Museum Talk

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Man has always been fascinated with knives and the Buffalo Island Museum has a collection of antique knives. There is a Gurkha knife with flowers embossed on the handle, a Bowie knife, knuckle knife, Pakistan throwing knife, an unusual dagger with a bird's head handle, a knife with a jeweled handle, and others. Some of these were donated by area soldiers who fought in foreign countries and brought a knife back home to Buffalo Island.

Buffalo Island Museum in Monette displays a collection of antique knives.

Knives are one of the oldest and most useful tools. There is evidence of knives in the Stone Age where the caveman made his knife of flint, chipping away little pieces of rock until he had a sharp edge.

Bone and wood were also used as knives in earlier times. Fire was discovered and the art of melting metal began. Man now made knives of bronze, iron and later copper. The first metal knives were mostly double edged daggers. The first single edged knife was made in the Bronze Age over 4000 years ago.

Man took pride in having not only a sharp one, but also a beautiful knife as well. Early knives were decorated with feathers, but later gold, silver and jewels were embedded. In early cultures, owning a knife was a source of pride. Even today there are cultures such as the Gurkha people whose knives have a religious significance and they carry their knives everywhere.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, hosts did not provide cutlery for their guests, so people carried their own knives. But as time went on, knives were made to be used in the kitchen and dining table. An interesting fact about the history of knives happened in 1669 when King Louis XIV of France ordered all pointed knives illegal and had all knife points ground down in order to reduce violence.

Perhaps the most famous American knife is the Bowie knife. Jim Bowie designed his knife in the early 1800s. It is known for its curvaceous blade and top notch. The most famous version was made by Arkansas blacksmith James Black in 1830.

In the past the knife was used mostly for hunting and survival, but today knives are mainly made for sport and work, and are mostly made from steel, ceramic and titanium.

Buffalo Island Museum is closed during the winter months, but we hope to see you when we open in the spring. Admission is free. Please visit our Facebook page for current information and pictures.

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