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1850’s Bowie Knife

1850’s Bowie Knife

Artifacts | Weapons |

       The historical Bowie knife was not a single design, but was a series of knives improved several times by Jim Bowie over the years. The earliest such knife, made by Jesse Clifft at Rezin Bowie's request resembled the Spanish hunting knives of the time and differed little from a common butcher knife. The blade, as later described by Rezin Bowie, was 9.5 inches (24 cm) long, 0.25 inches (0.64 cm) thick and 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide. It was straight-backed having no clip point or any hand guard with simple riveted wood scale handle. Rezin presented the knife to his brother because of a recent violent encounter with one Norris Wright. This is the knife that became famous after the sandbar duel of 1827.Bowie and Wright were attendants on opposite sides of the duel. When the principals quit the field, a fight broke out among the attendees and Bowie, though seriously injured by a rifle shot, he killed the 3 men, by almost decapitating one, splitting the skull of another, and disemboweling the third. Bowie and his knife, described by witnesses as "a large butcher knife," quickly attained celebrity and the Bowie brothers received many requests for knives of the same design. They commissioned more ornate custom blades from various knife makers including Daniel Searles and John Constable. George William Featherstonhaugh described them as: These formidable instruments...are the pride of an Arkansas blood, and got their name of Bowie knives from a conspicuous person of this fiery climate.


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