Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 35

Thread: Native American and early frontier knife carrying methods

  1. #1
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    tip of the mitt
    Posts
    5,128

    Default Native American and early frontier knife carrying methods

    I was wondering earlier how the Indians carried their knives. I have read that neck knife carry was rare. Then I got to wondering how Boone and folks of that time frame carried knives.
    any thoughts? as a side note I wonder about all kinds of things LOL
    so the definition of a criminal is someone who breaks the law and you want me to believe that somehow more laws make less criminals?


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Goliad, Texas
    Posts
    690

    Default

    I guess it depends on the time period in question. For lots of years "knives" of most primitive peoples were simply sharp flakes of flint, hand held and discarded when dull or after use. On my desk I have one such piece of obviously "worked" flint. It would appear that the workings were done to facilitate a grip in the hand. Of course, I've been wrong before.

    These knives were likely carried in a rolled up bundle or maybe a small pouch. It is my understanding that Pre-Columbian "Indians" did not use nor conceptualized a hafted knife as we know it. Scrapers, adzes and clubs were hafted but cutting tools were not.

    From early pictures, frontiersmen carried sheathed knives stuck in their waistband or belt, but I don't know for sure. There is another History Teacher on these boards that will likely know though. I look forward to reading his input on this subject.

    Alan

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    The Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan, about the middle of the south shore of Lake Superior
    Posts
    468

    Default

    From what I have read, once the natives acquired manufactured knives from traders , like the Hudson Bay fur traders, the emulated the waist band carry (in a sheath, of course) Some did carry smaller knives as neck knives. The basic trade knife was what we would call today a butcher knife.
    Geezer Squad #2

  4. #4
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    KY bluegrass region-the center of the universe
    Posts
    9,786

    Default

    Knife sheaths, being a utensil used since prehistoric times, have a pretty good compilation of fact.

    Starting with Ottzi the iceman ad his flint knife, his knife was a small flint tool about 2 inches long and kept in a woven fiber sheath. That sheath was simply hung from a string on his belt.

    From there it was "anything goes" with materials and styles differing from one region to another and by the late middle ages when the New world was being explored and settled every one of those styles was brought to North America.

    The sheaths ran the entire spectrum from pouches laced on one side and only a small part of the handle showing to leather sewn in a single seam down the back and the European style of wood covered with leather and set with metal reflecting whatever the status of the owner could afford.

    All through history the knife was considered an eating tool and each person had one handy for feeding themselves, so sheaths were necessary for transport. Cooks even kept their kitchen knives hanging from their belts in sheaths.

    Here in NA there was really no "rule" and knives were carried as the owner desired. Sometimes the sheath was slipped in the belt and held in place by a clip made of metal, or sometimes by a tab of leather. Sometimes there was a loop for the belt to run through and sometimes the cut slits for the belt as we knew on cheap sheath knives when we were kids. I have seen all of those methods in museums and collections all over the South East.

    The Indian "neck knife" was done but it usually involved small knives with blades the size of our pocket knives, so most of those neck knives where everyday craft tools kept where they were easy to access. The inspiration for most of those neck knives was paintings of Indians and most of those paintings were done by artists doing their work long after the events in question had ended. I thin there is a sketch of an Indian wearing a neck knife in the painting "Death of Wolfe", and that particular painting was done 100 years after Wolfe died.

    Much of the Indian concept depended on what knives were being traded locally. Small knives with blades of 2"-3" and shaped like the blade of a boy scout knife were traded freely to the Indians. They had a spike tang and were fitted with a handle by the owner or sometimes were fitted by the manufacturer with a simple wooden handle which was painted red. They became known in the trade as the "red knives". Louis and Clark carried hundreds to give as presents on their Expedition.

    Butcher knives were shipped by the millions into the frontier by every nation that had a trade post. They were almost identical to what we use today with 6"/8"/10" blades. They were packed in crates by the hundred dozen and shipped without handles to save shipping space. Every Indian had to install his own grips and make his own sheath, so pick a style and material. Chances are you will not be far wrong.

    The Hudson Bay Company furnished the western Indians with a big knife with a double edged blade that could be used as a knife or as a spear point. The handle was usually just a wrapping of leather or rawhide and the Blackfoot warriors carried them without a sheath, using a simple wrist strap to hang the open blade on their arm.

    No sheath, or no method to hang the sheath at all has been a common carry method among primitive people all over the world. The knife is the primary and sometimes only piece of gear, so just carry it in your hand.

    I have seen one knife attributed to Boone. It is a big sucker with an 8" blade, produced in Sheffield England and taken from the body of a dead Shawnee. It has a sheath of folded leather, sewn with a whelt down the edge, and has two slits cut in an enlarged leather tab for hanging on the belt. It is probably the same sheath shipped from England to the colonies for presentation to the Shawnee being paid to attack Boonesboro.

    I have seen one knife attributed to Crockett. It is a double edged dagger with blade about 6" long. It had a sheath of leather with the seam down the center of the back and a more formal belt loop added to the back. Keep in mind that Crockett lived until the 1830s and was a man of some wealth and property. He traveled the eastern cities and had access to the best of his day. In fact, his last "Old Betsy" was a half stock plains rifle by Derringer and presented to him by the citizens of Philadelphia for his opposition to Jackson in Congress.

    Jackson had an identical copy of the same rifle, so Crockett died at the Alamo with a rifle as good as the one owned by the President.

    Anyway, if you remove the presence of snap fasteners just about any sheath and any style of closure you can imagine has been used down through the ages.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Goliad, Texas
    Posts
    690

    Default

    This is the piece I referred to earlier. It could have been used as a cutting tool or in some other capacity. It is unusual though and is the only one of that configuration I've seen.

    On occasion, when cleaning an animal after hunting I have flaked off a chip of flint and tried it during the skinning or cleaning operation. While I would not want to do the whole animal with a piece of flint, it certainly could be accomplished easily. It is much easier to cut yourself with a piece of flint than with a knife.

    I don't have any representative samples of a knife blade flake here with me now. They could be removed as a long slender flake from a core created for that purpose. NAs in N. America used flint and the Indians of Central Mexico made them from obsidian, particularly for their gruesome religious ceremonies.

    Alan
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    KY bluegrass region-the center of the universe
    Posts
    9,786

    Default

    Yep Allen, that kind of stuff was just dropped into a buckskin bag and tied to the belt, selected, touched up and used as needed.

    Our own Crashdive is a knapper of some renown. For a Squid he has numerous land based skills of merit.

  7. #7
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    SE/SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    26,866

    Default

    One just needs to ask themselves....

    How many many way do you carry your cutting tools?
    Different tools, different situations, different possibilities uses, different available materials......
    Fun to think about, and speculate....

    Strangely, have heard the
    The thread counter nazis do not say much about knives and carry....at rondy....
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Goliad, Texas
    Posts
    690

    Default

    I, like many of you, am overly fascinated by knives. Aside from the stick and the rock, knives are probably one of mankind's (much to the chagrin of the Canadian HSIC {Head Snowflake In Charge}) oldest tools. An accidental byproduct of banging a rock too hard against another rock gave Mankind (there it is again) a tool he could really use and propelled him technologically from tearing at his food with his teeth like and animal to slicing off bite sized chunks to wolf down in refinement. The knife then began a progression of literally thousands of further alterations to perform the multitude of cutting, poking, stabbing, ornamental and religious tasks. Were you to present one of our distant ancestors with even a modest bubble pack knife of today he would likely consider it a gift from the gods.

    Over the ages mankind has used a variety of metals and alloys to make his knives finally arriving at steel sometime shortly before the birth of Christ. I can't imagine trying to put a useful edge on a copper or bronze blade, but for some thousands of years mankind did just that, and happily too.

    When Europeans invaded the Americas they found two whole continents that were to entirely skip the iron age. Middle America had some metallurgy going on but nothing to rival even ancient Rome. 15th century Europeans walked into the middle of a Stone Age culture that had not existed to any extent across the Atlantic in almost 5,000 years. No wonder they thought them to be savages. They were technologically.

    But, they adapted rapidly and in a very short time the old flint chip dropped into disuse in favor of the Iron and Steel which could be traded, stolen or pilfered from the Europeans. I remember reading that one of the favored trade items for the early seaborne traders to the waters of the Northwest of North America was the simple ship nails. They could be pounded into spear points (or knives) for fishing or hunting and, 1 for 1, were worth a sea otter skin. The traders made a killing on those deals.

    As indigenous peoples adopted the new steel and iron blades, they adopted the hafting techniques and sheath carry of the Europeans as well. Although I have nothing to back my opinion with other than imagination, the Ulu presents an intermediate phase of hafting. It incorporates a handle on a blank of steel. However, ulu blades were made from a variety of other materials so that transition to hafting a blade in the Americas would not necessarily be because of the introduction of steel blades.

    Jeeze, I gotta cut this out. I feel like I'm back at work.

    Alan

  9. #9
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    KY bluegrass region-the center of the universe
    Posts
    9,786

    Default

    We are not "back at work", we are just doing what comes naturally to us Allen.

    Teachers transfer information by compulsion and study these details "just in case" we run into someone that needs teaching.

    My kids hated road trips. "Are we there yet?" was never heard. My kids repeated comment was "Dad you are teaching us to death!"

    Vacation days were taken at reenactments for historic sites and museums from Atlantic to the Mississippi and from the Gulf to Lake Erie. We did demonstrations and presentations from Lasalle to The Wild Bunch.

    Some of it took too. #1 son is an archaeologist.

    And you are correct Hunter. Most of the stitch counters do not mess with knife carry methods except for the use of neck knives by settlers. They poo-poo that at the strict historic sites, but their rationale is mostly self induced as the old thing "there is no proof that settlers carried neck knives" and the always famous "that was an Indian thing and the white people would not have done it."

    But there is also no proof that settlers did not carry neck knives. And there is definite proof that many settlers collected Native America battlefield pick up gear and used it, such as Boones knife and the documented sale of loot from Indian villages sold and the proceeds divided among the militia.

    I personally find that carrying a small blade in a neck sheath is really handy, more so than constantly taking a knife from my belt and putting it back time after time. I just want it to be real small and light so it does not pull at my neck or sling around and smack the crap out of me.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Goliad, Texas
    Posts
    690

    Default

    I know. I get the "eye roll" every time someone around here lapses (or wants to change the subject) and asks a question... But then I view no one asking questions as being that I have thus far done an excellent job of teaching and should continue! (eye roll).

    As far as carrying a knife, I suppose I fit into the pocket or belt class. From other lives and working on vehicles on other heavy or light machinery, I got completely out of the habit of wearing any type of extraneous adornments. Nothing around my neck that a fan or fan belt on a truck or tractor could grab (although for a lot of years I got up each morning and tied a noose around my neck and went off to work. I always thought about that when breaking up fights. I'm glad those guys fighting didn't think of it). No rings that could get caught and clip off a finger. Not even a wrist watch that could catch on a branch or tree limb. Wellington boots with no laces, and tight fitting leather gloves. I never even liked carrying a fixed blade knife belt knife because a horse could get tired of me on its back or a cow could decide I didn't need to stand int he gate waving my arms and I could find myself on the ground with no real control over how I landed. A fixed blade knife, even sheathed could cause a wound that would require more than rubbing some dirt on it. So, a neck knife would be out on two counts, the around the neck carry and a fixed blade. Besides, I sat down wrong once on a fixed blade knife and bent the blade at the hilt. It was a buck knife that I had had for a long time. It bent back straight and I retire it. I would have hated to break that one.

    But, for skinning, filleting, butchering, etc.. I use a fixed blade knife. I just don't carry them. My sons all carry fixed blade knives in a variety of sheaths including those horizontal belt sheaths with no strap. I don't know how they keep from losing their knives, but they don't.

    Alan
    Last edited by Alan R McDaniel Jr; 02-06-2018 at 06:18 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    SE/SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    26,866

    Default

    It has been my habit to carry a neck "patch knife" for a few years now....on a leather lace.
    Need to replace the leather lace...getting worn dirty and sweated up ..cracks showing up......
    Called looking good.

    Was a gift from a friend that crafted scales by drilling out an antler tine...and epoxy it on....
    Don't look close at the blade ...made in Taiwan...look like a paring knife blade.....LOL.....

    Does come in handy...and allows me a blade in camp without walking around in full regalia....ropes cords (price tags) eating ......and actually cutting patches a the range.

    Have wondered how "pocket knives were carried prior to having pockets.... especially folding knives with out a locking mechanism
    Last edited by hunter63; 02-06-2018 at 06:20 PM.
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  12. #12
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    tip of the mitt
    Posts
    5,128

    Default

    thanks for the replies
    so the definition of a criminal is someone who breaks the law and you want me to believe that somehow more laws make less criminals?

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Goliad, Texas
    Posts
    690

    Default

    Not having pockets was certainly a problem a long time. Google says the first came into general use in the 17th century. For a short period of time I carried a "Solingen Sodbuster" I had it try to close up on me one day. I put it away right then. I have three of them. They are relegated to non-working roles. My dad gave #3 son one for his Graduation from High School. He closed it on his forefinger that day and off we went to the ER to get his first knuckle sewed back on. Took him about two years to get the feeling back in that finger tip. Kinda hard to feel a trigger pull with no feeling in your trigger finger.

    All my folding knives (that I use on a daily basis) have lock blades except of course the smaller pocket knives.

    Alan

  14. #14
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    tip of the mitt
    Posts
    5,128

    Default

    sometimes I think pockets are a curse. I have a small pail by my dresser. It is filled with screws, wire nuts, bolts, change, 22 lr ammo and just about everything else.
    so the definition of a criminal is someone who breaks the law and you want me to believe that somehow more laws make less criminals?

  15. #15
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    KY bluegrass region-the center of the universe
    Posts
    9,786

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hunter63 View Post

    Have wondered how "pocket knives were carried prior to having pockets.... especially folding knives with out a locking mechanism
    Pockets, before they were included in the pants, were simple bags tied to the belt. The term "cutting the purse strings" comes from thieves robbing folks by simply cutting the strings and running. And I suppose the pocket knives were carried in whatever purse or belt pouch was in use.

    When I was reenacting I used to carry a folding knife in a simple envelope type pouch attached to the side of whatever belt pouch I was using. I always had a belt with a good sized pouch attached worn on the outside of all clothing and the knife on the outside of the pouch kept me from having to go into the pouch each time I needed the knife.

    I know the French in North America had the habit of carrying their folding knives hung from their belts on a lace. I would suppose they had a hole for the lanyard.

    Pocket knives go way back to before Roman times and they are one of the most common finds in most dig sites. There have always been simple folding knives without a spring in each culture. In the English culture they were called "Penny Knives", primarily because they cost a penny, and they were everywhere. The common shape of the blade of the penny knife was carried down to the "Barlow knife", which has been with us since the 1600s.

    The French and Spanish also brought their simple folding knife to the New World and scattered them everywhere. A wood handle was most common but some were a step up and had bone of horn scales. The French and Spanish peasant knives were more graceful in form than the English styles.

    They were very popular among the Native Americans too. We do not generally think about Indians using pocket knives but they are very common items at many Native American village sites.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Antonyraison's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Johannesburg South Africa
    Posts
    1,141

    Default

    I would like to think from when knives where more or less close to what we know knives to be today,
    they likely carried them in sheaths tucked behind their pants/wasit band/belt.
    Much like Matt Graham's Primitive Survival Knife Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.
    My youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ultsmackdown Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/antonyraison/

    (BOSWA) ELITE SURVIVAL RANGER - BSR/16/05

  17. #17
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    SE/SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    26,866

    Default

    Couple of styles on the buchskinne belt.....not worn all at once....my drawers would fall down.

    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  18. #18
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    56,675

    Default

    Now that right there is funny I don't care who you are.

    Hunter, what the hey are you doin?
    Tryin to pull my drawers up?
    What's the problem?
    Every time I pull them up I cut the crap out of my legs.
    You gotta get a sheath for those things

  19. #19
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    SE/SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    26,866

    Default

    Pssssst, the sheaths are behind the knives....just saying.
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  20. #20
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    tip of the mitt
    Posts
    5,128

    Default

    on another note, what was the economic status of Boone? was he well off?
    so the definition of a criminal is someone who breaks the law and you want me to believe that somehow more laws make less criminals?

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •