Date: 2018-02-18 14:35
Knives in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Virginia and North Carolina were ubiquitous. There was relatively *censored* demand for imported knives, as local blacksmiths, gunsmiths, and even individuals made them by the thousands to satisfy the needs for a utilitarian cutting and/or fighting blade. Knives were made of steel to retain a sharp cutting edge. Of course, traditional knives and daggers were made such as the formal dagger in Figure 55. This dagger from the Valley of Virginia has a whitesmithed guard, iron ferrule, and fitted leather sheath (Fig. 55, Formal VA-made dagger). The less formal, but still traditional, dagger in Figure 56 was fashioned from a spent file. It, too, is from the Valley of Virginia (Fig. 56, VA dagger made from a file ). The pewter band around the hilt was a period repair to the hilt. In addition to the traditional forms, a vernacular form of knife also evolved. These knives were generally fitted with bone or deer-antler hilts. While many were professionally made, many more were homemade by the owners. The mid eighteenth-century belt knife with a bone hilt in Figure 57 descended in a Shenandoah County, Virginia family. It was probably blacksmith made, and it was found along with a rifleman’s bag and horn (Fig. 57, Early Virginia belt knife ). Conversely, a gunsmith likely made the large, Valley of Virginia, belt knife in Figure 58 for a customer. This knife dates to the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century (Fig. 58, Gunsmith-made belt knife). A more diminutive and often more rustic style of these vernacular knives is the patch knife (Fig. 59, six examples of patch knives). Patch knives were carried in a leather sheath usually attached to a rifleman’s bag. They were used for small cutting jobs but primarily for cutting cloth patches for covering the balls fired from a rifle. Rifle balls fit snugly in a rifle barrel. The cloth patch around the ball actually engages the rifling or spiral grooves in a rifle barrel, thus imparting a stabilizing spin on the ball when fired from a rifle. The top knife and the knife in the center with the iron ferrule probably were professionally made. The rest likely were products of their owners, fashioned from files, broken saw blades, other knives, scrap pieces of steel, etc. All of these illustrated patch knives, dating from the early nineteenth century, were found in the Valley of Virginia, but other similar ones were made and used all over the frontier areas of Virginia and North Carolina. Wherever and whenever there was a man with a longrifle, there was a small knife for cutting patches.
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