I was talking with Emory College junior Karan Malhotra about nineteenth-century secret societies when he suddenly asked, “What do you know about Archie Drake?”
Not a thing, I said. Who was he?
“There’s a sword in the alumni house with his name on it. His full name was Archelaus A. Drake.”
Hmmm. That name rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it. An antebellum Emory student? A faculty member who served briefly before disappearing from the school and its history? Not sure. But a sword in the alumni house? I’d never heard of it.
“I could show you the sword. Do you have time?”
We walked from the coffee shop to my car in the Oxford Road deck and drove to the alumni house, where we rousted Tom Brodnax, resident curator, and climbed the stairs to the Schley Library.
Karan walked to a far window, reached behind the sideboard there, and pulled out a sure-enough sword in a tarnished but emblem-adorned scabbard.
The thing cries out chivalry, knighthood, crusades. The pommel on the hilt is a knight’s helmet, while figures of knights adorn the scabbard and hand guard. The blade of the sword is engraved from guard to tip with scenes of knights on horseback, desert oases, and something resembling the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
A scouring of available alumni records back to the Civil War turned up no Archelaus A. Drake, but faithful Google found two: Archelaus Augustus Drake, who lived from 1857 to 1929 and is buried in Texas; and Archelaus Augustus Drake III, son of Archelaus A. Drake Jr. and a member of the Citadel class of 1945. He enlisted in 1943 and and died in combat in Europe the next year. His nickname was Archie.
A search of the Emory website also turned up Archie Drake. His friend William Matheson, who attended Emory one year in the 1940s and for whom the magnificent reading room in the Candler Library is named, created the Archie Drake Prize in memory of his childhood friend in Macon. The prize in Archie’s name recognizes an Emory College junior who has demonstrated academic growth and leadership potential.
An engraving on the blade near the hilt has the logo of Pettibone Bros. of Cincinnati, Ohio, which apparently was the premier maker of Masonic and other regalia in the 1890s to 1920s. So this likely was a Masonic sword owned by the first Archeleaus Drake, Archie’s grandfather. The description of a sword up for auction online fits almost exactly the description of the Drake sword, from the reclining knight and red cross on the scabbard down to the Masonic emblem near the embossed name on the blade.
But the provenance of the sword is a mystery. It probably was passed from grandfather to son to grandson and may have come to Mr. Matheson after his friend’s death. It’s possible he then donated it while creating the Drake Prize.
Time for more detective work.