Quantcast

Daniel Boone's Knife?

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum:

MC One Shot

40 Cal
Joined
Dec 5, 2013
Messages
236
Reaction score
62
Having never seen a picture of Daniel Boone's knife I do not know what it looks like. Dixie had a long knife that they say is a copy of his knife. One that the Brits ordered from the HBC and gave to the Indians an Daniel took from one. Any truth to this? Is there a picture or reliable description of his knife. How far off is the Dixie Knife?
 

Rató:rats

40 Cal
Joined
Jan 9, 2020
Messages
110
Reaction score
109
Location
Brantford, Ontario
While it’s possible DB owned a knife like the one DGW sells I have my doubts. It’s certainly NOT a knife traded to First Nations by the HBC. I’ve never seen a original trade knife with a cross guard and doubt they existed. Looks like riveted handle slabs, for an 18th century knife the slabs should be pinned. Also the Damascus steel is wrong for the 18th century common knife. It really looks more like a mid 19th century Sheffield Bowie to me.
All that being said if you like the look it could be a useful belt knife.
 

MC One Shot

40 Cal
Joined
Dec 5, 2013
Messages
236
Reaction score
62
I have sent an email to the HBC museum in Manitoba. They replied in five minutes that a Dr. has the email and will be researching their archives for information.

This is one area I have not done a lot of research in. You mention that Damascus is wrong for the common knife. Were they available in the period of 1750 to 1800 in colonial America?

As you appear more knowledgeable than I, could you steer me in the direction of a period correct long belt knife that can be used as a camp/utility/fighting knife.

Thank you
 

kje54

45 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Aug 22, 2020
Messages
929
Reaction score
818
Location
Duke City
Having never seen a picture of Daniel Boone's knife I do not know what it looks like. Dixie had a long knife that they say is a copy of his knife. One that the Brits ordered from the HBC and gave to the Indians an Daniel took from one. Any truth to this? Is there a picture or reliable description of his knife. How far off is the Dixie Knife?
Most likely Danial Boone's knife would have looked similar to these if he carried a long knife:



 

Rató:rats

40 Cal
Joined
Jan 9, 2020
Messages
110
Reaction score
109
Location
Brantford, Ontario
Layered pattern steel, like Damascus, takes A LOT of time and skill to produce. A few smiths in Europe and the Middle East in the 18th century could do it but the piece produced would have only have been for the very upper class, we’re talking royalty. In 1973 American bladesmith William Moran began to revive the almost-lost art of making Damascus steel. For that reason I don’t think we’d see it on an 18th century North American knife.
If Daniel Boone really did have a Indian trade knife I doubt it was HBC manufacture. The closest Hudson’s Bay Company post to Kentucky in the 1770’s was Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan River, about 900 miles away. His trade knife would have been of British Indian Dept origin, imported from England as gifts and trade items. The major depot for the BID was at Detroit under Alexander McKee.
These are a good idea of what those looked like
B0177720-85F2-4D2D-8F14-542F02A4F066.jpeg


Half tangs were much more common than full tangs.

That’s cool you called the archives. I used to live in Winnipeg and got over there a couple times. Amazing museum & archives.

Good luck on your research!
 

MC One Shot

40 Cal
Joined
Dec 5, 2013
Messages
236
Reaction score
62
Here is a question.

If the knives were indeed ordered by the Governor of Detroit from the HBC, would they not come straight from Montreal to Detroit as it is only 525 miles between the two locations with waterways all the way. Then distributed to the Indians in question from Detroit? Boonesborough is only another 360 miles as the crow flies from Detroit. The British and Indians travelled great distances in those days.
 

Rató:rats

40 Cal
Joined
Jan 9, 2020
Messages
110
Reaction score
109
Location
Brantford, Ontario
Here is a question.

If the knives were indeed ordered by the Governor of Detroit from the HBC, would they not come straight from Montreal to Detroit as it is only 525 miles between the two locations with waterways all the way. Then distributed to the Indians in question from Detroit? Boonesborough is only another 360 miles as the crow flies from Detroit. The British and Indians travelled great distances in those days.
The British Gov’t had no need to deal with a private enterprise like the HBC. The HBC had an incredible markup on its goods and so for one thing it was more cost effective to deal directly with cutler firms in England. Remember the headquarters of the Company was York Factory on Hudson’s Bay, not Montreal. The HBC didn’t have a presence in Montreal until it amalgamated with the Montreal-based North West Company in 1821. And HBC had its own fleet of ships that sailed from Portsmouth to Orkney then directly to the Bay posts, then straight back home with that seasons cargo of furs. Hudson’s Bay Company ruled Ruperts Land. The British Government controlled the rest of British North America and they could be thought of as friendly rivals for the Indian Trade. That is why I find the claim of his knife being of HBC origin suspicious when his geographic area was flooded with the products of the British Indian Dept.
 

toot

32 Cal.
Joined
May 9, 2013
Messages
2,228
Reaction score
774
this is just a great subject, that I have never thought about.
 

firestick

40 Cal
Joined
Feb 17, 2019
Messages
275
Reaction score
168
Location
The Bighorns
Question... Boone wasn't an average frontiersman so why would he carry an average knife? I would think he would have had the best he could obtain.
 

Rató:rats

40 Cal
Joined
Jan 9, 2020
Messages
110
Reaction score
109
Location
Brantford, Ontario
Question... Boone wasn't an average frontiersman so why would he carry an average knife? I would think he would have had the best he could obtain.
Oh boy. I’m not even going to get into whether Daniel Boone was an average frontiersman who got lucky with dime novel publicity or a larger then life hero. That’s been done to death on this forum and others.

The OP was inquiring about a knife Dixie Gun Works offers. The description states that Henry Hamilton ordered trade knives from the HBC [incorrect but forgivable. The folks at DGW don’t get a lot of exposure to Canadian history I imagine] and distributed them to the First Nations attacking the Kentucky settlements. The description further claims that after a siege [it doesn’t specify what siege, where, or when, probably because it’s a fantasy] Daniel picked up one such knife from a dead warrior and carried it the rest of his life. A knife traded to the Indians is literally an Indian trade knife, like the ones pictured above.
 

firestick

40 Cal
Joined
Feb 17, 2019
Messages
275
Reaction score
168
Location
The Bighorns
Since DB lived to be 85 and faced some of the worst and most adverse conditions in his younger days I would say he was somewhat of an elite frontiersman. Find it hard to believe he carried a single knife his entire life considering the hard use they get. Often broken, lost or "borrowed" they were replaced. Using a single average knife jus doesn't make sense in the scheme of things. It is fully understood trade knives were used by the hundreds on a daily basis.
 

Rató:rats

40 Cal
Joined
Jan 9, 2020
Messages
110
Reaction score
109
Location
Brantford, Ontario
Since DB lived to be 85 and faced some of the worst and most adverse conditions in his younger days I would say he was somewhat of an elite frontiersman. Find it hard to believe he carried a single knife his entire life considering the hard use they get. Often broken, lost or "borrowed" they were replaced. Using a single average knife jus doesn't make sense in the scheme of things. It is fully understood trade knives were used by the hundreds on a daily basis.
I agree. I’m not in the one knife for life camp.
 

Kansas Jake

54 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Mar 23, 2015
Messages
3,396
Reaction score
979
Firelock what you posted makes a lot of sense. Many of us have seen the butcher knife that has been sharpened so many times it is a sliver of its original shape.
 

Notchy Bob

32 Cal.
Joined
Apr 6, 2014
Messages
727
Reaction score
863
Location
Florida
I looked up the knife on the Dixie Gun Works website. Here is a link: KE3201 Daniel Boone Knife

The description for this product tells quite a story. It tells us that the knife is "an exact replica of that knife," meaning the knife Boone "took off" an Indian. One thing I would like to point out is that the two-piece tubular rivets which evolved into cutler's rivets, as on this knife, were patented by an American inventor named Mellen Bray in 1881. I'm a little skeptical of the story that goes with this knife. It makes a lot of claims, but does not back any of them up. The knife may be a good one, but if I were to buy it, the purchase would be made based on the knife's utility rather than its dubious authenticity.

Boone was a Quaker. By all accounts, he was not ostentatious, and a fancy knife just doesn't seem like something he would choose. I believe he would probably select a knife that was simple, plain, sturdy, and functional, but that's just supposition on my part.

I don't know for certain what kind of knife or knives Boone would have carried. I think trade knives of the type shown by Rato:rats (post #5, above) would have been available from the traders in Boone's time, and in his part of the world. Joseph Doddridge described "...the scalping knife in its leathern sheath...." carried on a hunter's belt, on the left side. This was on the Virginia frontier, between 1763 and 1783. However, if you have never handled a scalping knife like one of these, you might be surprised at how light and delicate they are. I have one similar to those pictured, from Mr. Willyard, as well as a couple of others from other makers. They are all superb knifes, but not for heavy duty.

I would not rule out the possibility that he carried a local blacksmith-made "rifleman's knife" rather than (or maybe in addition to...) an imported scalping knife. It is my understanding that these typically had fairly long blades, maybe 6" to 10", and "rat tail" tangs. There was a good article about frontier riflemen's knives by Ralph Marcum in Muzzle Blasts back in the sixties. There are several examples of frontier rifleman's knives in James Hanson's The Longhunter's Sketchbook, with documentation. Recreating the American Longhunter: 1740-1790, by Joseph Ruckman, has one illustration and a brief description of riflemen's knives, also.

So, in answer to the OP's question, I don't know how far off the knife from Dixie Gun Works might be, but based on what I've read of the life and times of Daniel Boone, I am pretty skeptical. It may very well be an exact copy of a knife that somebody claimed Boone once owned, but many "Boone" artifacts have been shown to be fakes. The Dixie knife looks like an inexact knock-off of an Ames 1849 Rifleman's knife, done up in damascus steel. For a little less than the Dixie knife costs, you can get a really nice scalping knife from Old Dominion Forge, like those shown above. Cobble up a simple leather sheath for it, and I think you'll be fine for an authentic portrayal. You can then start saving your money and doing more research, with the goal of getting an authentic and functional custom rifleman's knife capable of handling some of the more demanding camp chores.

Good luck with all of this!

Notchy Bob
 

MC One Shot

40 Cal
Joined
Dec 5, 2013
Messages
236
Reaction score
62
Notchy BoB,

I too had some suspicions about the knife's story and tried to research it but could not find anything. I have now contacted the HBC museum in this regards to the knife's history etc. and currently waiting for a reply from the Dr. that is looking into it for me.
 

LRB

75 Cal.
Joined
Aug 25, 2003
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
128
The use of brass on knives was very rare to non-existent except for knives repurposed from broken swords. Cross guards are as rare as brass hardware, except when found on daggers. The long, large so called riflemans knives are pretty much only found in some ones fantasy trips. Kyle Willyards trade scalpers are about the best versions you will find. They are museum quality.
 
Top