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The ever controversial Musso Bowie knife

not2sharp

Platinum Member
Joined
Jun 29, 1999
Messages
19,184
The Musso bowie is one of the most controversial knives for knife collectors and historians. Joseph Musso claims to have purchased the knife during the early 1970s at an antique store and later to have discovered the initials JB marked on the knife. He then has the metallurgy examined and receives a lab report, which he claims, dates the knife to the 1830s. So it must have been Jim Bowie's knife from the Alamo. :D

It is quite a story. But, however we feel about it, the knife has sold for very large figures and was last purchased by Phil Collins (of the band Genesis) and donated to the Alamo Museum in San Antonio Texas.

I do not intend to drag up all of the usual controversy over the knife and its questionable provenance. My question is simply this:

Question: Has anyone checked to see whether the Musso bowie is an exact match with any of the known fake bowie knives circulating during the 1960s and 70s? Can we rule out that it wasn't just another example produced at one of the same underground factories, shortly before Joseph Musso acquired the knife?

bowie022.JPG


For example:

Here is a similar, but offensively marked knife, that is believed to have been massed produced and circulating at the time that Musso acquired his famous knife.

I am only linking the old thread because we do not need this thread unnecessarily closed for offensive content. The take away for me is that there were other very similar knives in circulation around 1970, and that there appears to have been some branding confusion since it is questionable whether a knife associated with KKK would have been more desirable then one associated with the Alamo Jim Bowie knife.

Link:
https://bladeforums.com/threads/it-has-a-dark-history-but-i-want-to-learn-more-about-it.1634911/

We are not discussing the nefarious organization. We are only examining whether the Musso Bowie could have been just one of these same knives before the superfluous markings were applied? Since the Musso knife was only rediscovered and popularized during the 1980s, it would be very unlikely that other knives would have been made in homage to it during the 1960s.

n2s
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2018
Messages
2,616
a metallurgical report isn't going to give you the age of steel

what I could find out about this is this very detailed post (from Musso himself?):
https://rockymtncollege.proboards.com/thread/111/musso-bowie-test-results

If all those details really are true, it's unlikely to be a 'fake', or it's a very expensive fake which did things exactly how they should have been done in the early 1800s. I think @Larrin might have something to say about the purity of the steel being so good? (an indication it's perhaps not from the early 1800s?)

as outlined in that post, age via radio carbon dating requires organic materials & it's not very exact - so the wood could be radiocarbon dated, but the steel can't (and it's not such a difficult thing to find wood from the 1800s if you are intent on making a good fake)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
2,000
Same pattern of knife as on the cover of Harold Peterson's book's American Knives, copyright 1958. There have been other knives floating around for years. Musso's knife is not a lone example but who and when they were made is a little harder to say.
 
Joined
Jun 29, 1999
Messages
8,224
From what I've read, Bowie (who was, among other things, a slaver and a land speculator) used a large knife, perhaps a butcher knife, in his (in)famous duel on the sand bar. Contrary to the movies, he was extremely ill at the battle of the Alamo, possibly from typhus, and died in his bed.
 

JBC6650

Gold Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
495
That knife looks like it was aged in some guys back yard, like the Noah's Ark fake remains during the same time. Lots of scams before someone could Google it.
 

not2sharp

Platinum Member
Joined
Jun 29, 1999
Messages
19,184
That knife looks like it was aged in some guys back yard, like the Noah's Ark fake remains during the same time. Lots of scams before someone could Google it.

Just the same, it has sold in excess of $250,000.

n2s
 
Joined
Oct 3, 1998
Messages
1,456
The Musso bowie is one of the most controversial knives for knife collectors and historians. Joseph Musso claims to have purchased the knife during the early 1970s at an antique store and later to have discovered the initials JB marked on the knife. He then has the metallurgy examined and receives a lab report, which he claims, dates the knife to the 1830s. So it must have been Jim Bowie's knife from the Alamo. :D

It is quite a story. But, however we feel about it, the knife has sold for very large figures and was last purchased by Phil Collins (of the band Genesis) and donated to the Alamo Museum in San Antonio Texas.

I do not intend to drag up all of the usual controversy over the knife and its questionable provenance. My question is simply this:

Question: Has anyone checked to see whether the Musso bowie is an exact match with any of the known fake bowie knives circulating during the 1960s and 70s? Can we rule out that it wasn't just another example produced at one of the same underground factories, shortly before Joseph Musso acquired the knife?

bowie022.JPG


For example:

Here is a similar, but offensively marked knife, that is believed to have been massed produced and circulating at the time that Musso acquired his famous knife.

I am only linking the old thread because we do not need this thread unnecessarily closed for offensive content. The take away for me is that there were other very similar knives in circulation around 1970, and that there appears to have been some branding confusion since it is questionable whether a knife associated with KKK would have been more desirable then one associated with the Alamo Jim Bowie knife.

Link:
https://bladeforums.com/threads/it-has-a-dark-history-but-i-want-to-learn-more-about-it.1634911/

We are not discussing the nefarious organization. We are only examining whether the Musso Bowie could have been just one of these same knives before the superfluous markings were applied? Since the Musso knife was only rediscovered and popularized during the 1980s, it would be very unlikely that other knives would have been made in homage to it during the 1960s.

n2s

The knife from the closed thread has some initials stamped into the brass crossguard. Doing some research, those initials came into usage around 1915.
 
Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,530
This is just my opinion and thoughts on the mater . There are a lot of story's some true some fake that surrounding the legend of the Alamo . The the whole truth about what happened that day at the Alamo have been lost in time . As for the knife it's self I would of thought it would of be looted by a Mexican soldier who more than likely didn't have a clue who Jim Bowie was . I personally think the knife of Jim Bowie at the Alamo is long gone . Having said that I don't know whether this knife is is Jim Bowie or not . And the JB inscribed on it is ambiguous at best. But to see that knife it's it's case at the Alamo must stir the imagination and be a thrill to see . Just like the sword of William Wallace at the Edinburgh museum . Many experts have claimed that the sword was made at much later date . That doesn't stop millions of people each year going to see the sword . So what I would say does it really matter if the knife was Jim Bowie's or not as long as it stirs the imagination and people believe ?
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
2,701
This is just my opinion and thoughts on the mater . There are a lot of story's some true some fake that surrounding the legend of the Alamo . The the whole truth about what happened that day at the Alamo have been lost in time . As for the knife it's self I would of thought it would of be looted by a Mexican soldier who more than likely didn't have a clue who Jim Bowie was . I personally think the knife of Jim Bowie at the Alamo is long gone . Having said that I don't know whether this knife is is Jim Bowie or not . And the JB inscribed on it is ambiguous at best. But to see that knife it's it's case at the Alamo must stir the imagination and be a thrill to see . Just like the sword of William Wallace at the Edinburgh museum . Many experts have claimed that the sword was made at much later date . That doesn't stop millions of people each year going to see the sword . So what I would say does it really matter if the knife was Jim Bowie's or not as long as it stirs the imagination and people believe ?
What sucks is we’re not even 100% sure what Jim Bowie’s knife looked like. We have descriptions from his brother Rezin, but that’s pretty much it. Even a hand-drawn historically accurate illustration would have been nice.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2007
Messages
6,493
Out of curiosity, what is the meaning of the brass on the spine of the blade? Decoration?
 

not2sharp

Platinum Member
Joined
Jun 29, 1999
Messages
19,184
Out of curiosity, what is the meaning of the brass on the spine of the blade? Decoration?

It was said to serve either as a blade catcher (your opponents edge would cut into the brass) or as impact shock protection (to protect your blade from impact with the opponents knife). But, there has been no substantiation of either idea.

n2s
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2014
Messages
5
a metallurgical report isn't going to give you the age of steel

what I could find out about this is this very detailed post (from Musso himself?):
https://rockymtncollege.proboards.com/thread/111/musso-bowie-test-results

If all those details really are true, it's unlikely to be a 'fake', or it's a very expensive fake which did things exactly how they should have been done in the early 1800s. I think @Larrin might have something to say about the purity of the steel being so good? (an indication it's perhaps not from the early 1800s?)

as outlined in that post, age via radio carbon dating requires organic materials & it's not very exact - so the wood could be radiocarbon dated, but the steel can't (and it's not such a difficult thing to find wood from the 1800s if you are intent on making a good fake)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating
The Musso blade is almost an exact copy of the "Jessie Robinson Bowie", yet Joe calls the Robinson bowie a fake. Joe certainly had me convinced with his documentation, till new info came out. Radiocarbon dating is only accurate on artifacts older than 500 years because that is the approx time needed for isotopes traces to form and be seen on a scan. Even then, it can't pinpoint an exact time the artifact was created more than plus or minus about 100 years. The big question is whether Phil Collins will ask for his money back. I have HEARD, but do not know if it is true that Mr Collins paid close to a cool near million dollars for it. Mr Musso never had the wood on the grip examined but believes it is "red oak" that is native to the area where James Black had his forge.
 
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