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 NECK KNIVES REFERENCE

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Buck Conner
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PostSubject: NECK KNIVES REFERENCE   December 20th 2017, 6:47 pm

Stoney (member of the site) and of "The Mountain Man Emporium" asked me if I had information on "Neck Knives". He has been looking at some knifes seen with Goggle searches, seeing some nice ones and may questionable ones (poor workmanship). Being an old friend and told him I would see what I had in the file cabinet.
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NECK KNIVES
A neck knife is a small knife worn on a cord hanging from a person's neck. It usually means a small fixed-blade knife which is carried by means of a cord, by which the knife sheath is suspended from around one's neck, hung handle up. The knife may be hung from a loop of animal sinew cord, braided cordage, or a leather thong. A hide leather or rawhide sheath is used, when drawing the knife the off side hand holds the sheath while the dominant hand pulls the knife.

Neck knives are usually single-edged, with blade lengths typically under four inches, and frequently less than three inches. They are primarily intended for utilitarian use, although non-utilitarian versions do exist.
Neck knives are most frequently worn around the neck, but may be suspended from shooting pouches.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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This does not mean that there were no "utility" knives as classified by Gordon Minnis in his book, "American Primitive Knives 1770-1870". The idea that a "patch knife" was a "standard part of any rifleman's equipment" brings to mind the picture of a rifleman engaged in a fire fight such as King's Mountain or another engagement stopping to pull out a strip of cloth or buckskin, then taking the time in using his "patch knife" to cut a patch each time he fired his rifle?
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The question of the use of neck knives has long been on record as opposing the overuse by white settlers using Native identified items including but not limited to neck knives, silver, and quill work. Exceptions are such as Couriers du bois, Voyageurs, and those whites intimately associated with Natives such as having Native wives. Often referred to as "White Indians" and usually includes trappers, traders and the like in North America. 

I have two original neck knives documented by the family’s that sold them. One has a blade approx. 5 1/4" blade with a quill wrapped handle (rounded) carried in a quilled sheath, the other an early 17th century knife like seen in "The Iron Trade-Knife in Oneida Territory" by Gilbert Hagerty, it features a 4 3/8" pointed blade and a steel pinned wooden handle (flat).

Often, reference books are "compilations" and rarely if never, "archeologically" or "historically" documented or having any provenance. Most times, they are the author’s idea of what is "period correct," mixed in with views and opinions from books compiled. The views and opinions of the author in how he went about collecting the "artifact" he wants to showcase from his personal collection or by friends from their collections wanted showcased or illustrated. In many cases the "older" an artifact is, the more cash value is the bottom line. The thinking is a "1770" knife is worth more than an "1870" one. 

While family histories can be true or false, ex. a breech loading musket (American Civil War) crossed our desk in the Gun Library at Cabala's, a family claimed the gun was used by their g-g-g-g-grandfather in the Rev War. When corrected they walked out not believing it was later than their family thought, all we could do is correct them as to what they had.

A prominent local family donated; "family heirloom" items that was actually from the 1860's and not 1776's, no one at this museum was willing to offend them risking losing the total donation so they put on the display as a 1776 era piece. This really set Charles E. Hanson, Jr. off when viewing this gross mismarking.

 
Always remember what an archeology professor wrote “an artifact that exists out of its archeological and historical context is just an artifact”. Without reference and professional analysis and testing, it is just an artifact. 

Items can be wrong, false, or suspect to question. Some think just seeing undocumented or unproven artifacts in a book or museum means they are period correct because they are in a reference book. (don't believe this baloney).

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Knives were used as tools for hunting and other chores; skinning animals to camp duties. Knives consisted of a blade made of stone, bone, deer antler or crude iron or metal, fastened to a wooden handle with hide glue to steel pins, brass when available. Native American knives were also made as mentioned, following the European settlers' weapon making influences. Native Americans were known to carry their knives in sheaths, either on their belts or around their neck. They often used beads, feathers, and painted to decorate their sheaths with Native American symbols/designs.


Waldman, C. (1958). Encyclopedia of Native American tribes (2nd ed.) New York: Checkmark Books.

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