History correct?

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Notchy Bob

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Most of us think of the "mountain man era" as that period between the Lewis & Clark Expedition and the last rendezvous in 1840. However, I've been reading a lot of material that was written in the 1850's lately. Some of it was published later, as the writers' memoirs, but it was about that "plainsman" era. It seems that every account I read, from that period, mentions a Bowie knife as part of the plainsman's kit. I don't think this was necessarily a generic term, as you see butcher knives mentioned too, as well as scalping knives. However, I have not yet found a specific description of one of those Bowie knives.

In my first post on this thread, I submitted a photo of a Green River Bowie with a spear point blade and suggested these may have been more common, at least for a time. However, there are some old knives with a pronounced clip. I was looking through a folder of saved images and found these pictures of an old Bowie. I think these are from a post on the ALR forum from several months ago. I don't know the age of the knife. I would guess around the time of the Civil War:

Old Bowie .1.jpg


The sheath looks old, too, and you can get a pretty good idea of how it was put together. Anyway, you can see how this knife was ground, as compared to the modern knives in Post #1. I think this was what @Brokennock was getting at in Post #9. It appears to have and antler handle. The clip is different, and it has that peculiar "notchy" at the proximal end of the clip. I don't think I've seen that before. I suppose its possible that this knife could have been faked, but if it was, the maker did a pretty good job.

Notchy Bob
 

tenngun

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Like curry
Curry was popular in the western world at least back to the thirteenth century.
however American chili peppers had only in colonial-time just getting in to India and would be slower to be in to get back to Europe and Americas. Curry was a well spiced dish but a little more tame then modern curry.
In colonial America such spices were still very dear.
 

JBrandon

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The OP brings up legitimate questions about recognizing and dating knife styles. And as some answers show, it can be done by dated examples, historical documents etc. Because styles change and recognizably belong to their times. I would bet that TFoley's sword is imitating Late British Bronze Age in form of blade and what I can see of the grip. Not period correct for black powder era! Just as a flint pistol would never have had a grip shaped like a SAA .45, nor would Colt have put a curved wooden grip with a brass buttcap on his pistols.
 
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Mad Michael

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Curry was a well spiced dish but a little more tame then modern curry.
In colonial America such spices were still very dear.
Good on you! I will grant that the colonial period is probably to early for widespread Curry in North America, except maybe in areas frequented by members of the Royal Navy and ships of the dishonorable East India Company, who were give credit for spreading "curry" around the world. Chilies however were all over Asia, including the subcontinent, by the end of the sixteenth century. What we call curry was not popular until the 1820's or perhaps 30's here in the US, although the first American Curry receipe was first descibed by Katherine Moffat Whipple (spellings do vary) sometime in the late 18th Century, it was an apple curry soup. The first public house known to serve curry in the US for sure was in 1809, and everybody is aquainted with Hanna Glasse's 1747 cookbook published in Great Britan with receipes for both "curry powder" and " To make a currey the Indian way". Back to knives, which are much more interesting, I don't want to hijack the thread, it was just a flipant remark to show some very odd ball things CAN be HC and even be Period, depending on the period one recreates. The primary reason being, as you said, curry of that time period had fewer and less ingrediants and spices than the modern ones.
 

tenngun

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Good on you! I will grant that the colonial period is probably to early for widespread Curry in North America, except maybe in areas frequented by members of the Royal Navy and ships of the dishonorable East India Company, who were give credit for spreading "curry" around the world. Chilies however were all over Asia, including the subcontinent, by the end of the sixteenth century. What we call curry was not popular until the 1820's or perhaps 30's here in the US, although the first American Curry receipe was first descibed by Katherine Moffat Whipple (spellings do vary) sometime in the late 18th Century, it was an apple curry soup. The first public house known to serve curry in the US for sure was in 1809, and everybody is aquainted with Hanna Glasse's 1747 cookbook published in Great Britan with receipes for both "curry powder" and " To make a currey the Indian way". Back to knives, which are much more interesting, I don't want to hijack the thread, it was just a flipant remark to show some very odd ball things CAN be HC and even be Period, depending on the period one recreates. The primary reason being, as you said, curry of that time period had fewer and less ingrediants and spices than the modern ones.
Oldest English cookbook is ‘The form of Curry’ and comes from about 1400.
 

Mad Michael

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Oldest English cookbook is ‘The form of Curry’ and comes from about 1400.
Yes, I am well acquainted with said tome, did not mention it because "The Forme of Cury' is a general cookbook and not about curry as we know or define the word. In this case the word cury is a Middle English transliteration of the Middle French word "cuire"--to cook. Have you had the opportunity to read any of it? It is really fascinating as it has the first recorded mention of things like olive oil and cloves, as well as many expensive and exotic spices and food stuffs. I got introduced to it when I studied some Middle English for a reason I know longer remember but, in the end, found extremely fascinating.
 

tenngun

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Yes, I am well acquainted with said tome, did not mention it because "The Forme of Cury' is a general cookbook and not about curry as we know or define the word. In this case the word cury is a Middle English transliteration of the Middle French word "cuire"--to cook. Have you had the opportunity to read any of it? It is really fascinating as it has the first recorded mention of things like olive oil and cloves, as well as many expensive and exotic spices and food stuffs. I got introduced to it when I studied some Middle English for a reason I know longer remember but, in the end, found extremely fascinating.
Yes have a copy of it.
Kinda of circles around any American curry dish was spicy but not hot. Not hot in the modern Indian way.
 
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Not an answer but a question of my own, if you don't mind? How did you get the black coating off the Ontario's blade, or had that been done before you bought it?
I use a razor blade to scrape it off, took about an hour, I hate the black coating.

but I have gotten the impression that spear point blades were probably more common than clip points in the early19th century.

View attachment 80894
Yes! Finally somebody who gets it. I agree 100%.
I like going to art museums and look at paintings from those time and look at the equipment they carried. Not modern painters but art that was made in that period. Something I learned is that back then when attacked by a large animal is that their one shot small bore long gun did not kill the large animal and that the person being attacked was now fighting with a spear point or dagger knife.
In my opinion spear points or daggers were used more often than guns because the dogs came in and held the hunted animal and then once hunted animal was wore down hunter came in and stabbed animal and a spear point was best tool to use. The job of the knife was to kill back then not just skin like today.

Great picture and nice to see somebody who knows.

Iv even seen drawings of men in old Europe before guns were invented having a large dagger hunting knife in sheath across their back as that's what they killed animal with.
 
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"What makes a knife historically correct? "

I would suggest first that a historically correct knife would be made as a serious attempt at duplicating the materials, design and construction of a knife from history. Second, that knife should be of a type known to be associated with the people and the place of interest during the time-frame of interest.

"At one time all blade shapes have been used..."

I will agree that a lot of blade shapes have been used over time, but that's a pretty broad subject. I do think we can associate some blade shapes with some time periods. For example, it is my understanding that the deeply curved skinning knives that we see now were virtually unknown before the 1870's. I have probably done more of my research into trade knives than Bowie-type blades, but I have gotten the impression that spear point blades were probably more common than clip points in the early19th century. Like this Green River Bowie (now in the Smithsonian) by the John Russell Company:

View attachment 80894

Are any of these designs pre 1840 design? How do you know?

I don't think any of the knives in your photo are of a pre 1840 design. I have done a lot of research and reading about old knives, and I have never seen anything like those associated with that time frame. I may have missed a few, but I'm confident in saying if they existed at all, they would not have been common. Composite handles, like the one on the far right, are definitely late 20th century. I don't know when stacked leather handles first came out, but the oldest ones I recall seeing may have been from the 1930's. Aluminum was scarce, and was actually considered a precious metal long ago. I don't think we had a practical way to obtain it until into the 20th century.

I'm sure we are all wondering what prompted the questions, which is none of our business, but we still wonder. Is this just for the sake of discussion? If so, that's fine. We love discussions! If it is an effort to determine whether any of those knives are appropriate for reenactment, we hate to disappoint, but I don't think any of those would "work" for anything prior to the mid-20th century. If you

However, if you are looking for a period correct knife, the good news is that there are people on this forum who can fix you up!

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
2010_95v1.jpeg
2010_72v1.jpeg


Top one is from 1855. Guy with gun got shot off but nothing to distance himself from danger so he got clobered. Hunting was more personal back then.

Second painting is from 1856. Notice his knife, spear point.
 

Rudyard

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The Sheffield cutlers would describe the blade form shown as' clip point Bowie' .Being a Sheffield'er I knew most all the modern makers and sold their products with their & my own marks at R vous ect..Being a' Factor 'as its called .

Rudyard but you wont find a' Rudyard' on any blade .
 

Loyalist Dave

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Yes, I am well acquainted with said tome, did not mention it because "The Forme of Cury' is a general cookbook and not about curry as we know or define the word.
Yes have a copy of it.
Kinda of circles around any American curry dish was spicy but not hot. Not hot in the modern Indian way.
You two might be interested in this edition of The Forme of Cury.

It might be noted that although the text from 1390 is the focus of the book, this particular copy was published in 1785 and includes notes translating the ingredients into what we would today understand, so that 18th century cooks could replicate the dishes. o_O

In this case the word cury is a Middle English transliteration of the Middle French word "cuire"--to cook.
YEP, and the British word curry, I was taught, is a bastardization of the Tamil word Kari, which simply means "sauce", which is why when talking curry, you find a very wide flavor pallet, although it seems that India curry has at least one herb that I've always found present, Fenugreek. There is a huge East Asian community where I live, with folks from Northern India, Central, Southern, as well as Pakistan, and Sri Lanka..., and although the other spices vary, there is always that Fengreek aroma. The similarity of the two words has confused a lot of people over time. ;)

We now return to the knife blade discussion...., 😇

LD
 

Loyalist Dave

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Something I learned is that back then when attacked by a large animal is that their one shot small bore long gun did not kill the large animal and that the person being attacked was now fighting with a spear point or dagger knife.

In my opinion spear points or daggers were used more often than guns because the dogs came in and held the hunted animal and then once hunted animal was wore down hunter came in and stabbed animal and a spear point was best tool to use. The job of the knife was to kill back then not just skin like today.
You can find a plethora of examples of the use of the knife, to simply follow up the rifle shot, in Forty-Four Years or The Life of a Hunter by Meshach Browning. He was born near where I now live, and moved out to what is today Deep Creek Lake, Maryland.

His book covers the last decade of the 18th century into the first half of the 19th century. It's likely that his use of the knife in hunting was pretty much the same in North America. He even chronicles a hunting partner who thought it would be funny to startle a small approaching black bear..., which didn't work out the way his partner had intended (and I think the guy didn't have a large hunting knife) :eek: Alas he doesn't describe the blades that he owned and used.

LD
 

Red Owl

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What makes a knife history correct. At one time all blade shapes have been used so how can anybody say it's pre 1880s or pre1750.
Are any of these designs pre 1840 design? How do you know?View attachment 80779
Hey Bob: Your question has been asked before, not just on knives but all sorts of equipment, such as hunting pouches. There are two arguments.
1. It is not possible that any sort of knife could have been made years ago, or any sort of hunting pouch sewn up, etc. The answer is sure, so theoretically all sorts of things could have been possible.
2. The more restrictive view is to find an original and copy that (as much as possible). Some guys even make the kind of steel used back then.

One thing that has sort of "bugged me" is the firearms. Today we have Remington, Winchester, etc. and so all modern firearms are copies of some manufacturer. There seems to be sort of a carry over to antique arms but some of the most famous makers only turned out a few hundred rifles in their lifetime, there are all sorts of firearms that seem to be one of a kind.
 

TFoley

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Nossir. It predates the Spanish sword by well over a thousand years, maybe as much as 1700. It is a cast bronze copy of a sword found in a dig in Dowris Co. Offaly Ireland.

See post further down, and apologies for double post.
 
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andy52

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TFoley

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Not so, Sir. This leaf-shaped blade sword predates even the romans by at least a thousand years - please read -
Late Bronze Age leaf-shaped sword

Leaf-shaped, with grooved and bevelled edges. The handle-plate is T-shaped and contains two rivet-holes, with one rivet remaining, and a depression for a third hole, but not actually bored. There were to have been two holes in the shoulders, but only the lower has been bored in each case.

Bronze Age weapons have been discovered across Europe. They show how important warriors were in these early metal-working communities. Weapons have changed over time. At first flat daggers and knives were the most typical. These were followed by dirks and rapiers for stabbing and thrusting. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, the first true slashing swords became the weapons of choice. Bronze spearheads were also used. 3,700 years ago they replaced bows and arrows as the most common projectile weapon.

SC5.5
Open the image &lsquoLate Bronge Age leaf shaped sword’
Image: © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales Download (for personal use only)


COLLECTION AREA
Archaeology & Numismatics
ITEM NUMBER
23.227
FIND INFORMATION
Site Name:
Pen-Tir, Cwm-du
Date: 1914
Notes: item found in the general area of the stated coordinates
ACQUISITION
Donation, 11/5/1923
MEASUREMENTS
length / mm:653.0
width / mm:49.0*
thickness / mm:8.0 - 9.5 (of blade)
length / mm:546.0 (of blade)
maximum width / mm:43.0 (of blade)
width / mm:17.5 - 23.0**
diameter / mm:4.5 - 5.0***
MATERIAL
copper alloy
Northover's composition group: T
LOCATION
St Fagans Gweithdy gallery : Bronze Age Weapons
Collections Online is updated regularly, but please confirm that an object remains on display before making a special visit.
CATEGORIES
Bronze Age weapons Ewart record verified by A. Gwilt

Here is the first cast, with the finished version beside it - I made two in the weekend at the Flag Fen site near Peterborough, England, under the direction of Dave Chapman and Neil Borrage.
1624562174585.png

1624562278097.png

1624562325251.png

1624562362772.png

This is the cheating bit, fettling the blade to remove the 'flash' of the casting - That was allowed.... ;)
1624562410347.png

My sword is a copy of the Dowris blade, found in Co, Offaly Ireland, and dating from about 800 -1000 BCE.

I finished it off in the traditional manner - using a piece of sheepskin, wool-side out, wiped over with tree resin and them wiped in river bank sand. It makes a finish a lot like fine steel wool - all you have to do it to use finer and finer sand, ending up with silt/mud. That took around three weeks of evenings to do.
 

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tenngun

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Years ago I met Waldorf the Flint knapper. He had some Blades from Scandinavia from Bronze Age, approximately 1500 BC( BCE if your PC). However it seems there was more of a demand for those blades then suppliers could supply.
So local flint knappers started making copies in a pure white flint. They were that same leaf shape and about nine inch blades. The handles were c shaped and had a line of ridges at about 45 degree angle to the blade.
Waldorf flew to Denmark to copy the blades for a museum there. And he had a hell of a time getting it right. And had even a harder time making those strange ridges, that seemed to serve no purpose.
Then it was discovered what they were.
The original bronze blades came with a leather or rawhide handle, sewn on. These ridges on the flint was imitation of the sewn on leather. The ridges were the cord or sinew that sewed on the wrap.
 
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