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Author Topic: The Sheffield Works:  (Read 7823 times)
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Ed Fowler
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« on: November 04, 2007, 05:34:40 PM »

I bacame interested in the Huber Bowies thanks to Dr. James Lucie. Many years ago he handed me a Huber Bowie, it was absolutely beautiful, he wanted more money for it than I had at the time and he later sold it to Dr. Tom Stapleton. While I wish I owned the Bowie, the fact that Dr Stapleton purchased it was a good thing. Dr Stapleton proceeded to research the bowie at great length, something I would never have had time or funds to do.  I talked to Dr. Stapleton several times on the phone and he supplied me with the information in this post, as well as the one that accompanies it. He encouraged me to circulate the informatin as widely as I could and I continue to do so.

Some may have some questions about what is written here, I wholeheartedly encourage you to find as many answers as you can and hopefully share them with us. The more folks that search, the more we can learn.

I wrote about a Huber Bowie in the November 2007 issue of Blade and will continue to write about the Bowies these men made at every opportunity. I sincerely hope you enjoy the following

                          The Sheffield Works
                        Tom K. Stapleton, M.D.

    For the antique Bowie knife collector, a Bowie marked "J. English and Hubers', Philadelphia," was a much sought after and prized possession.  Those knives were sometimes marked "Sheffield Works," which led some to believe the knives were imported from Sheffield, England.  The markings also included the number 2 and 3, and no. 2 being a ten-inch blade and a no.3 being an eight-inch blade.  The actual exsitence of the Sheffield works has been questioned by collectors, because no address could be found in the Philadelphia directories.  An advertising flyer lists the address of a warehouse at 194 Market Street, which was also the address of the firm of Henry & F.A. Huber & Co.

    The actual Sheffield Works was located in PHiladelphia's Ward 22 in Germantown Township along the Wingohocking Creek.  It consisted of a two-story stone and frame mansion house with four rooms and a hall on the first floor and five rooms and a hall on the second floor.  A one-story stone kitchen adjoined the north end of the house.  Twenty-five yards north of the mansion was a two-story barn with a coach house and a horse and cow stables on the first floor and a threshing floor and corn crib on the second floor.  A three-story stone cutley mill with a basement and was located thirty yards west of the stone barn.  It contained a fourteen-foot water wheel into which were geared iron shafts for turning a five-foot drum, six cast iron and three wodden drums with straps for driving grindstones and turning lathes.  Three lathes were located on the first floor and three lathes, one circular saw, one upright saw, and one shear for cutting iron were located on the second floor.  The third story containded seven vises and benches.  Adjoining the west side of the cutlery mill was a one-story stone forging shop containing four double forges with hand-operated bellows.  Thirty feet northwest of the cutlery mill was a two-story stone workshop and warehouse containing a furnace, boiler, and room for storing lumber.  On the same stream as the cutlery mill and about one quarter mile morth was a four-story stone oil factory containing an eighteen foot water wheel geared by an iron shaft to a nine-food drum wheel.

    Also located along the Wingohocking Creek were other cotton and linen mills, a lumber mill, and several tanneries.  These, however, were not a part of the Sheffield Works
The mill was purchased by the H & F.A. Huber Co. in April 1835 from the estate of Phillip Kelly for the sum of $10,000.  It contained the buldings previously described plus more than fifty-eight acres of land.  Other holdings owned by the Hubers were located adjacent to this property, and additional land joining the Sheffield Works was also acquired by Hubers in April 1837.  It is unknown excatly when the name Sheffield Works was  given to the mill or how long the Hubers had rented the mill before the purchase.
     Other holdings by the H. & F.A. Huber Co. included three brick tenements on the north side of High (now Market)Street, a piece of land on Mulberry (mpw Arch)Street, a building and land on Mary Street, a brick tenement on the est side of Delaware Street,  a building on the west side of Sixth Street, land in Penn Township, a brick building  on the north side of Courts Street, a brick building and lot on Sassafras (now Race) Street, a ware house at 40 North Third Street, and the pffice and warehouse at 194 Market Street.
The earliest and only known advertising flyer of the Sheffield Works was found in Joseph English's effects after his death.  It is dated 1834 and contains the 194 Market Street address.  Because no 1834 directory exists, only someone close to the buisness would know that they moved to 194 Market Street in 1834.  The flyer contains many tools as well as tomahawks, hunting knives, and Bowie Knives.
In Miss Lucy Liegh Bowie's article, "The Famous Bowie Knife,' presented in 1916, she states that an unnamed Philadelphia cutler made a knife for James and Rezin Bowie in 1832.  This unnamed cutler has been shown to be the firm of Henry & F.A. Huber.  Obviously, activity occurred at the Sheffield Works before 1834; however, it is not kown exactly when the Hubers and J. English began their operaion at the Sheffield Works.

    Problems for the H. & F.A. Huber Co. began in 1835 when they were sued for $5,000 by the estate of Henry Huber.  in 1836, the company was reorganized under the name H. & F.A. Huber & Co., and H.S. Huber, a nephew, was included in the new company.  The company was short-lived; it went broke in a financial panic of 1837, and the Sheffield Works was rented as a print works to Hurst & Schroederin the latter part of 1837.  An advertisement to rent the mill can be found in the Germantown Telegraph of Wednesday January 10, 1838.  The 1838 Philadelphia Circulating Business Directory shows both the Saddlery Hardware and Manufactures of English Saddlers Tools portions of the business as being broke.
The conpany's bankruptcy petition was finally granted and the morgage taken over by the Franklin Fire Insurance Company in 1840.  The Hubers had apparently been unable to dispose of all the property during this time.  The final auction of the property took place in 1842.
  Joseph English appears in the 1819 Philadelphia Directory, listed as a cutler at 11 Quarry Street.  He moved to 98 North Third Street in 1820, and in 1823  moved to Sassafras (now Race) Street.  He is listed at this address until 1828, when he disappears from the Philadelphia Directory. According to the 1830 New Jersey Census, Joseph English was located in Newark Township, Essex County.  He is not found returing to Pennsylvania until he is listed on the advertising flyer of 1834. 

THe association of Joseph English make saddlers' tools and Hubers make plated saddles and carriages.  Their businesses were located within one block of each other until 1828.  It is not known when Joseph English was again associated with the Hubers; however, 1831-32 would be a good guess.  Joseph English apparently make quality tools, because he won an award for superior saddlers' implements at the Franklin Institure Exhibition of 1836.

    Joseph English was listed in the 1840 census as living in Gormantown Township, probably at the Sheffield Works.  He was listed as a cutler in 1842 in Newark, new Jersey.  He returned to Philadelphia in 1842 for the final resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings.  He was subsequently listed in New Jersey and was associtated with Ezra K. Goodsell and posibly with a Daniel S. English in Newark.  Joseph English died in 1853.  Only, one round, leather-cutting knife was found in an inventory of his effects. No hunting knives or Bowie knives were listed.  His business was taken over by Willian Dodd in 1854, William Dodd became associated with his brother-in-law, C.S. Osborne. Mr. Osborne eventually took over the business, and it is known today as th C.S. Osborne Company of Newark, New Jersey.  The original advertising flyer has been handed down as the buisness changed owners and can be found at the company headquarters.

    Fredrick A. Huber, the brother of Henry Huber, Jr.,first appears in the 1825 Philadelphia Directory, listed as a coachmaker and manufacturer of plated saddlery at 40 North Third Street.  He remained at this address until 1835, when he and Henry Jr., were located at 194 Market.  The adversising flyer indicates they moved to this address in 1834.  The 40 North Third Street Address was listed as a saddlery warehouse. F.A.Huber was also listed a a saddler, but in 1839 both were listed as hardware merchants at 269 Market Street.  In 1840, the only listing was the saddlery warhouse at 40 North Third Street.  Fredrick A. Huber died in 1840.

    H.S. Huber, the other partner in H. & F.A. Huber & Company, was listed as a hardware merchant at 369 Market Street in the 1839 directory.  H.S. Huber is listed as a merchant in 1841 and 1842 at 269 High Street.  He is named in the final bankruptcy proceddings of 1842.  H.S. Huber is not listed after 1842 in the Philadelphia Directory.
   Henry Huber, Jr., was listed in the 1817 Directory as a siverplater at 197 North Third St. In 1819, he was listed as a hardware merchant and manufacturer of plated saddlery at 120 High (now Market) Street. His advertisement of that year also shows him to be a manufacturer of wrought iron plated ware. In 1822 he was at 34 North Third Street, and in 1823 he was again listed as a silverplater at 158-160 Vine Street.  In 1825, he was listed as a coachmaker at the Vine Street Address.  In 1829, he moved to Sassarfas St, and in 1835 his address is listed as 194 Market Street.  It is possible that he moved to this address in 1834; however, a Philadelphia directory for 1834 was not published.  In 1839, he was listed as a hardware merchand at 269 Market, and in 1840 the only listing was a saddley warehouse at 40 North Third Street.  Apparently this was the only property of the Hubers that survived to this date.  in 1844, Henry Jr., was listed at a manufacturer of cutlery in McElroy's Philadelphia Directory, and in 1845 he was listed a a manufacturer of shoes, saddlery, and harness tools in O'Brians Philadelphia Directory.  He apparently continued to make tools and a few knives until the 1860's.  He died July 7, 1868.

    Tools make by J. English and Hubers were considered to be of the highest quality.  The Bowie knives were also of the same quality and had several characteristic features.  The knives had a distinctive clip-point blade which the clip edge was sharpened.  The blades either 8 or 10 inches long and were hollow-ground above and below the median ridge.  There was no recessed choil at the ricasso.  The tangs were rectangular-even on round, curved-handle knives and were tapered on a distal end, usually being held by one pin.

"The Famous Bowie Knife" by Lucy Bowie, which was presented to the Bucks Couty Historical Society in 1916.  The knife was reportedly make specifially for James and Rezin Bowie in 1832 by an unnamed Philadelphia cutler.  This cutler has now been shown to be the firm of H.& F.A. Huber & Co.  The knife is the first American clip-point blade and features the other characteristics of the J. English & Huber knives.  THe knife and sheath are brass-mounted and the sheath does not have the fine finish of the English & Huber  sheaths, indicating it may hbe been made before the English and Hubers knives.  There is a little doubt, however, that the same person or persons had input into this knife as well as the English & Hubers knives.  At this time, this is the only knife reported to have been make for James Bowie.  In twelve years of research revealee this important knife and maybe the most significant knife known.  It appears that the knife probably came to Richard Steuart from Berkley Bowie.  Both Steuart and Berkley Bowie were noted arms collectors as well as close friends.  Richard Steuart also dedicatied one of his arms books to Berkley Bowie.  Miss Bowie finally gives us a clue to the ownership of the Huber knife.  In a letter from Mr. H.B. MacKoy of Cincinnati, datd 1916, thanking her for a picture of the Bowie knife, Miss Bowie penciled in, "a copy of Berkley's."  It is my own opinion that the knife could not have been handed down through the Bowie family from Berkley Bowie's grandfather, Allen Perie Bowie, who would have been a contemporary of James and Rezin Bowie.
Mr. Ben Palmer states that Miss Bowie began her research on this article in 1899 or 1900 and investigated every tale or rumor about James Bowie.  From her letters and notes she apparently also communicatied with every living Bowie relative.  One has the impression that a great deal of personl communication was involved with the owners of the knives as well as the past history of these knives.  It seems obvious that Miss Bowie had other informatin that is not found in the Bowie papers at the Alamo Library.
Our research is still an on-going process.  In an attempt to obtain documented information, every lead, no matter how casual, found in  Miss Bowie's notes is still being investigated.  I am convinced however, that this research had identified a knife which is a very important piece in American Bowie knife history.  It is certainly the first of its design and if we are to believe Miss Bowie it is the only knife known to date made specifically for James Bowie.    

« Last Edit: November 05, 2007, 08:40:28 AM by Ed Fowler » Logged

Ed Fowler High Performance Knives
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2007, 10:19:21 PM »

Ed, this is very interesting information that you are sharing with us. The amount of time involved in this kind
of research is literally unbelievable to those who have not taken on such a task. It not only takes time,
but also a great amount of energy and bull-headed determination of a single-mind. Not to mention money.

I anxiously await for the rest of the accompanying article that you are working on. I had a relative among the slain at the Alamo. As a boy, I learned of this fact when my family visited the Alamo for the first time. I have always read what I could about the event, but even though the famous knife is almost always mentioned, I didn't devote my time to it's history as I now wish I had. I am particularly interested in any research that will shed some light on what knife (or knives) Bowie actually carried to the Alamo. There are some knives on display there, but it is still debated. I will later post a transcript copy that I have found online of the letter by Rezin concerning the first Bowie knife made in Louisiana.

One small point about the way people of the time expressed their involvement in the manufacture of a knife.
If they simply commissioned a knife to be made by another, they would say ( not to deceive ) that they invented the design or even "made the knife". This was commonly done and understood by the other "gents"  what he meant. It's like we say today that we built a house, when we really did not.

This can cause confusion in research when the quirks of the language use of the day aren't recognized.
This was a short note that got too long. The Bowie story was never short and just gets bigger as we learn.

                             As Bowie would have said many times," Hasta manana. " (Until tomorrow) Clay

« Last Edit: November 04, 2007, 10:44:13 PM by radicat » Logged
Bruce Evans
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2007, 05:11:37 PM »

Way to Awesome !!!!!!!

I knew there was a reason That I fell in love with this Bowie years ago after seeing a reproduction of the English and Huber that ALex Daniels made and let me play with the first time I visited his shop...

I have done a few reprodutions and versions with my own handles for hunters who went after large game,They loved the way the knife worked and loved it as much as I did...Cant wait to make another.


The soul of the Knife begins in the Fire!!!!!

" How to forge a frontier style Tomahawk" DVD available from me now.
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2007, 07:00:55 AM »

This is fascinating information.
Thanks for sharing it here Ed.

You can have anything You want in Life, as long as you?re willing to pay the Price.
So, figure out what price there is to pay, and Pay It.

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