Image Lot Price Description







2254
$0.00

FINE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY AMERICAN BOWIE KNIFE ATTRIBUTED TO SAMUEL BELL, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS.

This rare American coin silver mounted knife no doubt was made circa 1810. Script initials “TEW” found on escutcheon of this example are virtually identical to another identified example made circa 1812 to officer in 17th US Infantry which was recruited from Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio in Samuel Bell’s backyard at this time. Samuel Bell was probably the most gifted knife maker America has ever known. His final products made late in his career mostly in San Antonio, Texas, represent the finest crafted blades, handles and scabbards, all silver mounted and of unique form. The late Mr. William Williamson, Bowie knife scholar and authority reasons that this example has attribution to Samuel Bell based on a nearly identical knife donated to the San Antonio Museum in 1932 by Samuel Cummings Bell, that was attributed as being made by Samuel Bell for Major Brahan in 1853. Though we know these knives are much earlier, more typically about 1812 based on similar inscribed example cited. We do know that Samuel Bell was born in 1798 and and was indeed by 1806 apprenticed in arms making. An obituary published in San Antonio, March 3rd, 1882, Evening Light volume II, number 36; “Mr. Bell was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on the 15th of July 1798; at the age of eight he was apprenticed in a arms manufactory at Pittsburgh, and became a skillful workman in making blades; he made swords for the War of 1812. In 1819, in his 21st year, he was seized with the spirit of adventure and made the voyage by water to the great southwest, and selected his home at Knoxville, Tennessee, returning a year later to Pittsburgh for the wife of his choice. Mr. Bell resided in Knoxville until 1851, being engaged in the manufactory of jewelry, silverware and fine blades.” Regardless of history this was one of Mr. Williamson’s favorite knives and it is pictured in Nov./Dec. 1987 Blade Magazine. Williamson also wrote and article: The Rich Legacy of Samuel Bell. By legend this knife was owned by Samuel Cleage, pioneer builder of Athens, Tennessee. PROVENANCE: William Williamson Collection; Blade Magazine November/December 1987; Lot #3754, Butterfield’s 1-28, 1997; Paul Tudor Jones II Collection. CONDITION: Fine to very fine overall, measuring 15″ with 10-3/4″ unique double fullered blade where top fuller is quite similar to later Bell knives with which terminate into top edge where later fitted silver scabbards filled this groove. Blade overall is gray with old tool and finishing marks, retaining some original luster with scattered staining and light pitting. Coin silver mounts including 2-1/4″ “S” shaped cross guard, 4 inset 1/2″ five pointed stars, 7/8″ oval escutcheons, ribbed ferrule and pommel, have matching gray patina to throat of sheath. There are black patinaed highlights in protected areas of silver. Silver tip to sheath appears original with same parallel raised line decoration on bottom of throat, though tip appears to be either plated brass or having old braised repair at tip (when auctioned 1-28, 1997, tip was stated to be “a period replacement”). Patina on tip is indeed different than rest of knife, though does not affect aesthetics. Scabbard body is sound with scuffing at edges, retaining much of its original black finish. Horn grip slabs are extremely well fitted with several areas of erosion as can be seen in photos, horn is quite dark and reminiscent of buffalo. Knife still retains original protective washer and both silver belt rings. 49941-8 JS (50,000-100,000) – Lot 2254

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Auction: Firearms - March 2016
Please Note: All prices include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, which is paid by the buyer as part of the purchase price. The prices noted here after the auction are considered unofficial and do not become official until after the 46th day.