Join us throughout A Revolutionary Summer with exhibits, crafts, and activities for visitors of all ages. Plan Your Visit

Dismiss notification
Image Jfk Oval Office Barry Sword 829 23
President Kennedy playing with his son John in 1962 with the sword on view in the background crossed from top right to bottom left. Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA; National Archives Records Administration

Commodore John Barry’s Revolutionary War sword, which was displayed in the Oval Office during John F. Kennedy’s presidency, is now on display at the Museum.

On loan to the Museum from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, the sword has returned to Philadelphia for the first time since 1939. The sword, which was unveiled at the Museum on Commodore Barry Day, Sept. 13, is on view beside the Museum’s recreated privateer sloop in the McCausland Foundation gallery that explores the “War at Sea” through July 2024.

Image Barry Sword 829 23
Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA; National Archives Records Administration

Considered a “Father of the U.S. Navy,” Barry was born in County Wexford, Ireland, and 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. Barry, who did not have children, passed the sword down to his nephew, and it remained in the family until 1939.

President Kennedy’s decision to display Barry’s sword in the Oval Office from 1961-1963 stemmed from his own naval service during World War II and his Irish ancestry. County Wexford, where John Barry was born, is also the ancestral home of President Kennedy.

A visitor views Commodore John Barry's sword on display at the Museum.
Commodore John Barry's sword on display next to the Museum replica sloop in the War at Sea gallery.

In the News

"Revolutionary War sword of Commodore John Barry is coming to Museum of the American Revolution"
Read More

Irish Star
"Commodore John Barry’s sword returning to Philadelphia for the first time in more than 80 years"
Read More

Irish Central
"Irish American Revolutionary War hero's sword to go on display in Philly"
Read More

Irish Post
"Sword belonging to Irish hero of American Revolutionary War goes on public display"
Read More

The Irish Echo
"Barry Sword Returns to Philadelphia"
Read More

Learn More

This image depicts the book cover of John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail by Tim McGrath. The bottom of the cover shows two ships in battle on a body of water. There is cannon fire depicted. The title of the book is written in the middle of the cover, with the John Barry text in larger text than the rest of the title. The top of the book cover shows a portrait of John in his blue and gold military outfit. He is looking to his left.

John Barry

Read an excerpt from Tim McGrath about Continental Navy Officer John Barry's actions that turned a seeming disaster into a stunning victory.
Read More
Members of the US Navy Band Northeast quintet holding their instruments while dressed in uniform.
Oct 15

U.S. Navy Band Northeast Performance and Ceremony in Honor of Commodore John Barry

October 15, 2023, from 12-12:30 p.m.
During Philadelphia’s celebration of Navy Week, join us on the Museum’s outdoor plaza for a special performance and ceremony in honor of Commodore John Barry
Go to Event
Read the Revolution event graphic featuring book covers for John Barry and Give Me A Fast ship alongside a headshot of author Tim McGrath.
Nov 15

Read the Revolution Speaker Series with Tim McGrath

November 15, 2023, from 6:30-8 p.m.
Join author and avid sailor Tim McGrath at the Museum for a special presentation, “’What Think You of an American Fleet?’: The Rise and Fall of the Continental Navy,” to kickoff the Museum's 2023-24 Read the Revolution Speaker Series.
Go to Event