My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bowie Knives 1820-1870

A very interesting video on bowie knife history, 1820 - 1870. I thank Barry Needham for directing me to it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bowie Knife Show at the Historic Arkansas Museum

I wasn't able to attend last year's exhibition of bowie knives at the Historic Arkansas Museum. Jon Moore, a knife maker whose company is Sharp Decision Knives, attended the show and was kind enough to send me photos. He originally contacted me  months ago, but his message languished in a secret folder at my facebook site. Anyway, here are some of Jon's photos, which will give you an idea of the scope of this exhibition, which displayed about 200 bowies.

Here are some beautiful knives made by Jon and photographed by John Cooper. You can view more of his work in the gallery at his site

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bowie Illustrations

I just got an email from Clayton Blanchard, who is related to the Blanchards who participated in the Sandbar Fight. He forwarded to me two excellent illustrations that I thought I'd post.

The moment when Bowie plunged his knife into Major Norris Wright.

An excellent visualization of James Bowie.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alamo Memorabilia Donated by Phil Collins

The above photo is from a press conference discussing the singer Phil Collins' donation of collection of Alamo memorabilia to the museum at that San Antonio landmark. It was captioned, "Phil Collins holds a Bowie knife that belonged to Jesse Robinson who fought under Jim Bowie at the Battle of Concepcion and the Siege of Bexar on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 in San Antonio."

The video attached to the news article linked below starts with Collins holding the knife and saying it was probably made by James Black in Arkansas. At first I thought he was joking. The knife shown is typical of those made and sold around the time of the movie "The Iron Mistress" (1952) and "The Alamo" (1960) and is not authentic to the 1830s. I hope the other articles in Collins' collection have a better provenance!

Here is what bowie knife expert Bernard Levine wrote about this style of knife: "The earliest positively dated example of this type bowie is the one on the cover of Harold Peterson's 1958 book, American Knives. That knife was made in 1955. Since then, hundreds of these knives have been made. Actually thousands. One maker, Allan Hitchen of Southport, England, has made 100s since the late 1950s -- all unmarked, all 'aged' with acid and soot. . . . No antique knife (bowie or otherwise) looks like this. . . . If you like this style of "knife," check out the Carvel Hall versions. They are cheap and well made."

Phil Collins remembers the Alamo with donation of artifacts

Austin Bureau
Published: 28 October 2014 10:54 PM
Updated: 29 October 2014 06:41 AM

SAN ANTONIO — British rocker Phil Collins watched from a few feet beyond the north wall of the Alamo as wooden crates the size of large amps were hydraulically lowered from a truck.

The songwriter of “Against All Odds” believed he had struck the perfect note by bringing home historical artifacts once owned by the defenders of the Alamo.

“I’m not sad,” he said Tuesday as the largest collection of Alamo memorabilia in the world was delivered. The 200-piece collection is worth between $10 million and $15 million. It took him two decades to assemble.

“I’m really happy that it’s going here, because this is the place where it should be,” said Collins, who gained worldwide fame in the band Genesis and as a solo performer. “This completes a journey for me.”

The collection will eventually be a key component to a museum. Some pieces returned to the Alamo for the first time in 178 years. They were scattered on March 6, 1836, when the garrison’s remaining force of 200 men fell to the overwhelming army of Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna after a 13-day standoff.

Collins said his fascination with the battle and the legends who fought it — Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, William B. Travis — began when he was about 6 years old, growing up in England but watching the American TV show Davy Crockett.

“From that moment, I was hooked on this story. It just stayed with me all the way through the music years,” he said.

It seemed a worthwhile obsession. “I decided to spend my money on that instead of Ferraris,” he said.

His collection also includes mementos from the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas secured its independence, and a trove of historical documents.

There is Jim Bowie’s legendary knife and one of four existing rifles known to have belonged to Crockett, as well as his fringed leather musket ball pouch. There are letters from Alamo commander Travis, Santa Anna’s sword, the hats of Mexican officers and cannonballs.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose office oversees the historical mission and who formalized the agreement with Collins, said the artifacts will be publicly displayed only a few at a time for the near future.

A foundation has been created to help raise $100 million toward a museum and visitors center to display the complete collection and present the story of the Alamo. Patterson estimated the project could take another five years.

Collins, 63, said finding a permanent home for his collection became important to him within the last year as he began organizing his estate.

Last February, he was visiting San Antonio, as he does frequently, looking for a museum that might be suitable. His friend Jim Guimarin, who owns the History Shop next to the Alamo, arranged for him to meet Kaye Tucker, the point person for the Alamo in Patterson’s office.

“Jim asked if I wanted to go to dinner with Phil Collins. I wasn’t going to pass on that,” she said.

Tucker said that over a meal of tacos and enchiladas, Guimarin told Collins there was something that Tucker wanted to ask. And so she ventured that the Alamo would love to have his collection.

“I was gobsmacked,” Collins recalled. “The idea of it coming back home…”

Arrangements were quickly made. Collins oversaw the shipping and delivery from his home in Switzerland.

Collins said holding little pieces of history — hats, guns, spurs of the Alamo fighters — connects him with the frailties and courage of the people who owned them.

“I would have some sadness and maybe thinking it was a mistake if it were going to a museum that didn’t have any emotional contact … with the Alamo,” he said. “This is the best thing that could happen to it.”

Collins, who has sold more than 100 million records, said that he has kept the passion of collecting and music separate in his life. The Alamo did not consciously color any of his songs.

“They’re all about my ex-wives,” he said with a laugh.

But maybe, he said, one song title came subliminally to him: “Do You Remember.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bronze of James Bowie by Michael Trcic

I am very impressed with this magnificent bronze bust of James Bowie created by sculptor Michael Trcic, for sale at his website. He really caught the spirit as well as the likeness of the man. Beneath the bust are scenes from the Sandbar Fight.

Trcic's other sculptures on Western themes are also quite striking.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Knife-Fighting Classes in New York City in 1842!

One of the subjects that intrigued me when I was researching my bowie knife book was whether there actually was any organized knife-fighting instruction available in 19th-century America. I did come across a few references, and just today was informed of another. The following advertisement, which was published in the New York Herald in 1842,  offers among other things instruction in the "hunting knife." This advertisement was uncovered by Maestro Jeanette Accosta-Martinez of the Martinez Academy of Arms in New York City and passed along to me by Phil Crawley.

 The Fencing Saloon & Shooting Gallery was run by a "K. Mees," on whom I have been unable to discover anything more. He offered instruction in "Fencing; also in the use of the stright, crooked, and Turkish sword, hunting knife, musket and bayonet, staff, and every species of weapons."

The facility was located at 413 Broadway, just below Canal Street in lower Manhattan. The "210 yards" shooting range seems like a misprint, especially as the focus is on pistol shooting. Perhaps 20 yards was intended.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

World's Largest Bowie Knife Exhibit

A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America 

December 13, 2013 through June 22, 2014 
Horace C. Cabe Gallery 

“This exhibit is the largest and most important ever done on America’s iconic contribution to the world of blades,” said Historic Arkansas Museum Director Bill Worthen. A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America will trace the history of this country’s most famous knife from just before its birth in a rough melee on a sandbar above Natchez, Mississippi in 1827, to the skilled craftsmen who keep the classic blade alive to this day in the form of hand crafted reproductions and modernized versions.

Visitors to the public exhibit will have the opportunity to see knife designs associated with Alamo martyr James Bowie and his less famous brother Rezin, and to examine bowie knives once owned by such historic figures as Davy Crockett, Theodore Roosevelt, General Winfield Scott and John Fox “Bowie Knife” Potter. The role of the bowie knife in the Antebellum era is explored along with the Civil War and the opening of the west, and there’s a special focus on the role bowie knives played in the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Among the 19th century knives featured will be those attributed to Arkansas’s own James Black, known knifemakers to the Bowie brothers Henry Schively and Daniel Searles, master silversmith of Texas and Tennessee Samuel Bell, and the highly skilled makers of the California school including Michael Price and Will & Finck. Fine English Bowies are also well represented with knives by such makers as Samuel Wragg, W. & S. Butcher, J. Walters and Charles Congreve; as are some of the finest known Northern and Southern blades from the Civil War. Visitors can also expect to see a superb group of folding bowie knives, and a variety of other knives that served as backup weapons during the Bowie knife era, such as push daggers and dirk knives.

In total, more than 200 knives are included in the exhibit. A full color catalog documenting this historic exhibit is planned, and will be available from the museum’s gift shop and online store.

Historic Arkansas Museum 
200 E. Third Street, 
Little Rock, AR 72201 
Ph: 501-324-9351 - Fax: 501-324-9345