum to view Barry’s sword following the ceremony. For more information on this event, visit here.
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, award-winning author Tim McGrath will present a lecture about the Continental Navy with a focus on Commodore Barry’s local connections to Philadelphia and the world of James Forten, a free Black Philadelphian and privateer. The lecture, part of the Museum’s popular Read the Revolution Speaker Series, is inspired by two of his books, "Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy" and "America’s Revolution at Sea and John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail." Tickets to this event will be available at a later date.
For more information on the Museum of the American Revolution and to purchase tickets, visit here.