If there was ever a quintessential American knife design, it would have to be the Bowie knife. Its murky origins have a mysterious shroud, but once word of this knife got out, people had to have one. When westward expansion began and folks had to survive in the harsh realities of pioneer life it became, in a way, the first modern survival knife


The Bowie knife first rose to prominence because of a duel in which Jim Bowie was an observer. It took place on Wednesday, September 19, 1827, on a sandbar outside of Natchez, Mississippi. Although the two duelists in question fired their shots and settled the dispute with a handshake, the other 15 attendees engaged in a brawl known today as “The Sandbar Fight.”

Bowie had a reputation as a fearsome brawler and was specifically targeted. Exact accounts vary, but Bowie was allegedly shot at least three times, impaled with a sword cane, had a pistol broken over his head, and stabbed between four and seven times. All eyewitness accounts do agree that he didn’t start the fight, but he matched and bested multiple opponents single-handedly with a large knife.

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