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Author Topic: The Bowie Knife by Miss Lucy Bowie  (Read 43547 times)
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Ed Fowler
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« on: November 02, 2007, 06:50:09 PM »

This is a start about the what I feel is some valuable informatioin for enthusiasts of the Bowie Legend to consider. This aspect of the Bowie began for me with  some converwsations with Dr Jim Lucie and a knife he owned. It will take a few days for the information to develop so enjoy while we type. The below information came to me through Dr James Lucie and Tom Stapleton MD

                           THE FAMOUS BOWIE KNIFE
By Miss Lucy Liegh Bowie
As the reason for the... interest in Colonel James Bowie of Louisiana and Texas lies the invention and use of the bowie knife, I will pass as briefly as possible over his early life and devote my time to the period when the knife plays a part.
   He claimed descent from the immigrant John Bowie, a stern Scotch Highlander who clamied to be of the clan and lineage of the Campbells of Argyle, and who settled in Prince Georges County, Maryland, early in the eighteenth century. From him has sprung a race of men known, accord to a Maryland historian, as the "Fighting Bowies."
   James Bowies father, Rezin Bowie, served in the War of the Revolution under General Marion, and married, while a prosoner of war at Savannah, into the Ap Catsby Jones family. They settled in Georgia where were born to them in 1783 one son, John Jones Bowie, and later two daughters.  THey then removed to Tennessee where three sons were born, viz. Rezin Pleasane, 1793; James, 1795 [sic]; and later Stephen. When James was five years old the family left Tennessee and settled in Louisiana, where a daughter was born in 1806. Their first years in the latter state were spent in the paris of St. Mary on Bayour Teche, but in 1808 they again removed, but only to the Opelousas Destrict of Lousisiana, where Rezin Bowie the elder died in 1820.  He was a plander, and both he and his wife were people of education, comforable means, and good social position.  Their sons appear to have been rather carefully educated, probably by a French refugee who taught them to speak French and Spanish fluently, deeply influenced their religious opinions and manners, and also make them proficient in swordsmanship. We have no record of their having ever addended college.
   James and Rezin were partners in everthing from babyhood, and Rezin's marriage in 1812 to Margaret Frances Neville, of Natchitoches, did not separate the brothers. About 1818 their father started them in life together as sugar planters.  He gave them each ten servants, horses and cattle.  They aquired land on Bayou Boeuf, and as both were progressive and able organizes, their plantation soon exhibited a high state of cultivation, which so enhanced its value that is paved their way to greater fortune; for it enabled them to engage in land speculations, and as their fortunes increased, larger land inventments followed.  In 1825 they sold the Bayou Boeuf plantaion and purchased Arcadia of Bayou Lafourche.  This, also, they skillfully improved unitl it becamd celebrated far and wide as a model estate.  The grinding season of 1827 witnessed an important event:  the Bowie brothers installed machinery for griniing cane by steam power, it being the first steam sugar pland in Louisiana.  Before that, mule power had been used.  In September of that year the bowie knife became known to the world, and it is with great ruluctance that I pass lightly over these ten years, as it is the period during which James Bowie is so often misrepresented by those who have written of his life.
    In 1827  the bowie knife was not a new invention.  It had been made for Rezin Bowie before he left his father's home in Opelousas.  He had been attacked, once when cattle hunting, by a young bull; his rifle missed fire and coming to close quaters he attempted to plunge his hunting knife into the head fo the bullock, but the oncoming animal drove the knife back and into his hand, whick impaled against the horn, severely wounding his hand and alost severing  the thumb.  This could not have occcured had the knife possessed a guard, so Rezin Bowie had a new one made from an old file, according to his fancies, by Jesse Cliffe, a white blacksmith on the plantation. The knife had a straight blade 9 1/4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, with a single edge down to the guard.  Rezin used this in hunting and found the steel wounderfully true, and the shape also make it more reliable than either a sword cane of the Spanish dagger, both which wre in universal use at the period.  Both wer afterwards superseded by the bowie knife
    The buisness method of the brothers was for Rezin to attend to the home plantation while James took charge of the outlying speculative properties.  A large tract of this lay in Rapides Parish, on the Red River.
    Living at that period in Alexanderia, Louisiana,were their cousins the Cunys, and the Wells brothers.  James Bowie had been engaged to the latters' sister, Cecelia Wells, who died of pneumonia two weeks before the date set for the wedding.  There existed a bitter feud between these men and some newcomers to Louisiana, viz. Major Morris Wright and Dr. Maddox from Maryland, and Colonel Crain and the two Blanchards form Virginia.  Major Wright was considered the best short in the parish, and on one occasion fired at James Bowie when the latter was unarmed. This caused Rezin Bowie to feel that is brother, when in Rapides, nedded a better weapon for protection that a pistol, which might miss fire at a critical time, so he gave him his hunting knife.  In wiriting of it eleven years later he said:
    "Col. James Bowie had been shot at by an individual with whom he was at variance; and, as I presumed a second attempt would be made by the same person to take his life,  I gave him the knife to use, as occasion might require, as a defensive weapon.  Someime afterward (and the only time the knife other than for what it was origonally destubed) it was resorted to by Col.James Bowie in a chance medley of rough fight  between himself and certain other individuals to whom he was then inimical.  The knife was used only as a defensive weapon and not otherwise until after he was shot down; it was then the means of saving his life.  The improvements in its fabricaion and the state of perfection which it has since aquired from eperienced cutlers were not brought about through my agency.  I would assert here also that neither Col. James Bowie nor myself at any period of our lives had a duel with any person whatsoever."
    This "medley or rough fight," as he so well called it, ws the much written of "Sand Bar Duel" fought on a sand bar in the Mississippi River opposite Natchez.  General Montford  Wells and Dr. Maddox were the principals, and after the affair was over, and no one hurt, Samuel Cuny went up to Colonel Crain, who was standing with a loaded pistol in each hand, and said, "This is a good time to settle our difficulty."  Boiwe was following Cuny to act as second and was drawing his pistol (the others aparently already had their knives in their hands) when Colonel Crain, without making any answer, fired one pistol at Bowie and the other at Cuny.  Cuny fell mortlly wounded.  Then followed a melee, with Crain, Maddox, Wright, and Blanchard attcking Bowie, who saved his life only by using his knife when Major Wright came at him with his sword cane.  Wright was killed, and Bowie desperately wounded, was considered dying.  He was taken to New Orleans for medical attention, and spent months slowly recovering his health and strength.  The fact of his coming through alive from the combinded attack of four men caught popular imagination.  The fact that in time he became reconciled with Colonel Crain, also hightened the romance of the situation.  Traced back, this affair will be found the genesis of all the duels attributed to him except one, which I find presents itself in various forms.  It is always with a  "haughty Spaniard;" no name, time, or place is ever given, but it occurs in a "paradise of plantations, mid the singing of birds, the blooming of roses, whee the air is redolent with sweetest odors."  This duel is fought with one using a  Spanish dagger, the other a bowie knife.  The result is unfortunate to the Spaniard.  This story, I am sure, is traslated from the Spanish and entirely spurious,  but is shows whar an appeal Bowie made to the Mexican and American alike.
    Colonel Bowie's manner of grasping the bowie knife was considered peculiar;  he held it as one would a sword, and once beyond the opponent's guard, the thrust was deadly.  The Sand Bar Duel created much talk and such knives became the fashion.  At first they were made as the original had been, but presumably, they were not in every case satisfactoy, and some handsome ones were manufactured by a Louisiana cutler, Searles of Baton Rouge, who turned out a wonderfully fine blade.  It became quite a fancy for Rezin Bowie to have these knives make fo his friends.  We know of four originals: one was presented by him to Governor E.D. White, of Louisiana, father of Chief Justice White of the United States Supreme Court, and is stil in the possessin of his family; another was given to Lieutenand H.W. Fowler, U.S. Dragoons, and is in the possession of Colonel Wahington Bowie Jr., of Baltimore.  A third was giben to Edwin Forrest, the actor ,and was said to have been in the Boothe Collection at the Players' club, in New York City; but if it ever was there, all trace of it is now lost.  A fourth was given to a MR. Stafford, of Alexandria, Louisiana, and is still owned by his descendants.  Of it, Mr. W.M. Stafford of Galveston, Texas, writes: " I carried the knife for years and many a time have cut a silver quarter in two, and to this day this is not a gap in its edge.  It is of the best of steel and in making a thrust of blow with it the weight seems to go to the point."
    The idea seems prevalent through family papers that Colonel James Bowie always carried with him the original knife, but it is not credible that men as particular in their dress and personal appointments as were the Bowie brothers would carry a crude weapon, such as this must have been, as a permanent part of their equipment.  It is more likely, that as soom as its virtue, had been attested, the knife was put into hands of a cutler, to be brought up to the standard of their other accountrements, and was, therefore, a highly finished weapon when given by Rezin Bowie to James Bowie; and it may be confideltly accepted that the knives given by Colonel Rezin Bowie to is friends were exace reproductions of the first onc given to his brother.  It is claimed that the one actually used by Colonel James Bowie is the one now owned by Colonel Washington Bowie Jr., who writes: " The knife I have is the perfection of workmanship, and while a file may have been used owing to the pure steel therin with high temper, the guard, pommel, and scabbard are the pure silver and the handle is studded with fine silver nails.  On the back of the blade near the guard there is set in a brass plate with the name Searles-Baton Rouge.  It shows the inscrtption from R.P. Bowie to H.W. Fowler, U.S.D.
   In 1832 the brothers went North: Rezin wished to consult the celebrated Dr. Pepper of Philidelphia , about his eyes.  While there, Rezin wrote for the Philadelphia  Atkinson's Casket an account of their expedition in search of th San Saba Silver mines, when occured one of the most thrilling Indian fights in history.  On that same nothern trip Rezin gave into the hands of a Philidelphia cutler the model of the Bowie knife on the market.  The blade was shortened to 8 inches, a curve was made in one side of the point, and both edges were somtimes sharpened.
    The next fact recorded of James Bowie after his recovery from the San Bar Duel, is of his attending a dinner given for President Jackson  by Stephen Fuller Austin, "The Father of Texas."  Prsident Jackson was a guest of the State of Louisiana and eas there to celebrate the anniversary of the victory of 1815.  The dinner is recored as "a meeting of choice spirits" and it ws Bowie who toasted the President in a speech, the fame of which has come down to us.  Afterwards, he evidently returned wit Austin to Texas and spent sixteen months looking around the country.  Part of that time was passed exploring the western part of the state, prospecting for gold and silver, and at some period he spent eight months with Captain William Y.Lacey in the wilderness on the headwaters of the Trinity.
    Of this time Captain Lacey wrote, possibly in some surprise that Bowie"never used profane lanuage and never spoke an indecent or vulgar work in the eight months passed with him.  As a matter of fact he was a man of sinular modesty."  He had the faculty of winning and holding the friendship of men.  In oney matters he was exceedingly liberal where there was occasion for liberality, but was too good a buisness man not to know the value of money.  He was dignified and courteous with something of the Old World in his manner, and absolutely sincere.  His mother, sisters and later his wife were woman who commanded his highest respect, and this was reflected in his manner toward all women; in the wild tales of him, never a word has been hinted against his moral character.  In fact there was about him no trace whatever of the border ruffian that these same wild tales have handed down to us; nor had he any dissipated havits.  He was over six feet tall, with chestnut hair and hazel eyes.
    While in Texas he formed a friendship with the Vice Governor of Coahuila of Texas Don Juan Martin de Veramendi, who, though born in Mexico was of pure Spanish blood and belonged to a noble family of Castile.  In Setember, 1830, the State Congress of Texas naturalized Bowie and under Veramendi's patronage granted him a charter for the erection of cotton and woolen mills at Saltillo;  it will be notices that James Bowie was, above all things, a creator of wealth.
    In April, 1831, he married Marie Ursula de Veramendi, the daughter of his patron and friend.  In his marriage settlements he stated that he was worth about  $222,800.00.  He was bery fortunate in his wife, Ursala as she singed herself, because she identifed herself thoroughly with her husband's interests.  She was sweet and gentle and at the same time a woman of sense and character.  Their marriage did not last long, however, because in 1834 she, her two baby boys, and her father died of cholera.
    The rest of Colonel Bowie's life belonged to Texas as a delegate to the conventions, adjutant to San Houston, and colonel of Texas Volunteers.  As a fighter he needs no fictinous reputation.  Each battle in his short career demonstrated his ability as a soldier.  At Nacogdoches he was successful; at Conception he displayed ability of a very high order as a strategist; at the Gras  [sic] fight his supurb and reckless dash held the field until Burleson came up with reinforcements.  Then followed his death at The Alamo.
    This is not the place to discuss the military side of the battle of The Alamo; the conflicting elements that  went into the making of the tragedy have no place here.  But let us picture those 150 beleaguered men in the mission surounded by 4,000 Mexicans, "detached from all Texas settlements more than seventy miles, the interventing territory swept by Mexican calvary."  What Colonel Bowie's esprit was to that little garrison is told by the following entries in Crockett's journal:
    "February 26, 1836, Col,Bowie had been taken sick from over excertion and exporsure; he did not leave his bed today unil 12:00 o'clock.  He is worth a dozen men in a situation like ours. ** Col. Bowie's illness coninutes, but he magages to crawl from his bed every day, that his comrades may see him.  His presence alone is tower of strength."
    In a Mexican officer's account of the battle of the Alamo he says: "Every inch was disputed from room to room, and to hand, Bowie knife to Boyonet."  David Crockett was found, his riflle broken, and the garrel grasped in one hand, a dripping bowie knife in the other.  From a Mexican source the story comes that Colonel Bowie, after being moratally wounded, plunged his knife into a Mixican and that both fell dying together.  There is also a Mexican who tells us how they lifted his body on their bayonets and bore him aloft to the pyre on which they burned the dead.
    At the battle of San Jacinto, the bloody field of vengeance where"the ghosts of brave men massacred at The Alamo flitted through the smoke of battle, and the uplifted hand could not be stayed," with the war cry "Remember the Alamo," after emptying their rifles and their pistols , the Texans, "drawing forth their bowie knives, literally cut their wasy through the dense masses of living flesh" to victory and freedom.  So, in truth the independence of Texas was won with the Bowie knife.  There was not a bayonet in the army, but every man had a bowie knife; it served as a hunting knife, a butcher's cleaver, a carving knife, a table knife, a dagger and a bayonet.  Lightly equipped as the texans were, it was a great advantage to have an implement that could serve so many ends.  After this it came into universal use by the pioneers and settlers of the Southwest.  The part it played in California amonst the Forty-Niners can be learned from Bret Harte; but its day is over now, although even yet, a cutler tells me, someone strolls in occasionally and asks for a bowie knife.

These are Miss Bowies words in a paper presented to the Bucks County Historical Society in 1916, the manuscript was worked on by Ben Palmer. 
Note: refferences will follow.    

« Last Edit: November 09, 2007, 11:25:31 PM by Ed Fowler » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2007, 01:58:00 AM »

Ed, thank you so much for presenting this article to us. I will go over it word by word to glean every detail.

I hope to offer a bit of information as time allows. About the Bowies, their knives, and the battle of the Alamo.

Fellow readers be sure you have read all of Ed's edits to the story. 
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« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2007, 12:28:29 PM »

Great read.
Thank for taking the time to type it all up for us.
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2008, 11:07:24 PM »

The author Jeff Long wrote a book that came out in 1990 that both began his fame as a writer and almost ended his career. He was brave enough to tell the truth about the Texas Revolution and the events that took place. He was out of Boulder, Colorado. Many Texans were outraged when the book came out. The Literary critics praised him for his exemplary research. He spent years compiling over ten thousand references for the book. The book, "Duel of Eagles" is still controversial today, but facts are facts if accounts of the events during the period have any validity.

I'm a Texan. I had a family member that died at the battle of the Alamo.  Edward McCafferty was an Irish immigrant that had been in the states only five years when he found himself at the Alamo facing death. He came from the same county in Ireland that my ancestors came from a hundred years prior to that to settle in upper Virginia. I've read so many books about the Alamo and the events leading up to it, and following it, that I feel like I know how those heroes felt the moment the end was near. My mother's family history is full of accounts of heroic deeds, I'm proud to say. Many have died defending our country.

I at one time made my living researching family histories. I have found records of my family's heroism from the Revolutionary War records to the Vietnam Wall inscriptions. So, you can see why I might have a keen interest in the the Alamo. I've stood in the small rooms of the Alamo and imagined the sounds of the past. It is a special place to me. Hallowed ground.

Still, I am grateful to Jeff Long for telling the story as truthfully as he could. He has since written another controversial book about Sam Houston. It is not flattering. I myself decided long ago that man was not to be admired. After that statement, I'll follow someone else's advice here "If you can't say something good about the man, don't say anything at all."   

Jeff Long's book can be picked up on Amazon.com (used) for as little as 30 cents plus shipping. No better bargain can be found anywhere. Especially if it's history that interests you.

Jeff has opinions about the motives of the participants in the Texas Revolution that are not popular. I agree with him, because I'm not one to apply lofty reasons to explain the wrongs done by man. I am only interested in the truth of the events.

Much of Jeff's research is based on the Mexican Army Officers' accounts of the events as recorded by them in both their official records and books that they later wrote. I wish I could go through Jeff's notes to learn what never made it to his books. That collection is still being used by Jeff and the other authors that he has collaborated with on other projects. 

Add this book to your "books to read" list. It, along with others of note, will help piece the story together as never told. After you read this one, I'd like to know what you found to be most interesting.

To learn more about the author and his books: http://www.jefflongbooks.com/books.html

 



* Duel of Eagles cover.jpg (15.58 KB, 240x240 - viewed 394 times.)
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2008, 11:37:23 PM »

Ed Fowler recommends this book to further understand the Texas Revolution and the Alamo.

"Alamo Traces" by Thomas Ricks Lindley.  Texas Press ISBN 1-55622-983-6. The invoice for a shipment of butcher knives is on page 295. With about one page of references.

From the Texas Monthly:

Alamo Traces: New Evidence and New Conclusions (2003), by Thomas Ricks Lindley. An impeccably researched book, Alamo Traces was fifteen years in the making. Lindley haunted libraries around the state and consulted thousands of sources. Much of it is likely too esoteric for the average Sunday-afternoon scholar, but the chapter on Sam Houston and the material on the de la Pena diary are worth a careful perusal.


Thanks Ed. I hope others will share their books and articles with us by posting them here.


* Lindley Alamo.JPG (21.49 KB, 300x400 - viewed 399 times.)
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2008, 12:52:36 PM »

The Bowie family was large. And many of Jim Bowie's family members were active business men, sometimes in joint ventures. This link takes you to a page from an Ancestry.com document about the family. In particular an older brother, John Bowie.

It's striking that the two brothers took such different paths. While Jim was in Texas meeting his fate in the course of pursuing fortune, The other was pursuing his fortune back home. Jim had much personal misfortune in his short life, while John seemed to prosper in his long life.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ardesha/bowie.htm

                                         ***********
The story behind the link is a good example of why I loved to do family research. Let me share a little story with you. One time I had spent months studying the family of Robert E. Lee. We are related, I now know. As I was walking to the research library on a cold and windy day, something remarkable happened. I passed in front of a church graveyard. I had passed it many times. As much as I wanted to reach the warmth of my destination, something told me to walk inside the ironwork fence and take a couple of turns  directly to a tombstone that had the name of a female Lee family member inscribed on it. That was mind-boggling to say the least. It was not a familiar name. It should have been. The time period of her life and the fact that there were many Lees' living within literally yards of the cemetery that I had come to know intimately, made this event even more puzzling.

The library that I was going to was the actual home that belonged to Robert E. Lee's relatives. He lived just a city block away as a boy. I'm sure he played on the winding staircase as a boy. I had just about gone through every book in the collection, thousands in fact. The curator came to me and asked if I would like to look at the original hand-written documents that were left by a Lee family researcher in the 1800's. That researcher had a family history book printed as a result of her research back to the 1500's. I had copied it all. And, used it as a guide to compile my own additional notes.

As I thumbed through the large binder, something took me deep within the volume to a certain page. I had to stand up to turn the pages. On the page was a huge family tree. And, on that graph of names was a note that added a name of a female Lee family member. Also, the note said she had lived in the very home that I was standing in for her entire life, never to marry. The name was the same as on the tombstone down the street. A cold chill rushed through me. It was as though she was saying to me, "Here I am. I existed."  I had forgotten about an un-named female occupant of that home that I had found listed on an old tax roll. That was her. I went back to the cemetery to thank her.

 
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2008, 01:18:54 PM »

I hope others will share their books and articles with us by posting them here.


I meant to to mention this book, when I first read this post, I don't know why I didn't. Probably because it didn't add anything in particular to the knife that Bowie carried.

The book is Three Roads to the Alamo by William Davis. It is a wonderful detailed read that brings Bowie, Crockett and Travis to their place in history.
It is not a flattering portrait of any of them, but it is human and understandable history.

For a more detail review of the book, click on the link.
http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/adp/central/books/reviews/three_roads_to_the_alamo.html
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2008, 07:13:21 PM »

That sounds like a good read Phil. I'll have to read it more than once someday. Each bit of information is a piece to the puzzle of the origin of the Bowie knives. Seemingly minor records that place individuals in a certain location, at an exact time, are what researchers base their assertions on.

If we could read the notes taken by all of these authors, we would discover much more, I believe. Sometimes authors  revisit a subject in cooperation with others to do just that, for history's sake.
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2008, 05:22:17 PM »

I spent a lot of time researching the Alamo. I found this book very educational. There was a lot of politics involved surrounding the Alamo Saga. I feel the Alamo is in the same class as Remember the Mane, remember Pearl Harbor and the shot that was heard around the world. Folks need something to encourage them to pull in the same traces, these events and many others provided a call for action.

Some blame Houston, some Austin, some Fannin, but when you take the poor communications of the time into consideration I wonder. Did Houston stay back out of ignorance or in an attempt to solidify the people?

Like PhilL the prime reason I read the book was to gain insight into the Bowie knife. The only mention I could find was that Fannin was attempting to supply the Alamo and in the freight he had 24 dozen "butcher knives". I tried to pin them down figuring governments tenacious worship of documentation would provide a record of them, but could not find any documentation.
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2011, 06:44:19 AM »

The "Bowie Knife." What did the common man carry? The richly decorated knives we see in books and magazines. I think not. He carried what he had or could get cheaply, because only a man of leisure and property could afford such a knife as we see. When he returned home he used the knife for everyday chores and it has been lost to history because they were used for everyday things. The Bowie knives carried during the Civil war were most times used for camp chores such as kindling and food preparation.

I think we have elevated Jim Bowie to heights even he could not imagine. All because of a butcher knife.....

B. K.....
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2011, 09:02:50 PM »

I agree with you, the glamour of much of today's knives and what knifemakers seek to make is often more driven as if jewelry. But it's no use to complain I've determined.. There are simply too many people who see the custom knife art-form as an expressive "fantasy" genre. Those who spend their energies making "perfect" knives for collectors markets have really skewed the craft of knives towards away from the tool of knives and towards the art. This is what has become the "quality" of today's world. Maybe its just my own impression?  It is a sad thing, to some degree.. What value is there in the endless pursuit of Damascus effects? Or, what ounce of value is there in the marriage of high fashion and knifemaking? (To show off at the next Renassaince festival ?) a fantasy world. - like Roles watches that don't tell time. 
 
The points you made historically may be true, I do think there are also incidents where the knives did also serve the vanities of man, as in San Francisco knives. There may be some psycological roots to knives capturing man's preoccupation and imagination, in a direction towards art. But, in days of old it did seem to have more an element of class. Today much of what we see is pure tacky.  Or gratuitous effects.. no limits nowadays to this. The simple knife has no value, in comparison.

Here's an old Bowie- I like it & saved a photo of. Not so simple, but well crafted and time consuming I'm sure.  I bet it was the talk of the town for the man who owned it. Maybe a rich patron, even.         
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2011, 09:08:10 PM »

Oops, forgot to attach image:
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« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2011, 11:32:30 PM »

I have to smile at those dog bone Bowies, especially when the blade is chipped and the handle is one that would eat a man's hand quick.

This is the reason so many of this type have survived, they were not used, unless some kid was playing a little rough with them. Most of them were purchased by the fantasy warrior in the big cities and are known as Civil War Bowies simply because they were made in that time frame. The real working knives, not being in mint condition did not attract collectors so were used until they were no more.

Those like the Sheffield Works Bowie posted up in another thread were used hard and many times until they were worn out. Then the Sheffield Works started making fancy jewelery and those knives are the ones that remain in "mint condition".

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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2011, 07:18:44 AM »

As a kid I was used to seeing Alan Ladd as Bowie in the old fifties westerns we all maybe grew up with. The shape and style of the "Bowie Knife" stuck in my head and I have compared all since to that. I love the many styles that have come down the pike.

Ed.....


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Like PhilL the prime reason I read the book was to gain insight into the Bowie knife. The only mention I could find was that Fannin was attempting to supply the Alamo and in the freight he had 24 dozen "butcher knives". I tried to pin them down figuring governments tenacious worship of documentation would provide a record of them, but could not find any documentation.

I'm fifty-four now and have carried one type of a knife or another since I first joined the boy scouts. It does tend to change your attitude and outlook on knives and how they really worked in the grand shape of things if you USE them for the tasks they are designed for. I have hunted and camped out all my life and I have for the most part never spent more than a hundred dollars for a knife. I feel I am an average guy except I have bought and used a lot of knives. These folks on the frontier were the same I believe. As were the men at the Alamo. I ask this question; since travel was by horse or wagon, sometimes hundreds of miles from anywhere, and cargo was at a premium, would you want to lug the huge traditional knife, or those "butcher knives" that were trying to be delivered?

I laugh as Ed said when I see those dogbones and sword length blades of some of the designs. Who would use one when such a simple thing as a butcher knife would work for all things. I have read stories of how early on in the war, as an army retreated, the litter of war would contain these knives as debris. The things I have used for night camps have been the ax and the hatchet, a sorely underrated camp tool.

I strongly believe that the Bowie family were business men, and that the history of that famous knife needed some embellishment along the way. I believe it got a lot of it from the Bowie's, to transform it into what it is today. But the real Bowie? I believe in one account it is listed as a butcher knife but Rezin said it was a hunting knife. Wouldn't these two things be the same?
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2011, 05:29:03 PM »

Actually I believe it all depends on who is using the knife and what he calls and what the folks who repeat the story call them.

Actually in reading between the lines I believe Rezin Bowie was a klutz. "severely severed his thumb when he tried to stab a aggravated steer in the head" - Even the newest hand knows better than to try that and the knife had no guard!!

Later Rezin would suffer a nearly fatal wound to his thigh when an unsheathed knife that he had stuck behind his belt cut him in a wreck with a horse.

The original bowie could have been anything, if as Ms Lucie Bowie states the Bowie brothers went to Philadelphia to see an eye doctor and visited a few knife makers seeking arms for the Texas Volunteers, the Sheffield Work is very probably the only outfit that could have made many knives in a short time.

Most were probably called butcher knives until after the Alamo when the "Bowie Knife" or "Knife like Bowies" became sensationalized by the press.

I have tried to like dog bone and coffin handles on knives and come to believe they were the silicone filled brassieres of the knife crowd. Great to look at but not nearly as much milk as needed.

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