The Arthur Eickhorn Presentation Dagger
The early Solingen smiths utilized the small family "cottage industry" approach to the manufacture of edged weapons where items were made by artisans in their own homes. Quality was definitely the name of the game as often the early masters toiled for several days on a single blade. The bulk of the finished products was produced either in the smith’s home or in small makeshift workshops usually located behind the homes. Needless to say, it was inevitable that the demand for Solingen-caliber blades would force a collective pooling of resources into a number of large factories (Waffenfabriken). One of the first large firms to emerge (and one which is still manufacturing quality cutlery today) was the Carl Eickhorn Waffenfabrik in 1865.
Arthur Eickhorn, son of founder Carl ,decided to take advantage of the unique skills possessed by a number of mastercraftsman employed by his father. Over a period of several years, Arthur Eickhorn was instrumental in personally designing a large variety of ornate edged weapons for many differentc ountries and special presentations. A 1967 letter from the Eickhorn firm substantiates that Arthur Eickhorn was involved in the special manufacturing of deluxe items for govemment heads and high-ranking military officers.
One magnificent creation of the eldest Eickhorn son has come into the possession of advanced collector Thomas W. Pooler of San Rafael, California, whose wife Susan graciously assisted in the writing of this article. Without a doubt, the Arthur Eickhorn Presentation Dagger described below represents one of the finest crafted products of "The City of Swords."
The handle, or hilt, of the dagger measures 5" from the gold-platedcrossguard to the crown. Two very beautiful pieces of mother-of-pearl form the grip. On both sides of the pearl grips are solid gold front and backstraps. These straps were probably made from a mold for another dagger, as they have been cut at the top to match the length of the grip. The underside of both straps is artfully inscribed.
The top of the dagger bears an eagle's head. The head itself measures 1.5" high by 2" wide. Extremely delicate oak leaves, instead of penciled feathers, have been etched to form the back of the eagle’s head. Lines of the eagle`s mouth are accurately drawn and extended to form the lower portion of the beak. The upper beak slopes down and ends in the classic hook. The craftsman has even etched in the chin feathers of the eagle. Measuring 1/8"in diameter, ruby gem stones have been placed in the head for eyes and they take on a sparkle with every movement of the dagger. The designer has gone to great lengths in detailing this head as there are tiny tear ducts and eyebrows on the eagle. The turn bolt or spannernut, on the dagger is actually a crown for the eagle, and it is divided into eight panels, bearing alternating patterns of crosses and miniature eagles. The very tip of the crown gives the appearance of eagle talons as the prongs are delicately arched, and appear to hold the crown in place.
The Damascus steel blade was the result of a tedious, skillful and time-consuming effort of an artist. One side of the blade bears the signature."Arthur Eickhorn - Solingen". There are few, if any, blades bearing the entire Eickhorn presentation signature and one on a Damascus blade is even more unusual. On the reverse of the blade, in lieu of the popular Eickhorn logo of a squirrel holding an acorn, is the Eickhorn family crest done in gold (rarely seen). The crest measures just .75" and is completely surrounded by avery delicate filigree design. Thes quirrel is sitting on a helmet which rests on the top of a shield divided into two segments. The upper portion contains oakleaves and acorns while the lower portion depicts a hunting horn, complete with a lanyard (see accompanying art work by Ronald Lang of San Francisco).
The seven-inch blade comes sheathed in a scabbard of grooved black leather with hammered gold-plated fittings. Delicately etched into the fittings are three bands of oak leaves and acorns, two bands on the lower fitting and one band on the upper fitting between the hanger loops. These particular goldplated stirrups are anchored to the scabbard so as to provide no movement either in the rings or stirrups. This is one of the reasons the dagger is thought to be a sample as it would not permit freedom of movement when worn with a uniform. The blade opening at the top of the scabbard has been hand-done. Irregular lines and uneven cuts indicate this was a one-of-a-kind piece and not machine-made.
Unfortunately, the Eickhorn firm has no existing records on this particular piece, as the majority of all Waffenfabriken records were destroyed during the latter stages of World War II when Solingen was heavily bombed by the Allies. Nevertheless. this ornate dagger is truly a work of art and can honestly be rated as a choice collector's piece in anyone's militaria collection!
Thomas M. Johnson and Susan Pooler, "The Arthur Eickhorn Presentation Dagger", WARRIORS, Issue No. 2, c.1970