NORTH SMITHFIELD – An artifact documenting the contribution of a Forestdale mill to the Union effort in the Civil War is now on display at a Woonsocket museum.
A sword produced by Mansfield and Lamb sits among hundreds of military artifacts at the Veterans Memorial Museum, a facility holding one of the largest collections of such items in the country, run by North Smithfield resident Glenn Dusablon.
Dusablon opened the museum in 2015 inside the American French Genealogical Society. At the time, he was looking for a home for items he had been collecting for years, many of which are considered rare and valuable.
A lifelong collector, Dusablon opened the museum with a mission to honor veterans, and preserve the history. His passion for military artifacts began at the age of nine, when great, great uncle gave him a Bowie knife taken off of a confederate during the Civil War. Only 400 of the knives had ever been made.
“That’s what put the bug in my ear for military stuff,” Dusablon said.
For years, Dusablon would select items to bring on traveling displays before he found a permanent home on Earle Street.
Now, weapons, uniforms, medals and everyday items, are set up in displays that give life to military history, from the Revolutionary War to today.
The collection has continued to grow since the museum’s launch, to include more items than Dusablon can successfully put out at once. Families of deceased veterans used to donate trunks full of items, knowing their battle flags, discharge papers, combat knives, war trophies and more would have a permanent home. Now, Dusablon only accepts such items on loan and later returns them to the family.
“A grandkid may want it someday,” he said.
His collection includes Samurai swords from 1500s, rifles from the Revolutionary War, American Indian artifacts and a jacket once worn by a member of the Band of Brothers in World War II.
“We have some of the rarest artifacts you can find,” said Dusablon.
Also among them is a West Point football helmet, one of just 20 sent to paratroopers for testing and training, worn by a soldier who died on D-Day.
“This helmet is extremely rare,” he said.
The sword, one of around 14,000 produced in the Forestdale mill, is also among the type coveted by collectors – and Dusablon has two: one purchased at a military show and another from Trudel’s Auction in Bellingham, Mass.
“They have ‘Mansfield and Lamb’ and ‘Forestdale’ on the blade,” Dusablon said.
The company was a textile and tool company before the war, but became the second largest domestic producer of cavalry sabers during the conflict, all marked clearly with the mill’s trademark oval-shaped stamp. The School Street mill manufactured swords and sabres for the Union Forces, using water from the Branch River to power the equipment.
“Officers would get them too, but the majority were made for cavalry,” Dusablon said.
Most funding for the museum comes through donation and grants, such as a $1,000 legislative grant secured with the help of Sen. Melissa Murray for the past two years. Dusablon said Rep. Brian Newberry makes a donation every year.
The museum costs just $5 to visit and is open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 14 when Dusablon will be on vacation. Other days are open by appointment for groups such as school classes or Boy Scout troops.
To learn more visit https://www.veteransmemorialmuseumri.org/