Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Shakethetrees 25th February 2015 01:29 AM

Today's find
5 Attachment(s)
Fresh into my hands today! A dirk with what appears to be a bone or ivory grip, 7" double edge blade, brass scabbard with lightly engraved banding at the throat and a frog stud.

I suspect it is American made.

I lightly cleaned the blade and plan on lightly cleaning the grunge from the grip without disturbing the patina.

Any comments?

M ELEY 25th February 2015 01:59 PM

Nice little dirk! Turned bone handle, fits the profile of a 'gambler's dirk'. Could be European or American. Often when one sees a 'provincial' piece, we guess American, but it could have just as easily been a European blacksmith's piece. I steer away from Mexican or Spanish colonial, who also have simpler/cruder pieces, but not in this style, nor does one see scabbards with those types. Two things that (to me) point towards a possible American distinction is the way the bone grip is lathe-turned. It reminds me of some of the scrimshaw I've seen here in the states. Secondly, the diamond-shaped guard is exactly like those I've seen on so called Old Western gambler's dirks- :shrug:

Shakethetrees 27th February 2015 03:21 AM

It is pretty close to several dirks I've seen at the Bowie Knife Show in Natchez, Mississippi. The collectors/dealers tend to place them in the 1815-ish to 1835 timeframe.

They appear to pre-date the small Victorian mass produced pieces. No complex die work, each component could be made in small cottage industry type shops.

The Victorian factory made dirks are, for the most part, marked by the maker or factory name, with complex rolled and die struck parts.

The blades could, and probably were, made by a blade maker and sold to a cutler, who would then finish them and mount them with components made in-house.

This info was confirmed by numerous conversations, all or part, by experts at the show who have been passionate blade collectors for many years.

The Western Gambler's dirks came a bit later, from 1835 to the 1880's, and were mostly in the fancier style of later imported English, French (though not so many!), and American factory made pieces.

It was after the infamous Sand Bar Fight on the Mississippi River outside of Natchez on September 19, 1827 that Bowie knives were made popular by the press reports of the day.

Early Bowie's had their share of Spanish influence, with the earliest exhibiting the "choil", or "Spanish notch" at the ricasso, but this vestige disappeared by the mid 1830's.

As the emerging market opened, cutlers both in the US and the UK were quick to offer every pattern and size conceivable.

So the rough cutoff date (very rough!) of 1835 seems to be about the time when the supply sources for these knives began to evolve into fancier, mass produced pieces with decorative components that were die struck or cast by lost wax.

But I digress.

I believe this little dagger is of a style that was made by Anglo Americans or possibly English small shops and retailed, in the majority, in the US.

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