New copies of my book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques are now available from Amazon at $24.95.
This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alamo Memorabilia Donated by Phil Collins

The above photo is from a press conference discussing the singer Phil Collins' donation of collection of Alamo memorabilia to the museum at that San Antonio landmark. It was captioned, "Phil Collins holds a Bowie knife that belonged to Jesse Robinson who fought under Jim Bowie at the Battle of Concepcion and the Siege of Bexar on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 in San Antonio."

The video attached to the news article linked below starts with Collins holding the knife and saying it was probably made by James Black in Arkansas. At first I thought he was joking. The knife shown is typical of those made and sold around the time of the movie "The Iron Mistress" (1952) and "The Alamo" (1960) and is not authentic to the 1830s. I hope the other articles in Collins' collection have a better provenance!

Here is what bowie knife expert Bernard Levine wrote about this style of knife: "The earliest positively dated example of this type bowie is the one on the cover of Harold Peterson's 1958 book, American Knives. That knife was made in 1955. Since then, hundreds of these knives have been made. Actually thousands. One maker, Allan Hitchen of Southport, England, has made 100s since the late 1950s -- all unmarked, all 'aged' with acid and soot. . . . No antique knife (bowie or otherwise) looks like this. . . . If you like this style of "knife," check out the Carvel Hall versions. They are cheap and well made."

Phil Collins remembers the Alamo with donation of artifacts

Austin Bureau
Published: 28 October 2014 10:54 PM
Updated: 29 October 2014 06:41 AM

SAN ANTONIO — British rocker Phil Collins watched from a few feet beyond the north wall of the Alamo as wooden crates the size of large amps were hydraulically lowered from a truck.

The songwriter of “Against All Odds” believed he had struck the perfect note by bringing home historical artifacts once owned by the defenders of the Alamo.

“I’m not sad,” he said Tuesday as the largest collection of Alamo memorabilia in the world was delivered. The 200-piece collection is worth between $10 million and $15 million. It took him two decades to assemble.

“I’m really happy that it’s going here, because this is the place where it should be,” said Collins, who gained worldwide fame in the band Genesis and as a solo performer. “This completes a journey for me.”

The collection will eventually be a key component to a museum. Some pieces returned to the Alamo for the first time in 178 years. They were scattered on March 6, 1836, when the garrison’s remaining force of 200 men fell to the overwhelming army of Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna after a 13-day standoff.

Collins said his fascination with the battle and the legends who fought it — Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, William B. Travis — began when he was about 6 years old, growing up in England but watching the American TV show Davy Crockett.

“From that moment, I was hooked on this story. It just stayed with me all the way through the music years,” he said.

It seemed a worthwhile obsession. “I decided to spend my money on that instead of Ferraris,” he said.

His collection also includes mementos from the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas secured its independence, and a trove of historical documents.

There is Jim Bowie’s legendary knife and one of four existing rifles known to have belonged to Crockett, as well as his fringed leather musket ball pouch. There are letters from Alamo commander Travis, Santa Anna’s sword, the hats of Mexican officers and cannonballs.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose office oversees the historical mission and who formalized the agreement with Collins, said the artifacts will be publicly displayed only a few at a time for the near future.

A foundation has been created to help raise $100 million toward a museum and visitors center to display the complete collection and present the story of the Alamo. Patterson estimated the project could take another five years.

Collins, 63, said finding a permanent home for his collection became important to him within the last year as he began organizing his estate.

Last February, he was visiting San Antonio, as he does frequently, looking for a museum that might be suitable. His friend Jim Guimarin, who owns the History Shop next to the Alamo, arranged for him to meet Kaye Tucker, the point person for the Alamo in Patterson’s office.

“Jim asked if I wanted to go to dinner with Phil Collins. I wasn’t going to pass on that,” she said.

Tucker said that over a meal of tacos and enchiladas, Guimarin told Collins there was something that Tucker wanted to ask. And so she ventured that the Alamo would love to have his collection.

“I was gobsmacked,” Collins recalled. “The idea of it coming back home…”

Arrangements were quickly made. Collins oversaw the shipping and delivery from his home in Switzerland.

Collins said holding little pieces of history — hats, guns, spurs of the Alamo fighters — connects him with the frailties and courage of the people who owned them.

“I would have some sadness and maybe thinking it was a mistake if it were going to a museum that didn’t have any emotional contact … with the Alamo,” he said. “This is the best thing that could happen to it.”

Collins, who has sold more than 100 million records, said that he has kept the passion of collecting and music separate in his life. The Alamo did not consciously color any of his songs.

“They’re all about my ex-wives,” he said with a laugh.

But maybe, he said, one song title came subliminally to him: “Do You Remember.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bronze of James Bowie by Michael Trcic

I am very impressed with this magnificent bronze bust of James Bowie created by sculptor Michael Trcic, for sale at his website. He really caught the spirit as well as the likeness of the man. Beneath the bust are scenes from the Sandbar Fight.

Trcic's other sculptures on Western themes are also quite striking.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Knife-Fighting Classes in New York City in 1842!

One of the subjects that intrigued me when I was researching my bowie knife book was whether there actually was any organized knife-fighting instruction available in 19th-century America. I did come across a few references, and just today was informed of another. The following advertisement, which was published in the New York Herald in 1842,  offers among other things instruction in the "hunting knife." This advertisement was uncovered by Maestro Jeanette Accosta-Martinez of the Martinez Academy of Arms in New York City and passed along to me by Phil Crawley.

 The Fencing Saloon & Shooting Gallery was run by a "K. Mees," on whom I have been unable to discover anything more. He offered instruction in "Fencing; also in the use of the straight, crooked, and Turkish sword, hunting knife, musket and bayonet, staff, and every species of weapons."

The facility was located at 413 Broadway, just below Canal Street in lower Manhattan. The "210 yards" shooting range seems like a misprint, especially as the focus is on pistol shooting. Perhaps 20 yards was intended.