Leech & Rigdon Belt


Description and Photograph




          The maker of this officer’s sword belt is Leech & Rigdon.  Thomas S. Leech, had moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1854 to establish a cotton dealership.  It was financed by his partners: his brother John B. Leech, Thomas Harrison, Sir Arthur Forwood, and Sir William Bower Forwood of Liverpool, England.  Leech opened the firm of Thomas Leech & Co., Cotton Broker, at 35 Front Row Street in Memphis.  As war became imminent, Leech and his partners began to expand their business to include war material.  The military items were sold under the name of "Memphis Novelty Works Thomas Leech & Co”.  Under this name Leech manufactured Swords, Side Knives, Belts, Buckles and Pistols.  Leech later formed a partnership with Charles H. Rigdon and renamed the partnership Leech & Rigdon in 1862.

     With the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in the spring of 1862 and the subsequent fall of the state of Tennessee into Union hands, Leech and Rigdon decided to relocate their business to Columbus, Mississippi and build a factory adjacent to the Confederate Briarfield Arsenal.  Later in 1862, with Sherman making a threat to Mississippi, the Confederate Government decided to relocate the arsenal to Selma, Alabama.  Leech and Rigdon relocated with the Arsenal and remained in Selma for a short period.  In March of 1863 Leech and Rigdon separated from the arsenal and moved their operations to Goldsboro, Georgia.

     During the period from November 6, 1861 through June 18, 1862, Thomas Leech & Co. delivered to the Confederate Army Depot 2,017 swords, scabbards and sword belts.  On July 26, 1862 Leech & Rigdon delivered 750 sets of gun mountings at $3.00 per set and 7 swords at $25.00 each; on August 4th another 30 swords were delivered as well as 400 pairs of spurs at $1.75 each. 

     As you can see from the above, swords came with a sword belt.  This high grade officer’s belt, as denoted by the patent leather over a leather inner liner, would likely have accompanied one of the company’s higher grade swords.  This leather liner was to give strength to the patent leather belt, which by itself could not stand field use.  Because of this liner the belt remains strong.  There is some small loss to patent leather, which is clearly shown in the photographs.  The belt remains flexible and strong.  This pattern is extremely rare to find on the belt.  This rare plate is shown as Plate 011 in Mullinax, but it is unidentified as a Leech and Rigdon product, but this one marked as such and will now set the standard for identifying the maker of this pattern.  The distinctive Leech & Rigdon “L” is stamped on the tongue bar, rather than stamped into the wreath’s recessed face.  The belt and buckle are completely original; no restoration has been done.  It is extremely strong, flexible and stable and has a fantastic patina!




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