The Gilbert Stuart portrait of Commodore John Barry

Barry Sword Returns to Philadelphia

The Revolutionary War sword of Wexford-born Commodore John Barry, considered has returned to Philadelphia for the first time since 1939 and will be on view at the Museum of the American Revolution.

Today, September 13, is celebrated as Commodore Barry Day in honor of the man saluted as "Father of the U.S. Navy."

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.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

According to a release from the museum, a private unveiling event will take place at the museum on Wednesday morning.

The sword will then be on view to the general public in the museum’s McCausland Foundation gallery, which explores the “War at Sea,” through July 2024.

The Museum of the American Revolution is at 101 S. Third Street, Philadelphia.

Among those gathering for the private unveiling will be representatives of the Irish American Business Chamber & Network and representatives from the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick.

According to the museum release, John Barry immigrated to Philadelphia where he served with distinction as an officer in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War.

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.

Barry’s Revolutionary War sword is represented in the statue of him that stands outside of Independence Hall, which the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick presented to the City of Philadelphia in 1907.
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.

Upcoming, on Sunday, Oct. 15 from Noon to 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. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 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 will be available at a later date.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets to the Museum can be purchased by calling (215)253.6731, at, or at the front desk. Save $3 per adult ticket by purchasing online. All tickets are valid for two consecutive days.