Looking at fur trade ledgers, one sees many entries for knives. You can find Pen knives, Jack knives, “Durk” knives, Common, Butcher, Scalping and knives even by brand name such as “Wilson”.
Today I would like to show you my two Butcher knives and one Common knife.
The first is a antler handled knife made by Universal. The blade is what I would call the “common” style of shape.
This knife has a 5 1/2 carbon steel blade, with a slight tapered half tang. The antler handle is held by a steel pin. The knife itself dates from the 1890’s to early 19 teens.
This knife was given to me by my friend Dave.
The knife in the middle is a Christopher Johnson & Co. Butcher style knife.
It is a 5 1/2 in bladed knife with cow horn handles and a full tang.
When I won this knife at a blanket shoot it had on wood handles held with five pins.
After much thinking and studying I came to the conclusion that the handles were a new addition to the knife and Dave added the horn handles.
I believe that this knife came to America in the 1970’s when Atlanta Cutlery imported new old stock blade blanks from England.
Again this knife dates from the 1890’s to early teens.
The last knife is a fabled Russell Green River butcher. Ruxton himself makes much of these knives in his work Life in the Far West. This knife has a 8 inch blade with a tapered tang and a wood handle held with five pins.
I use this knife as a “camp” and cooking knife.
As with the two other knives this one is also from the 1890’s to early teens.
While the dates of these three knives are after the height of the fur trade I believe that all three knives are representative of the basic belt knives of the fur trade.
Knife shapes did not change much in this period. The most note worthy changes in knives from the fur trade era to a knife from today are the use of cutler’s rivets, non tapered tangs and the use of stainless steel.
One last thought, these three knives are pretty plain. No fancy etching or elaborate handles. All three have good honest steel blades, not stainless or any other space age metal.
They do however feel right and work wonderfully.