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Daniel Boone's Knife?

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Billy Boy

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The blacksmith (also the gunsmith?) was the technical rock star of the region. He made axes, plowshares, sickles, and , i’m sure, knives. I don’t see fancy or showy being a big part of his trade.
 

Johnny Tremain

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I have been to Dixie gun works to buy that knife. I did not. It is a reproduction of a Trade knife, been too long might have been Hudson's Bay, brain fade.

It is not a modern know. Soft steel, but I thought historically correct.

I opted to buy the Dixie Bowie. A repop of The Bowie Brothers Searles knife, their first creation.
Finest knife in the world, Two different knife makers said it was the best steel they had every seen.

I saw the Crockett knife also. The new ones made in India are not as nice as the first run ones made in Georgia. I spent a few years, but I found one on E-bay.
The Dixie Bowie and hawk stay in the safe. The Crockett knife sits next to me under my desk on a shelf.
Even have the history paper for it.
 

MC One Shot

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I have been to Dixie gun works to buy that knife. I did not. It is a reproduction of a Trade knife, been too long might have been Hudson's Bay, brain fade.

It is not a modern know. Soft steel, but I thought historically correct.

I opted to buy the Dixie Bowie. A repop of The Bowie Brothers Searles knife, their first creation.
Finest knife in the world, Two different knife makers said it was the best steel they had every seen.

I saw the Crockett knife also. The new ones made in India are not as nice as the first run ones made in Georgia. I spent a few years, but I found one on E-bay.
The Dixie Bowie and hawk stay in the safe. The Crockett knife sits next to me under my desk on a shelf.
Even have the history paper for it.
Are you saying that these knives are made in India and are of soft steel?
 

tenngun

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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
View attachment 47199

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!
So how different was the knifes going to HBC and the ones made in England and sold in Boston, Baltimore or Charles Towne? Most American knifes came from Merry old England. Even after the war English knifes were an item. American knife making was slow and for a long time couldn’t keep up with the market.
Howsomever I’m not saying butcher knife sold to house wife in Boston was the same as scalper sold in Detroit. I just don’t know how much of a difference there was.
 

Rató:rats

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So how different was the knifes going to HBC and the ones made in England and sold in Boston, Baltimore or Charles Towne? Most American knifes came from Merry old England. Even after the war English knifes were an item. American knife making was slow and for a long time couldn’t keep up with the market.
Howsomever I’m not saying butcher knife sold to house wife in Boston was the same as scalper sold in Detroit. I just don’t know how much of a difference there was.
I’m not sure either. I haven’t looked into 18th century tableware cutlery much. My guess would be very similar to almost identical as the trade knife was essentially a European table or carving knife.
 

Juice Jaws

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I think we all were be disappointment if we seen his real knife. Can not back this up with facts but bet all of you it was just a plain old knife. Sometimes Hollywood is better.
 

Stophel

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I would love to see the documentation for Dixie's "Daniel Boone knife".... if any.

Not that it would matter, since we ain't got no idea what them ol' boys used, they didn't write everything down, and they woulda used whatever they could get, and who are any of us to say that such a thing didn't exist????.....
 

LRB

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I have been to Dixie gun works to buy that knife. I did not. It is a reproduction of a Trade knife, been too long might have been Hudson's Bay, brain fade.

It is not a modern know. Soft steel, but I thought historically correct.

I opted to buy the Dixie Bowie. A repop of The Bowie Brothers Searles knife, their first creation.
Finest knife in the world, Two different knife makers said it was the best steel they had every seen.

I saw the Crockett knife also. The new ones made in India are not as nice as the first run ones made in Georgia. I spent a few years, but I found one on E-bay.
The Dixie Bowie and hawk stay in the safe. The Crockett knife sits next to me under my desk on a shelf.
Even have the history paper for it.
The Searles Bowie knives were far from being the first Bowie knives. These were made by Daniel Searles and were his own creation. Rezin Bowie had many well known knife makers and companies make knives for him to present to friends or those he wanted to impress. No one can just look at a piece of steel and tell you much of anything about it's quality, unless it is noticeably junk with visible problems. That so called Boone knife is not even close to any original trade knives. It is in fact a near impossible knife to have existed in that time frame. At best a highly improbable creation. I will not speculate on the Crockett knife, only to say no examples of American pattern welded Damascus blades existed until the early 1970's.
 

MC One Shot

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I have received a response from the HBC museum. I have posted it below for y'all.

Hi Tex,

Thanks for reaching out to the Manitoba Museum with your question, although I think it might be more suited to the HBC Archives rather than the artifact collection. That said, I’ve searched our database to see if we have a similar knife in the collection but it’s hard to say based on the descriptions, and I’m primarily working remotely so I can’t just wander down the hall to take a look. Next time I’m at the museum I’ll take a look at the knives and if there’s a similar example I can refer to its record to see if anything might assist with your request.

A better bet would be to search through the Company’s archival records, which are part of the Manitoba Archives, to see if you can find a record for this supposed transaction. I’m not entirely sure where this kind of order would have been recorded though, but I’m thinking it might have been sent to the head office rather than to an individual post. If that’s the case it might be harder to track since a lot of the correspondence records have not been digitized (all pre-1870 post journals have though).

If you haven’t already, you can try searching their descriptive database online. I tried quickly with a few keywords like ‘Detroit’ and ‘Henry Hamilton’ but nothing came up immediately, so it might be one of those needle-in-a-haystack searches. Here’s the link to their search engine:

Enter content title

I’m sorry I don’t have any answers to help support the claim on the Dixie Gun Works website, best of luck with your research

Kindest regards,


Amelia Fay, PhD
Curator of the HBC Museum Collection
 

smoothshooter

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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?
Boone would have owned dozens, if not hundreds of knives over his lifetime, and that’s not even counting the ones that were kept at home, or knives that he bought for trading to the Indians and other whites.
Heavy use and wear and tear caused knives to be seen as an expendable tool that was usually cheap and easy to replace.
 

tenngun

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Knifes were not ‘cheap’ but not generally expensive. So Boone could have had lots of knifes.
There are stylistic differences between known knifes from Boone’s time and this knife.
However Boone had a few kids who knew their ancestor was famous. And grand children and great grand children. Pretty soon an old knife in the family becomes Ol’Dan’ils knife.
I am put in mind of Bat Masterson who bought El cheapo pistol then gave them away as gifts or sold them.
I wonder how much this was done by some of Boone’s descendants.
I know in my family one of my relatives has the gun John Robinson carried in the revolutionary war. When I pointed out it was a Civil War rifled musket I got a big lecture doubting family history.
 

Stophel

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I NEVER put ANY stock in "family history". None.

All one need do is watch "Antiques Roadshow" and see how many people bring in blue transfer ware china from the 1920's, and who all say that it belonged to their great, great, great, great grandmother, and was brought over on the Mayflower....
 

smoothshooter

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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.
I would imagine that depending on circumstances best he could obtain may not have been all that great.
He would have several knives at any almost any given time. The cheaper ones probably came and went all the time. He would have thought nothing of giving new or used trade knives to family members and friends. Then there would have been those that were traded for various things.
This is not to say he would not had one or more very good knives as personal favorites from time to time.
Boon did not spend all his time scouting, trapping, surveying, and avoiding/fighting hostile Indians. He was a tavern and store keeper for quite a while, and sold all the things related to that business, including relatively cheap, useable knives. Even during his less active years, the metallurgy of the times was not conducive of the quality of knives like we take for granted now.
Point being, it is very unrealistic to think Boone and his ilk used the same
knife their whole adult life, or for even a decade.
 

tenngun

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I disagree a bit, while they didn’t have today’s metallurgy they turned out good steel for blades. Some old blades exist that have been sharped to death, but still long lived and very serviceable. While Boone may not have been just a one knife man he most likely carried a knife we today would find very serviceable for a long life
 

firestick

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I CERTAINLY doubt he had but one knife his whole life/career. Things get used and when they do they get worn out/ broken or sometimes lost. I am sure he had many. When tools such as a knife were so important to life at that time it is unlikely he carried an average quality knife when he could almost certainly afford and likely through connections obtain much better.
 

Notchy Bob

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It may be worthwhile to look at a couple of portraits of Boone. This first one is an engraving by D. C. Hinman after a portrait by Chester Harding:

Boone - Harding.jpg


This looks like a large knife, with an antler crown handle.

The next image is the famous J.O. Lewis print:

D. Boone - J.O. Lewis.jpg


The knife tucked in Boone's belt is smaller than in the other image, and could easily be of the common "scalping knife" pattern, like one of these:

LRB English Scalpers.jpg


One thing both of the portraits show is that Boone was carrying his knife tucked under his belt (not outside it), and he wore the knife on his left side, for a right-hand "cross-draw."

You are certainly free to draw your own conclusions. Speaking for myself, I find period images of Daniel Boone and other characters from history interesting and informative, but not necessarily definitive in regards to their kit. I give a lot of credence to period illustrations, but like to get corroboration and not base my conclusions on a single image. There was certainly some "artistic license" taken, even back then, meaning paintings and painters sometimes sacrificed accurate detail to get a better picture. This was discussed at some length recently, in the thread, Rifles of the 1830's

When researching this sort of topic, one thing we need to keep foremost is an open mind. Your preconceptions may be challenged by some of the things you find in your research, and your conclusions may (and probably will be) challenged by others doing similar research. Whether you believe what you see or not depends to some extent on "confirmation bias." We all have it, to some degree.

If it were me, I would research common knives of the period and pick one that looks typical.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 

Stophel

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I almost posted one of the crown-handled Boone pictures, BUT, from what I was able to find, none of the from-life Harding paintings include the knife (from what I have seen so far), so the knife was possibly simply added later by other painters and engravers (along with the fur-trimmed coat). There are two busts painted (you can see them if you search the internet), and supposedly there was one full length portrait. I have yet to see this one, and it may no longer exist.

Even if that knife is genuine to 1820, it's just genuine to 1820... not 1770. ;)
 

Notchy Bob

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I almost posted one of the crown-handled Boone pictures, BUT, from what I was able to find, none of the from-life Harding paintings include the knife (from what I have seen so far), so the knife was possibly simply added later by other painters and engravers (along with the fur-trimmed coat). There are two busts painted (you can see them if you search the internet), and supposedly there was one full length portrait. I have yet to see this one, and it may no longer exist.

Even if that knife is genuine to 1820, it's just genuine to 1820... not 1770. ;)
Thank you for your comments, Stophel. I think you reinforced one of my points, which was to allow for the possibility of artistic license in the interpretation of period paintings and illustrations. Unfortunately for us, they didn't have cameras back then, although it is pretty well known that early photographers used studio props, too.

You are also more or less correct regarding the 1820 date. Boone lived a long life, from 1734 to 1820. He was almost 86 when he died, and the two portraits I posted are from late in his life. However, he was still taking hunting trips just a few months before his death, and he would have almost certainly carried a knife with him, and it could have very well been a new knife. Not sure where the 1770 date came from. Did the OP specify a time frame? If I missed it, I apologize. The subject of the thread is Daniel Boone's knife, and both portraits show Boone with a knife. I thought they might be pertinent to the topic.

So, the OP may elect to use those images as documentation to support his choice of knife in a Daniel Boone portrayal, or he may decide those knives were just created and drawn in by the artist, or that the images are from the "wrong" time period, and go with a different type of knife based on informed speculation. The direction in which his own confirmation bias leans may influence his decision.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 

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