Manufactured by Samuel Bell (1798–1882), likely c. 1840-1851, during his time in Knoxville, Tennessee. Originally born in Pennsylvania, Bell first worked in an arms factory at a young age, producing swords during the War of 1812. Bell then moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he operated as a jeweler, silversmith, watch-maker, and knifemaker, as well as serving as the mayor from 1840 to 1845. He later moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he operated a shop near the Alamo until his death in 1882. This knife shows many of the typical features of knives made by Bell, and was undoubtedly made by him. About half of all known Bell bowies are unmarked. Bell Co-signed a loan for a business in Knoxville TN, but the business failed thereby throwing Bell into dissolution. He decided to move to San Antonio to escape debtors. One theory suggests that if this knife was marked "Bell" at that time, it is likely Bell himself removed his name because he could sell his wares without the immediate request of paying his debtors. If so, this knife might have been made at the time he needed moved to San Antonio. A nearly identical example is pictured and described on p. 38-39 of "The Antique Bowie Knife Book" by Adams, Voyles, and Moss, and another very similar example is pictured and described on p. 84-85 of the same book. Both of these pictured examples show generally the same hilt shape, a trademark of a Bell knife, as well as the distinctive hand-filed spine serrations, and definitive "ledge" type ricasso. The first of the two mentioned examples also shares a near identical pommel with lanyard loop, which is a feature quite unique to Bell's knives. It measures 14 7/8 inches overall with a 10 1/8 inch drop point blade with a long false edge typical of a Bell knife. The left side of the spine near the ricasso shows six, hand-filed serrations, which are also a typical trait of Bell's knives. The oval guard is of German silver and has a groove filed around its edge. The coffin shaped hilt is also of German silver with hand filed groove accents and a lanyard hole in the pommel. It is fitted with smooth antique ivory grips with German silver escutcheons on both sides. Advanced collectors agree that Sam Bell could have ordered the handles from Sheffield but that he made his own blades and he obviously constructed the knife at his shop. Includes a leather sheath with floral pattern contrasting and silver wire stitching and the initials "CFB".
Very good, the blade mostly a bright grey patina with moderate pitting scattered throughout and mild wear. The tip of the blade is absent. The German silver shows an attractively aged patina overall. The slightly shrunken grip scales are very good with a few minimal handling marks. The sheath is fine with moderate wear and some tearing, likely wear a belt loop was once attached, and some loose stitching. A very desirable, newly discovered, iconic, Samuel Bell Bowie knife!
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