The bowie knife is a legend of the American frontier.  Although it was mainly used and marketed as a hunting knife, its origins were that of a weapon.  Its story begins in the 1820’s when James Bowie was able to defend himself by using a large knife at the Sandbar Fight in Louisiana.  The knife had been made by his brother, Rezin, a year prior.  The story of the Sandbar Fight, combined with James Bowie’s eventual death while defending the Alamo in 1836, gave the “Bowie Knife” tremendous popularity.  To this day, this story is known by those who collect antique bowie knives.

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Although bowie knives varied greatly in their design, most had a long, heavy blade and a hilt to prevent the hand from slipping onto the blade.  While American bowies were made in smaller shops, the English market took on production on a larger scale.  By the 1830’s, several Sheffield cutlers were making bowie knives for the American market.  Those makers included George Wostenholm I*XL, William Greaves & Son, Samuel C. Wragg, Charles Congreve and more.  In order to capture the American market, these firms included patiotic and other popular mottos of the time including “Americans Never Surrender” Patriots Self Defender” and “Liberty and Independence.”  Other mottos, like “I Never Fail” and “I Surpass All” proclaimed the durability of these knives.

Bowie Knives 1820-1870

Original Bowie Knives - Display OKCA 2015

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