RARE LARGE SILVER & EBONY MOUNTED SAMUEL BELL BOWIE KNIFE, KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE CIRCA 1840.
14.75” overall, 10” unique Samuel Bell heavy spear point blade tapering from over half inch thick piece of steel at raised forged bolster, 5” tapered and beveled unsharpened false edge. All silver mounted and engraved. 4-sided Ebony grip with silver pinned raised checkered panels. Unique Bell design heavy coin silver form-fitted sheath. Coin silver mounts and sheath are finely engraved by Samuel Bell. Samuel Bell worked for about 50 years making some of the most iconic American knives from 1830-1880. There are 22 original and authentic surviving specimens that are attributed, and many more fakes and misattributed examples. Bell made his Knives in Knoxville till 1851 when he moved to San Antonio and continued production. Best known Samuel Bell authority Mark Zalesky (publisher of Knife magazine) states: “The best way to describe Bell as a knifemaker would be to compare him to today’s sole-authorship craftsmen… He did everything from the forge work to the finishing to the engraving and inlay, and made fancy handmade knives for the gentlemen who wanted and could afford them. His idea of “mass production” apparently was to have a firm in England make up blades to his design, stamp them with his name, assemble the knives in an appropriate manner, and ship them to his Knoxville shop for over-the-counter sale. I don’t know what either variety sold for, but the Sheffield knives still in stock were valued quite a bit less in an 1851 inventory” There are no other antebellum engravers of knives who approach this exemplary style. Samuel Bell is no doubt among the finest and most unique craftsmen of Bowie knives known to America and also a noted antebellum silver smith. Bell became famous for his fine workmanship, the quality of its materials, and the exquisite pieces of “jewelry” that were produced later in his career. Famous men such as Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, & Sam Houston numbered among his customers. This is among the finest and largest of all known Samuel Bell knives and was a prized possession in several top bowie collections. UNATTACHED ACCESSORIES: copies of pertinent pages from “Knives by Samuel Bell, San Antonio’s Adopted Son”, Spring 2000 Texas Gun Collector & “A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America” by William B. Worthen and Mark D. Zalesky.
PROVENANCE: Ex-David Petty collection
Ex-Dave Kleiner collection
Ex-Michael Worley collections
published: “Knives by Samuel Bell, San Antonio’s Adopted Son”, Spring 2000 Texas Gun Collector, p.63
exhibited: Historic Arkansas State Museum, “The Bowie Knife in America” Dec 2013 – June 2014
published: “A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America” by William B. Worthen and Mark D. Zalesky 2017, reprinted 2023, pp.278-279.