History of knives. The Trade Knife

What is a trade knife

This was a term used for a knife such as the one above put on knives going back as far as the eighteenth century. This term was used on almost any knife that could be considered a scalping knife. Allot of these knives were shipped in casks of 100 dozen at a time to a Fur Company or trading company. In the field the demand for these knives were very high especially during the mountain man era bringing in almost 100 per cent profit for the company. These knives could demand as high as $2.00 a piece in 1832 and I am sure if one were in the back country and a good blade was needed it was worth ten times that amount.

Allot of these knives had no handle attached so they could shipped allot easier and when some one purchased a knife or the knife blade was traded a handle was attached by the owner or perhaps a town smith.

The style above was very common. The tang was considered a half tang or split tang and was slotted back into the handle and held with one or two iron rivets peen-ed into place. Brass, silver or copper were used as well for handle pins. Some handles ended up being decorated by Native Americans or fur trappers, haft-ed in leather, rawhide or wire. Some were even wrapped with trade cloth.

The design above is of french influence. Considered a French trade knife done from original design blades. The knife was around seven inches in blade length but there are examples of similar knife designs with blades as large as eleven inches. Blade designs did vary from what is shown, some being straight points blades, some being curved in fashion, almost resembling large skinners.

Knives such as this were common all the way into the the days of the Fur Trade well into the back end of the late 1800's

Comments 3 comments

lawrence kramer 5 years ago

Trade knives always look like butcher knives to me. since butcher knives must have pre-dated trade knives, why aren't they called butcher knives instead of scalpers, frontier knives, etc? If you cut a box open with a butcher knife it doesn't change that knife into a box cutter.

Interesting that one had to put his own handle on them sometimes & also make a sheath, I would guess. ML Knives would have been even more busy in those days.


mlesniewski profile image

mlesniewski 5 years ago from Upstate NY Author

People have called early style knives such as this different names through the years.


CSharp 2 years ago

In case anyone else wonders why they weren't called butcher knives, there were different shapes (actually mentioned in this article)--some, like the one pictured above, some with trailing points, some with what looked like clip point blades. There are pictures of more examples of trade knives here:

http://www.nps.gov/grpo/historyculture/trade-knive...

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