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James R.Fuller

I dug this up near the Alamo

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Hello, everyone!

 

A few years back, while digging a fire pit in my parents backyard, I dug up (about 10-15" in the ground) this very old blade. At first, I assumed it was some sort of a butcher's knife, but in my recent studies around bowies and Spanish hunting knives of the time around the Alamo, I have found their are some similarities in this blade. My parents house is located 1.5 miles from the Alamo in downtown San Antonio, so I figured I'd see if maybe it is something. The blade is about 1/8" thick, which is why I originally assumed it was a butcher's knife. The blade geometry, however, seems a little awkward for a kitchen knife of any kind. This blade has no makers mark to speak of. I only have this one picture right now, but I will post more later.

 

As always, thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing what you guys have to say... Maybe it is just a butcher's knife that got buried for some reason a few years back.... hope not...:P

IMG_2405.JPG

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If no one else chimes in, here are the first two names that pop into my mind that might have insight into your find. If it is for real they would know, the first one is Chuck Borrows, this is his company site, http://www.wrtcleather.com/Frontier-Knives-Sheaths-Showcase/index-gallery.html

 

The second is Wick Ellbere., http://www.wickellerbe.com/

 

They both have a good knowledge of knives and of that time period!

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The shape of the blade looks like a butcher's
"breaking" knife. Without maker's mark it would be almost impossible to date it,they have been around for a long time.

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Maybe someone with more knowledge than I will chime in here but I will tell you this. Knives of this period were what I like to call "use what you brung"! In other words knives were often the family butcher knife that a sheath had been fashioned for and put down in there belt. Knives were a premium item and if you had a knife you were already comfortable with why need another.

 

I mentioned Wick Ellerbe, take a look at his site and there are some blades that resemble the shape of that one. The shape could possibly be that of a trade knife. That is something Wick is extremely knowledgeable at!

 

http://www.wickellerbe.com/gallery/index.php?action=view&gll=5

 

I tend to doubt that your blade is from that time period as I would expect more damage than is seen on it for it too have been buried that long. However is often ground conditions dictate how a piece is preserved.

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Someone on Face book on a knife makers page had this to say


"The historical Bowie knife was not a single design, but was a series of knives improved several times by Jim Bowie over the years. The earliest such knife, made by Jesse Clift at Bowie's brother's request resembled Spanish hunting knives of the day, and differed little from a common butcher knife. The blade, as later described by Rezin Bowie, was 9.5 inches (24 cm) long, 0.25 inches (0.64 cm) thick and 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide. It was straight-backed, described by witnessess as "a large butcher knife", and having no clip point nor any hand guard, with a simple riveted wood scale handle."

 

 

Now, I also doubt it is of the time, but I can't seem to figure why someone'd burry it like that... Unless it was used for MURDER! Dun Dun DUN!!!

All jokes aside, would it being buried in clay effect it's preservation? A large part of Texas soil seems to be a yellow-ish clay, and my parents backyard is no exception.

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The profile is pretty typical of English-made trade knives from the 1790-1890 era, and it could even be a Green River butcher. As far as soil conditions and preservation of steel, you want a neutral or slightly alkaline soil, not acidic at all. The biggest factor is moisture. Total dryness is great, total wetness is fine as long as there's no oxygen, but wet/dry cycling is rough on anything buried.

 

I seem to recall it's generally dry-ish around San Antonio, except when there's eight feet of water in the streets. If I lived closer I could come do a test excavation to get the stratigraphy and hopefully a temporally diagnostic artifact or three... ;) If you find any ceramics of any sort I can give you a rough date, they're our (historic archaeologists, that is) main tool for pulling dates. Even better is window glass if you have a set of digital calipers to measure the thickness. As long as it predates float glass (ca. 1920) there's a regression formula that gets pretty close.

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It is definitely dry down here in SA! I'm thinking about finding a metal detector and looking around there again. I still need to take more pictures of this thing... I forgot to do so last night.

 

I looked at that link, and this thing does look like an English trade knife! Super cool.

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What I was referring to is the time line, the battle of the Alamo was 1836, that puts it about 179yrs. give or take a little. The odds that the knife is from that time period begin to take shape when like Alan said you factor in the moisture or lack of in the area.

 

However they often find in archaeological digs where a city/settlement has existed for years the time layers (for lack of the proper term)!

 

Perhaps years ago there was a blacksmith business there years ago and as the man was eating his sausage and cheese when his shop caught on fire and burnt to the ground..............

 

Or years before that a small settlement that existed outside the Alamo and while they were butchering some meat he lost his knife................

 

History is really neat when you look at the same layers that existed within a certain area. The odds of finding a relic sometimes are fairly high if you know the history of that given area.

 

There is a program on the history channel about two guys who use a metal detector to find things supposedly part of history and often they do find things that can be traced back in history, a lot of the time its just laughable. One of the best episodes I ever saw was the one they done on the Hatfield and McCoy Feud , the exact location of the house that the Hatfields torched that belonged to McCoy killing two of his children and seriously injuring his wife had been lost thru time. They came across an area an started finding square nails and the like that could have been from the home. When they started staking out the area they realized that is was the shape and size of a cabin. They notified the home owner and they got the local university in there and there archaeological dept. confirmed that this may have been the house site.

 

Now that I have gotten way off the subject you can kind of see what I am talking about the different layers! Ha Ha now I will shut up for a while! s12137.gif

 

 

Edited by C Craft

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As promised, I have taken more photos!

 

10301066_10205648482390171_3671060464575823838_n.jpg10301066_10205648482390171_3671060464575823838_n.jpg10689952_10205648483510199_3399601967870354839_n.jpg10906558_10205648481590151_1095423360862274030_n.jpg

 

A look at the spine (The tang is rather straight, isn't it?)10923399_10205648484990236_1626858225303306740_n.jpg

 

The distal taper.... though... it's kinda subtle...10891665_10205648486190266_7423146429364799484_n.jpg

 

And the spot on the side that I attempted to hand sand through the rust in my ignorance... I wish I had known way back then to not do anything until you know what you are holding...10393809_10205648487990311_2354768464337948511_n.jpg

10378547_10205648489630352_7233732068050193650_n.jpg

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As Alan noted above it is a trade blade. Style wise it is the type known as an English Scalper - first made around 1750 the type was popular until the 1840's or so when the hump backed butcher style (ala the Russell Green River butcher blades) became much more popular and the scalper became much less used based on period sales records.

Due to the full tang - most were made with a half tang to save on precious/expensive steel - I would date this in the 1820's - 1830's and would rate it as being one of the upper grades of trade knives due to the full tang and the steel is most likely either shear or cast aka crucible steel via the Huntsman method.

It's a nice relic piece and I would lightly rub it down with a soft Scotchbrite pad and a good oil to remove only the surface rust. Once done clean well and wax with something like Ren Wax to seal the surface and hopefully stop the oxidation.

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