The ever controversial Musso Bowie knife

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Aug 26, 2008
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As to documentation linking Black to Bowie, there is the Washington Telegraph article of Dec 8, 1841: "...the far-famed deadly instrument had its origin, we believe in Hempstead County. The first knife of its kind was made in this place, by Mr. James H. Black, for a man named James Bowie...".
You are right about the quote, and I did not remember that. I checked my Flayderman, and he had that. His comment, more or less was, Black lived close to the newspaper, which implies, Black could have been telling fishing stories to the news writer. And, where was Black from the Sandbar fight (14 years before) and in the five years after Jim Bowie's death?. What Flayderman did not mention, Resin Bowie died Jan 1841. So if Black heard about Resin's death, he knew the principals were not around to validate or contradict any claims he made, true or not. And, really, why should we believe anyone? We all read whoppers every day. Getting an interesting story out, to sell a paper, is more important than fact checking. And how would the Washington Telegraph conduct validation research without a telegraph, a phone, or internet? And why would they care to do it and delay getting the paper out?

If prior to their deaths, if there was written documentation from Jim and Resin that Black made knives for them, then the attribution would be undisputed. But there is not unfortunately.

I do think Jim Bowie must have purchased a number of knives, and the actual knife was not as important to him, as his skills and courage. His survival was not due to a knife, it was due to his determination to win, his judgement, his luck. And I think that is how he would have thought about it. A knife would have been a thing, not an object of veneration. Sure, it would have attributes, size, weight, etc, that he wanted, but it was just a tool to be used, discarded if a better came along. I know many competitors, their firearms are just tools, something they use to win. Others attribute qualities to the gun, that the winner does not.

You will find, Medal Winners attach more importance to their performance, than the medals they received. The outside world, cares more for the medals.
 

Triton

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Norm Flayderman wrote an outstanding book: The Bowie Knife: Unsheathing an American Legend.


I highly recommend going through the thing and looking at the pictures. What was a bowie knife changed depending on the period, and location. You will see stylistic patterns by time and location. California bowies by Micheal Price, are clearly different from the East Coast Bowies. But, they are all “Bowies”

Mr Flayderman addresses the origins of Bowies, and ground zero is a newspaper letter by Resin Bowie giving a description of Jim’s knife, but no picture. From there, the earliest identifiable Bowies come from surviving advertisements. This is a very early, 1830’s Bowie, the Gravely & Wreaks Bowie. But this was made in England, and who knows if this resembles the original bowie knife, other than it has a handle and an edge!

uqoI7Vt.jpg



This was in the Alamo Museum, and is I think, of similar construction to what the the original bowie would have been. But, what do I know? I was not there in the 1830's.

56dkevy.jpg

56dkevy.jpg


But, as to James Black, Flayderman states that no knife, no nothing has ever been found that can be positively attributed to James Black. And, if James Black acted the way Flayderman said he did, I think James Black was a false fame fraudster. You just have to read of all the people who claimed to be affiliated with some famous event (Custer’s last stand, Flying Tigers, etc, etc.) and there have to be hundreds of thousands of them. Military veterans are particularly sensitive to this: there are many men wearing Medals of Honor that they never earned.

Anyone remember the number of Anastasia’s that surfaced after WW1? There were a lot of them, because there was a lot of money that could be had, if the claimant was accepated as the real Anastasia. I saw the 1956 Anastasia movie about Anna Anderson. It was dramatic, convincing, etc. At the end of it, the viewer is sure Anna was Anastasia and a terrible injustice has been done. Later DNA testing proved Anna was not of the Royal Line.

Flayderman stated that James Black, only surfaced in his old age, then claimed that he was James Bowie’s cutler. And in the house he was being taken care of, if he noticed someone around the corner, he would go into some moaning routine, crying “Oh, I have forgotten the secret of steel!”, or something similar.

My opinion is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. However, there are lots of people making money on an origin story based around James Black, so this will not end soon. Wagon loads of “True Crosses” were carted out of British Monasteries, each Holy wood chip relic, venerated for Centuries, and for centuries, a real money maker for the Abbey or Parish.
No real disagreement with your points (nice job in clearly making them) but it has been suggested that Flayderman's motives in his making of that book may not have been lily white.
 

not2sharp

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19,291
No real disagreement with your points (nice job in clearly making them) but it has been suggested that Flayderman's motives in his making of that book may not have been lily white.

It helps to assume that there is bias in everything you read.

When it comes to Black, my premise is simple; when you have made the classic hero tool that receives enough favorable press to launch a worldwide industry, there is a tendency to step forward and take a bow. Why was there a 14 year delay, and why would the documentation be so thin. Wouldn’t Black have been able to name many of his better customers, who could vouch for the quality of his knives? Where was the guy’s fan base - he had a top secret magical heat treatment, clearly someone should have appreciated that. Where were all the “I have a knife made by the same legendary maker that made James Bowie’s sandbar knife”?

Let’s face it, the Bowie sandbar fight was big news. No matter how down to earth, Black’s customers would have known the story and commented on it, and had that happened there would have been a large herd of real and pretender Black knives out there.

n2s
 
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Joined
Aug 26, 2008
Messages
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It helps to assume that there is bias in everything you read.

When it comes to Black, my premise is simple; when you have made the classic hero tool that receives enough favorable press to launch a worldwide industry, there is a tendency to step toward and take a bow. Why was there a 14 year delay, and why would the documentation be so thin. Wouldn’t Black have been able to name many of his better customers, who could vouch for the quality of his knives? Where was the guy’s fan base - he had a top secret magical heat treatment, clearly someone should have appreciated that. Where were all the “I have a knife made by the same legendary maker that made James Bowie’s sandbar knife”?

Let’s face it, the Bowie sandbar fight was big news. No matter how down to earth, Black’s customers would have known the story and commented on it, and had that happened there would have been a large herd of real and pretender Black knives out there.

n2s
You are so right. There are events that were big, big, news, but now almost forgotten. The Flying Tigers were big, big, news for the WW2 generation. These pilots fought the Japanese before the US entered the war, and they received one heck of a lot of positive, hero worshiping press.

So, when I found an autographed book by a "Flying Tiger" at the used book store, I purchased it. And then, I wanted to find out who it was. It was signed by Roland Sperry. A guy who attended Flying Tiger association meetings, claimed to be a Flying Tiger, sold his book at association meetings about his heroic escape in China. Roland was a fraud. or http://blogs.dailybreeze.com/history/2013/08/09/roland-sperrys-dangerous-flight/ https://www.warbirdforum.com/sperry.htm He was a WW2 veteran, was a gunner on a bomber, but no flying tiger. He was an attention seeking individual, and these characters have existed since the dawn of time, and will exist as long as humans exist.

Decent people don't act like these attention seekers, and because they assume all people are equally good, decent people are easy to bamboozle. There is no real reason to assume James Black is who he said he was, unless there is evidence prior to the Bowie brother's death about a business association with them.

I would not pay $250,000 for a supposed Bowie knife, and I am surprised there are those who did. It's their money, but it is better to buy the knife, not the story.
 

brownshoe

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The story is inseparable from the knife, hence the tenacity of the con. There's a related knife article about knives, Bowie clan, etc. in last month's Knife magazine.
 
Joined
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Messages
111
The story is inseparable from the knife, hence the tenacity of the con. There's a related knife article about knives, Bowie clan, etc. in last month's Knife magazine.
Was it this article:

Texas Monthly” Article Addresses Fake Bowie Knives Slated for Display at the Alamo


It must be genuine; a psychic took a reading off the knife. And if a psychic saw Jim Bowie holding the knife, who are we to challenge the vision?
 

brownshoe

I support this site with my MIND
Joined
Sep 6, 2002
Messages
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Was it this article:

Texas Monthly” Article Addresses Fake Bowie Knives Slated for Display at the Alamo


It must be genuine; a psychic took a reading off the knife. And if a psychic saw Jim Bowie holding the knife, who are we to challenge the vision?
No. The article is by Batson, "An Extraordinary Heirloom: The knife of MZHankins CSA".
 
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