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Hudson's Bay Camp Knives

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Hi fellas and folks,
I am a long time student of the North American blades tradition, but somehow I missed a knife...

Thank you for the good photos of originals and comments



This hbc unit and following exmple with Metis infuenced handle, has a critical role in the early development of the allamerican knife.

Amazing as I now see it is directly related the imported sheffield.

Everything that was old, is new again.




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The top two look very much like Carrigan coffin handled Bowies. Third one a modified version.
 
bob...im jumping in here with this gun i thought you might like to see ...dont know who made it as rawhide repair covers up clear to the sight...bag and rifle i got from great great great grandson of governor of santa clara pueblo in new mexico....family tradition is aquired during pueblo up rising when gov. bent was killed and turlys mill was overrun...inside is small horn and little bag to go on belt...indian kids could care less and wanted a lift kit and big tires for his pickup....its 50 cal and has something in the barrel i cant get out...
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Thanks for showing that rifle and its accoutrements, Fred. Incredible…

More knowledgeable folks than I might be able to comment on the rifle. To me, it looks like a Lancaster-type trade rifle that has seen some hard knocks, as well as some al fresco repairs and embellishments by a succession of native owners. I can’t tell from the photos… is the buttplate still on it? Maybe still present but with the toe of the buttplate bent under?

The Taos Revolt was in January, 1847. Flintlocks were still pretty common in the west then, but percussion firearms were gaining in prevalence. I suspect that rifle had seen some use prior to that event, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that its native owner(s) kept it hidden, possibly for generations, for fear of confiscation. I understand that many Lakota and Cheyenne families kept firearms hidden that way after the wars of the 1860’s and 1870’s, and these guns were not brought out until the late 20th century. My point being that may be why the old rifle and its accessories are as complete as the are.

The pouch and horn are equally remarkable. I’ll have to say I have never seen a horn spout quite like that one, though! There are some comparable pouch and horn outfits from Taos, San Ildefonso, and maybe Santa Clara in the anthropological collections of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). I don’t know if any of them are linked to the Taos Revolt, though. I can send you some photos of these, or link you up to their searchable database.

That pouch appears to have the shoulder strap simply tied on the pouch with thongs, in typical native style.

Fur trade enthusiasts on this board should take a deep interest in this rifle and outfit. The mountain men of that time were outraged over the murder of Charles Bent, and took immediate and well-coordinated action. There is an eyewitness account in Lewis Garrard’s Wah-to-Yah and the Taos Trail.

Fred, thanks so much for sharing this with us!

Notchy Bob
 
bob...bag that is pure indian...thought youd like to see it...gun and bag off of wind river reservation in wyo...gun is parker field and hudson bay marked with fox and tombstone....cut down northwest trade gun.....fredView attachment 216541View attachment 216543
Thank you for posting this, @fred fellows . I'm a big fan of Northwest guns... I have two very good reproductions. Yours is a classic! It looks to be in very good condition, too.

The pouch is also very interesting. I don't think I've seen one with the red wool fringe like that before.

That is an extraordinary collection.

Thanks for showing it!

Notchy Bob
 
I was wondering if there's a source to research the various trade items from hudson Bay and help with aging the item. I just picked up knife that a person was selling and said it had no marks, But I was holding it and looking right and the center of the blade and there was the HB Beaver stamped on it. You can also still see the initials HB. I added a few photos since it's a little differnet then the one on this tread.
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I was wondering if there's a source to research the various trade items from hudson Bay and help with aging the item. I just picked up knife that a person was selling and said it had no marks, But I was holding it and looking right and the center of the blade and there was the HB Beaver stamped on it. You can also still see the initials HB. I added a few photos since it's a little differnet then the one on this tread.
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I am not an expert, but I don't think @Wichoun 's knife is genuine. It is my understanding that the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) very rarely applied the HB or HBC trademark to much of anything. This is not to be confused with their coat of arms, showing the two rampant stags, the four beavers within the shield, and the sitting fox on top, which was used on some labels. The only items I know of that were marked HB were some relatively rare coat buttons and possibly some medals and tokens. The HBC was a retailer, selling goods bought from other manufacturers. As a rule, their cutlery had the maker's mark on the blade, but not an HBC stamp. These left-handed crooked knife blades illustrate that:

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Note that the top blade has the same stamp as the blade shown by @fred fellows in post #31. The HBC sold a lot of knives from that maker, and there is no doubt that Fred's knife is a genuine original. Thank you, Fred, for sharing that with us!

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
I know Hudson Bay put the HB and other trade marks on most of the Trade Silver items. I believe that's fact. On the knife I'd probably agree with you since I haven't seen on with just the Beaver tail and the HB mark, but I'm trying to see if there's a source to see where they placed it and not. The knife does have the aging to it. At the same time I bought that knife I bought a "Snake Brand" from Sheffield as well. I added Photo. I'd assume this knife to be from late 19th Century. Correct?
 

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I know Hudson Bay put the HB and other trade marks on most of the Trade Silver items. I believe that's fact. On the knife I'd probably agree with you since I haven't seen on with just the Beaver tail and the HB mark, but I'm trying to see if there's a source to see where they placed it and not. The knife does have the aging to it. At the same time I bought that knife I bought a "Snake Brand" from Sheffield as well. I added Photo. I'd assume this knife to be from late 19th Century. Correct?
Thanks for the information! Honestly, I don't know much about trade silver. The medal in your last photo looks like the real thing, as near as I can tell. The crosses look a little suspect to me, but I'll freely admit I'm not an expert.

The "Snake Brand" trademark on cutlery was registered to Samuel Kitchin of Sheffield at least as early as the 1860's. That knife looks like a keeper to me. Crazy Crow sells a replica butcher knife with the Kitchin/Snake trademark, but it is not as ornate as that one. I have not handled the Crazy Crow knife and can't say whether it has the tapered tang that would be typical of old knives. From the photos on the Crazy Crow website, it looks like a decent reproduction of a plain trade butcher.

My comments in post #32 are based on my amateur research. I bought an old butcher knife some years ago that has "HB" faintly impressed in the wooden handle, and only later discovered that the HBC did not do that. I've tried to pick up what I could, but I'm always open to learning something new, or even changing an opinion if there is solid evidence.

I don't know of a serious, organized study of cutlery sold or traded by the HBC. By way of analogy, trade guns are another matter. In Gooding's Trade Guns of the Hudson's Bay Company, he shows a full page of fine print listing the gunmakers, who normally put their own name on each gun's lockplate. The "sitting fox" stamp on the lockplate was the mark of the Hudson's Bay Company View Master, and typically had his initials, such as E.B., for Edward Bond. As far as I know, they did not put "HB" or HBC" on the guns. I don't believe the knives sold by the HBC had an official View Master's mark or an HB or HBC stamp, but only the maker's mark.

The knife in post #30 looks like an old Rochebury ("roach belly") knife, but I can't say how old. I have a rusty old butcher knife blade, sans handle, that looks like a fur trade relic, but I can tell you for a fact it dates from the mid 20th century. My dear mother never accepted the fact that carbon steel knives with wood handles should not be left soaking in dishwater. I eventually replaced the handle, sometime in the early seventies, and just a few years later found my wife treated knives the same way, and handle #2 eventually broke off. I've learned that if you really want to hasten the artificial aging of a new trade knife, just sharpen it up and leave it in your kitchen. No matter what happens, don't say or do anything. Just try not to watch, give it a month or two, and your knife will look like a relic. The point being that knives that are heavily used or abused can age rather quickly, and the beaver trademark with the HB on that knife looks suspect to me, anyhow.

You might enjoy browsing through this document: Trademarks on Base-Metal Tableware, by Eileen Woodhead. Clicking that link will open a 347 page book which has been digitized in PDF so you can read it online for free. My computer firewall has no issues with this document so I believe it is safe. Both Samuel and Thomas Kitchin are listed in there, with their trademarks. They show three trademarks featuring beavers (Marsh, Maxfield, and Sherwood), but none like the mark on your knife. Interestingly, they do list an H.B.Co. trademark, but it was registered to Hall, Boardman & Co. of New York and Philadelphia:

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So, I believe all of this to be factual and accurate, if incomplete. I would welcome more information on HBC trade cutlery, and would certainly be open to learning about trade silver, about which I know almost nothing. Good luck in your quest, and please let us know what you find.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
Notchy Bob.... I greatly appreciated all the information you've given. It could be a difference in trade goods with indians versus non trade items. A good example would be the pipe-hawk More a pipe then hawk, but just for indian trade. A lot started with the Longhunters caring trade silver items to make trade and peace if encountered and then carried over to the Mississippi in the western movement. Many of the trade silver items from HB are selling in the hundreds of dollars now. I know there were trade knives, just like trade rifles, but detail on the knife seem to be much harder to find. Wichoun (A Way Of Life)
 
I found a few things regarding Hudson's Bay Company knives and other trade goods that may be of interest. First up is on the website for Canada's History magazine. In a number of their back issues, they have a short article with a good photo of some artifact associated with the HBC. They've assembled a bunch of these on this page: The HBC Collection

One of the entries (scroll down the page) is for the Hudson's Bay Camp Knife, but they also have entries for trade axes, a pipe tomahawk, a Northwest gun, and other items of interest. Many of these artifacts are held by the Manitoba Museum. On the Manitoba Museum website, I found this well-written document concerning spurious HBC artifacts. The focus is on medals and bale seals, but they give some tips on what to look for in forgeries: Fakes & Forgeries

I poked around a little, using "hudson's bay company trade silver" as a search term and got a bunch of hits. I have not read many of them yet, but I did find this interesting page on the Virtual Museum of Metis History and Culture website: Hudson's Bay Company Trade Silver

They don't give much general information, but they do show some pretty good pictures of actual HBC silver artifacts to study. In addition, I found this on the HBC Heritage website:

"Between 1780 and 1820, the demand for this jewelry was so great that it became the leading product created by silversmiths. In 1796, Hudson’s Bay Company, which was usually opposed to this type of exchange, started to trade silver when faced with the success of its Montreal competitor, the North West Company. However, upon merging with the North West Company in 1821, HBC removed trade silver from its trade goods list."

So, while silver was a very important item of trade overall in North America, the HBC made its own policies and apparently only actually traded silver jewelry between 1796 and 1821... a short, 25 year period. This is directly from the HBC, so I would expect authentic Hudson's Bay Company trade silver to be pretty scarce, although I still haven't found anything on how it would have been marked.

So much to learn...

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
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Excellent. Even their own HBC website history does't talk much about knives except for their Camp knife. Nothing on Trade Silver, but there was a lot of various trade silver made. HB didn't want to have trade items but the competition with Northwest Fur trading was strong. So the "give-aways" helped until they finally merged with Nortrhwest. Good news is I found the trade mark Beaver on my knife on another one from about 1830-1850 era. it was used on Indian trade knives. Some just had the HB mark. So, I lucked out and it appears my knife to be an earlier HB Indian trade knife that used that beaver mark. They made a realy nice Dag as well. one with beautiful coffin handle sd you've all have share earlier.
 

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After days of searching, I finally just read about the exact knife. Their discription and photos below . "It is a 1800's Hudson's Bay Co. fur trade knife, sometimes called a "roach belly" knife or "scalper". It is a little over 11 1/2" long with a 6 5/8" blade and has horn handles, which are buffalo horn. The Hudson's Bay beaver hallmark is stamped on the left side of the blade with " HB" (conjoined H and B) stamped inside the beaver outline.T are brass ferrules and 3 rivets with brass washers to attach the grips. "

Thank you for helping to find the answer to my mystery knife. But that's what this is all about: Learning and adding to the history. Now it's time to get out to my lodge, get a nice fire going to relax and have a good smoke of tobacco and red willow bark. And may be a gill or two to sip.
 

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