trade knives (or ANY knife)

18th century historical research, frontier reenacting/trekking.

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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Giiwednong Naabe » Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:23 pm

Great thread and informative thought's and discussion. Nothing to add but as often happens,, a few questions ;

If were talking the 18th cent. then that's a 100 year time span, how or did trade knives differ or the availability of English trade knives within the geographical area of the new United States change after the Rev war when for the most part the British were now seen by many as the enemy? After the Rev war American expansion westward for settlement was by many agriculturally focused as compared to fur trading.

What would the knife of an average settler/farmer have been and what would the percentage of trade knives to average utility knife by settlers be in regards to the overall population of any area?

In regards to Native trade post rev war and British trade goods/knives, would these knives still have been sought after by those Americans trading, working or involved in the fur trade? a little later it is known the American dept. of Indian affairs struggled to supply goods to the Natives of the same quality as they were accustomed to from the British, blankets etc.,,, would this also have included knives?

Sorry for all the questions but the subject of knives covers a lot of years and geographical area and is just plain really interesting!
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Ken Hamilton » Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:24 am

RPr..........so, it is a big difference to point out the use of "foreign" goods for one's own trade.....(for whatever reason)...and justifying making or using "fantasy" items. That is not the same thing at all???? I would also maintain that "Fantasy" and "home-made" are likewise not necessarily the same either.

Early U.S. industries were slow to produce any thing of great quality or quantity, although Native markets were often used to certain products from previous regimes. Thus, until the program was suspended, the American Indian Factory system (U.S War Dept. operated a number of "factory" trading posts for the Indian Fur/deerskin trade, with products "at cost") frequently HAD to buy foreign goods, although they tried to promote and use "domestic" American made goods, such as printed cotton and calico from the mills in Lowell MA.....Critical foreign goods included things like Stroud cloth, and brass kettles which obviously were virtually unavailable during the Jefferson embargoes and War of 1812. Early U.S. commercial gun making and cutlery (low level mass production) occurred in Philadelphia for example and were "pushed".

So, even then, (during the transition or embargo era), "pattern" knives were STILL commercially available, although on could SURMISE that during this era a "home made" knife might well show up.
One EVIDENCE of this was the N. American blacksmith made knife designed and sponsored by Jim Bowie :!:

But, this is not the 18th cent.
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby RPr » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:13 pm

While it is true that some items do become fixed in time; the Swastika was in use long before Nazi Germany, white or blue cloth flat Feld seamed pants appeared before Mr. Levi and drop point fighting knives appeared before Mr. Bowie. All these folks did was to popularize a particular item and link it indelibly to their time and name.

There is nothing particularly noble about limiting one's persona to a particular time or place. While I like to limit my presentations to mid Indiana between 1740 and 1750; I have met folks who's specialties in clothing, firearms, beadwork, and a host of other subject, would easily spans 50 to 75 years. They see no purpose to limiting their enjoyment of a subject to a few short years or locations. These folk are walking encyclopedias of their field of knowledge. They know the time, place and peculiarities of their subject and gladly share this with the public.

While one can point to a location and time and say that was when this or that item was popular, it is not accurate to assert that the item did not exist before that time. Almost all inventions build on the idea and attempt of others. The only true fantasy items are those that would not have existed because the materials, technology or opportunity were not present at the time.

This leads to the conundrum of which is more of a fantasy; a piece of wool clothing whose color, shape, or purpose have not been documented or an investment cast lock, mock ivory knife handles on a steel blade, sun forager canvas tenting?

No everybody shares the same reenactor mindset.
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Sanscoeur » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:05 pm

Giiwednong Naabe wrote:Great thread and informative thought's and discussion. Nothing to add but as often happens,, a few questions ;

If were talking the 18th cent. then that's a 100 year time span, how or did trade knives differ or the availability of English trade knives within the geographical area of the new United States change after the Rev war when for the most part the British were now seen by many as the enemy?


I've been deeply studying Spanish Illinois lately, and it leads me to make an observation about "English trade knives". In 1792 the merchants of St. Louis formed a joint stock company for the purpose of exploring the source of the Missouri River and, further, to find the passage west to the Pacific Ocean. Of course they wanted to exploit the tribes that they encountered on the path north for commercial purposes. They gathered thousands of piasters worth of trade goods with which to pay off the various First Nations that they knew they would encounter. These trade goods were shipped up from New Orleans, jobbed from importers who had already established commerce with metropolitan French suppliers. But the French Revolution stemmed the flow of merchandise from France and St. Louis merchants felt the heat of mercantile competition from Michilimackinac and Prairie du Chien. A new expedition was launched from St. Louis each successive year for about six years. As trade goods got harder and harder to obtain from traditional sources the "CEO" of the St. Louis merchants talked a trader from Michilimackinac (Mr. Todd) into moving to New Orleans and continuing to conduct his customary trade on the Upper Mississippi as long as he would also serve as a source of British trade goods to the St. Louis merchants. Now Mr. Todd's illegal trade in the Spanish regions of the upper Mississippi would be protected since he was, more or less, a subject of King Carlos.

The House of Todd operated out of New Orleans up until the Louisiana Purchase, purveying boatloads of English knives, textiles, and muskets up the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. There are many times in North American history when the term "Nos amis, les ennemis" ("Our friends, the enemy") rings poignant, especially as regards dealings in trade and commercial enterprise. No matter how much anybody disliked another party due to their religion or their king, the availability of guns and butter in a limited marketplace could smooth a lot of wrinkles in relationships.
«S’il n’y avait en Angleterre qu’une religion, le despotisme serait à craindre; s’il y en avait deux, elles se couperaient la gorge; mais il y en a trente, et elles vivent en paix et heureuses».
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Ken Hamilton » Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:02 am

RPr,
I think one's whole philosophy and "techniques" for living history could be summed up in one's ONE SENTENCE DEFINITION of "Living History".

Mine might be something like:
"To use clothing and equipment for a 10-15 year target date for a specific character and place, based on known evidence as best as I can, and be prepared to use everything safely, effectively and maintain a VISUAL PRESENCE of that moment in time".

Unless one is on an historical "trek" or similar "EMERSION" experience............Publicly viewed Living History is largely "theatre"...we only have two primary requirements....SAFETY and VISUAL ACCURACY.

I say "visual accuracy" because one likely has hidden ice in a cooler, modern beverages, favorite modern snacks, medicine, personal hygiene items, car keys, modern money and possibly even some event schedules or other paperwork? One might even have your modern change of clothes in camp too. Who's gonna tell a woman or kids they can't have what is convenient or needed by them (except modern things hidden during public hours)? If you are on a boat, you also need USCG approved floatation devises and possibly a light, charts, and even repair kit etc...?

If someone was to snap a photo (of ANY aspect of one's kit or camp), could it be used as an historical document in a high level scrutiny educational setting...(like YOUR photo as a poster at the "fort" visitor center".... or, is it just going to be a "fun tyme" Rendeevoos" thingy?
We are our own "police" and we all know many who SHOULD be "under history arrest".
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Ken Hamilton » Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:05 am

Sanscoeur,
Do you think the US Government under Jefferson got the DIRECT idea for the Lewis and Clark expedition from the activities of the St. Louis "corporation"???????

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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Sanscoeur » Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:45 am

As A Matter Of Fact...

Spaniards needed experienced surveyors to create charts more accurate than those that could be rendered by the traders the Missouri Company was sending upriver. James Mackay became disenchanted with his British employers out of Canada and pledged fealty to the Spanish Crown. Since Mackay had already made contact with the Mandan villages of present-day North Dakota from the north he seemed an excellent candidate to lead the charge up the Missouri to approach the Mandans from the south. Mackay had an accomplice, John Evans, who was already geared up for a mission to the Mandans for an entirely different purpose. Evans was a Welshman who was interested in proving the myth of Welsh Prince Modoc, who allegedly colonized the New World in medieval times. Since the Mandan Indians had genetic traits that sometimes yielded blue eyes or light-colored hair Welsh nationalists believed that it proved Welsh primacy in the invasion of North America.

These two guys ascended the Missouri in 1795 with 50,000 pesos worth of goods. Mackay established a "fort" with the Omaha Indians and Evans proceeded north. After a couple of attempts he finally reached the Mandans in September 1796. Evans created a pretty good map that is today preserved in the Beinecke Library. Most interesting for readers of this post: Evans' map was reproduced by the Indian Office and was actually carried by Lewis and Clark. They were following a charted path until they left the Hidatsa villages behind. In fact, Mackay actually met with Lewis and Clark in St. Charles before their departure.
«S’il n’y avait en Angleterre qu’une religion, le despotisme serait à craindre; s’il y en avait deux, elles se couperaient la gorge; mais il y en a trente, et elles vivent en paix et heureuses».
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Giiwednong Naabe » Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:35 pm

Thanks Sanscoeur, great info. A lot of those Montreal fur merchants were fantastic business men and were obviously successful for a reason ( John Astor of course equally successful and all of these business men known to each other).

Todd must have been a busy guy working both sides of the fence so as to speak. Were some of these goods supplied by him finding his way into the American territories for use by folks other then Natives? I know there was still British fur traders illegally trading into the States from Michilimackinac ( at least up until 1796, and after simply basing themselves on British territory) but did areas such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio etc. see these items become fewer and fewer as the fur trade as well as those Native Nations were pushed further west?

I can't help but ask well were discussing " trade knives ( or ANY knife ) " Any idea when we start to see the term used by many British allied Natives to describe Americans as " Kitchimokoman " / Big/long knife or is it an earlier term used by French allied Native Nations used to describe the British? I recall theories of swords etc. but one would think both European counterparts had swords of similar length style etc.,,,, hunting sword?
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Ken Hamilton » Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:53 pm

Giiwedenong Naabe, et al,

Although the "technical" aspects of LANGUAGES are boring to many......it is worth dissecting (a little) for specific purposes...like the discussion of KNIFE terms being thrown around on a 400 year old frontier. Borrowed, re-used, adapted and evolving these terms are RARELY stagnant, and like anything else need to be understood in the context of that place and moment in time, yes?

Case in point...many want to believe (and will continue to do so no matter what evidence is given), the term "Long Knife" refers to "Rifleman's knives" (whatever that is?) or even "hunting swords". This is not the case. Couteauux de chasse (singular "couteau de chasse) is DEFINATELY confused with "cutoe", "couteaux", "cutau" etc...which was a BORROWED French term for English folding spring knives in the early 18th cent.....and have been frequently confused by many modern historians are meaning hunting swords to the point where to this day, many STILL think that 100's if not 1000's of "hunting swords" were issued to colonial troops and militia during the American Revolution, which although a few certainly were carried....the former was not the case...now was it???? :|
....BUT the term "Long Knife" is absolutely already well in use by the early 17th cent. Eastern seaboard Algonquians....and at the time, referred to the ENGLISH COLONISTS. Similarly the French are known as "Axe-men" by the Iroquois, and "Stick waivers" by the Ojibwa (wooden crosses likely).

Although I don't have the exact quote here, and have seen it before, Capt. john Smith wrote that early VA Natives used the term "Long Knife" (ie. sword) for the English (would be "the long knife people"....for the long Rapier swords carried at that time.

However, I DO have this quote from the early 17th cent. Quaker colonist Roger Williams from Rhode Island.
In his 1643 Narragansett (RI) Algonquian language key, Williams states that although Englishmen are known as "coat/clothed men" in the Narraganset language, he says they are also known as "knife men (probably BIG-knife men)....because Williams is not a "perfect" linquist :!: and seems to have missed the "CHE..." (ie. "big") at the beginning of the noun for knife....which although he describes no less than 5 distinctive words for "knife" without any further explanation....., he says that because one term for knife ("Chauquock") causes them to add a plural, ANIMATE ending to signify "Knive men" (sic)...(which I would suggest is actually "BIG-knive men"...........forming "Chauquaqock".(pp 37-38). (Funny the Narragansett chose THIS term for knives instead of the other four which do NOT use the prefix "CHE/chi" for "big" :wink: in each respective noun). Anyway, This term, therefore, again refers to the rapier swords carried by early 17th cent colonists. It would make quite an impact visually, and were the subject of contention when Natives were REFUSED any ownership of these weapons (there are such quotes). American dragoons and other mounted troops in the Little Turtle,Black Hawk and 1812 wars would have made this a poingnant RE-INVENTION of the word for the Algonqian speaking people of the Old NW Territories, yes?

Interestingly (Giiwedenong Naabe you would appreciate this), Williams also gives the word "Mokotick" (with an animate plural ending for knives as well, and is noticeably similar to the Ojibwa/Odawa "Mookoman" :D

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Last edited by Ken Hamilton on Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:34 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Ken Hamilton » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:52 am

Does the famous quote in living history apply here?:

"If they would have had "painters pants" they would have used them"
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby hrayton1 » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:14 am

Ken, is there an established (date, roughly) breakpoint, where east coast natives transitioned from a Neolithic culture into a replacement culture? I imagine first contact with Europeans would have been pretty impressive, the most mundane items would have taken on significance, and grown in the retelling as the tale spread. I am an avid artifact collector, and I still surface hunt the fields here in Illinois after a good rain storm. Over the years I have picked up several knives, they are knapped out of flint, or heat treated chert for the most part. They are small, with about a 3.5-4" cutting edge, designed to be hafted along the side of the "point" rather than being hafted at the base like an arrow point. My point is(pun not intended but I'll leave it there) after centuries of the same tool use and construction, resharpening until discarded, and having to make more, even an item as mundane as a butter knife, would have seemed pretty cool and exotic, I imagine every day utility knives, folders, etc. would have seemed "long" in comparison to what they were using. By the time the locals had acquired metal arrow points, metal knives of their own, along with axes...(product, market saturation) I am sure the term would have stuck. "Knife people."
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Fitz Williams » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:02 am

Ken Hamilton wrote:Giiwedenong Naabe, et al,

... to this day, many STILL think that 100's if not 1000's of "hunting swords" were issued to colonial troops and militia during the American Revolution, which although a few certainly were carried....the former was not the case...now was it???? :|

Ken


There is a comment about the aftermath of the Battle of Kings Mt., where the entire left flank of Cornwallis' army was captured, where someone says (I don't recall who) that many men (Colonial militia) now had swords who had previously been unable to obtain them. So it would seem that swords were anything but plentiful.
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L'histoire est une suite de mensonges sur lesquels on est d'accord.
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby RPr » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:44 pm

The issue is not "If they would have had "painters pants" they would have used them", the concern is; just because a person hand sews a pair of pants that looks similar to today's painters pants, are they period correct?

It is easy if a pair of pants have nylon mesh pockets, twin needle stitching, elastic cuffs and ankles, or they are made from polar fleece, I believe they would not period correct because nylon, dual needle sewing machines, elastic bands and polar fleece was beyond the material and technology of the time.

What makes the period correct judgment a bit more dicey is that Levis, Dockers and other pants stand out is not so much the cut of the cloth, as it is the gloss and pattern of the cotton blend, the double needle stitched flat seams and pockets plus the rivets. Even when a person makes another item from the same material, chances you would recognize the base material as coming from a pair of jeans. So is that pouch or haversack period correct?

So to with knives, if a reenactor's favorite pocket knife was an aluminum handle and they disassemble it and make a wooden handled pocket knife, chances are it would still have the finger nail notch.

In the end it is the reenactor's judgment as to what is period correct. I attended a shoot where the smoothbore shooters had to use paper cartridges or wading, not a patched round ball. It was their shoot and their rules. At most events "what does not show does not count", so I can empty my Coke into my tin cup in the tent. However, a few events were not quite so loosely interpreted.

It is important to keep in mind that while these issues may be important to some reenactors, it is just wasted rhetoric to others.
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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby AxelP » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:33 pm

is this conversation devolving into a reenactment of a Monty Python skit?
Galatians 1:3 & 4

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Re: trade knives (or ANY knife)

Postby Brokennock » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:31 am

AxelP wrote:is this conversation devolving into a reenactment of a Monty Python skit?


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