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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Follow-Up on the "Iron Mistress" Bowie

Though it was said to be inspired by an early bowie knife in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, the bowie knife designed for "The Iron Mistress" (1952) is not representative of any authentic example that we know of. Nevertheless, its design appealed to many people and it remains available from various makers today. Gil Hibben said he was inspired to become a knife maker by the 1952 film and still makes several versions of the bowie in that style.

Above: Gil Hibben

Knifemaker Bo Randall anticipated a market for a bowie-style knife after the film and decided to make his own version. He contacted a friend who ran a theater in Orlando and got a frame from "The Iron Mistress" from which he made a 5” x 7” print for reference. That print is still on display at the Randall museum, and the knife designed from it is called the Smithsonian Bowie.

In 1957, Randall contacted Alan Ladd requesting the actual dimensions of the movie knife. Ladd responded personally, and gave the measurements as “Total length of knife -- 16 inches, blade -- 10-1/2 inches, handle -- 5 inches, width of blade -- 2-1/2 inches, blade thickness -- 3/8 inch, and guard between blade and handle -- 3-1/2 inches.” These measurements were close to what Randall had extrapolated from the movie scene he had worked from.
Above: The Randall Smithsonian Bowie. It differs from the original movie knife in that the blade widens near the tip and the upper curve of the clip point is closer to that of the traditional bowie. The handle is of the typical Randall style, with stacked leather washers.

The "Iron Mistress" continues to inspire knife makers, as evidenced by these examples created by Steve Voorhis:

Above: A Voorhis bowie that replicates the Iron Mistress knife. (Click on image to make it larger.)

Above: A similar Voorhis bowie but with a more traditional clip point and decorative fittings that give it a touch of barbarian splendor. (Click on image to make it larger.)

There is more information on the Iron Mistress bowie in a 2007 thread at Blade Forums.


  1. I don't mine you using them but how bout a comment of where you got the Voorhis pics?

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