To find a truly American knife design, look no further than the Bowie. Designed by Colonel Jim Bowie, who later died in the battle of the Alamo, the first Bowie knife took shape in the hands of James Black, a well known blacksmith working in the trailhead town of Washington, Arkansas. Bowie carved a wooden model and Black made two steel versions, one that matched Bowie’s pattern and a second with Black’s own improvements. Bowie chose Black’s knife.
Since 1830, the Bowie knife has become smaller and streamlined. The usual pattern today is the Sheffield, a version developed in England for marketing on the frontier in America. With a slimmer drop point blade and a false bevel on the forward third of the spine, the Sheffield knife resembles Black’s pattern but lacks the weight and cutlass quality strength of the original Bowie. The first Bowie, which Colonel Bowie presented to his brother Rezin, ended the lives of three men in the famous Sandbar Duel, proving the weapon to be more sword than belt knife. Some early Bowie knives were over thirty inches long.
Black’s knives became famous for their strength and flexibility — his secret method was rumored to be Damascus steel, though none of his original work resembles the Damascus steel of today. The process he worked alone behind his leather curtain is now lost. After a severe beating left Black blind and unable to work, he no longer remembered the methods he had used.
A Classic Bowie knife from one of the finest American companies, W.R. Case & Sons.
From Bear & Son in Alabama, the Damascus Bowie follows the pattern common on the frontier — Bowie blade and coffin handle.
From the premier cutler of Solingen, Germany, this Puma Stag Skinner Bowie shows the best of both European and American traditions.