RARE CASED SILVER SPRING BLEEDER BY HENRY SCHIVELY OF PHILADELPHIA, FAMED CUTLER AND EARLY MAKER OF THE BOWIE KNIFE

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Item Code: 30-2228

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Henry Schively (1784-1863) is famous among Bowie knife collectors as the maker of the earliest signed and dated Bowie knife, likely made under the personal direction of James Bowie on his 1826 or 1828 trip north. Fewer than two dozen of his knives are known. Competition for them is fierce. The reason Bowie sought out Schivley in the first place, though, was his well-known skill as a cutler. He was the premier antebellum surgical instrument maker of Philadelphia, producing a variety of medical instruments, sold individually or in cased sets, and was known for the design and fabrication of new instruments suggested by surgeons.

This is a nicely marked example of his work: a cased spring-lancet or spring-fleam in coin silver. The difference in the two terms is largely in the use of a right-angle blade in the latter that, in its larger forms, tended to be used on animals. In its smaller and in its spring-loaded form it is for use on humans. Blood-letting, or phlebotomy, was an age-old medical practice that held on into the late nineteenth century under the impression that “breathing a vein” could be beneficial to a patient, perhaps easing the load on the heart or restoring a balance of the four basic bodily humors.

This is an elegant piece in coin silver, cased in a small leatherette carrying box that has a removable wood frame inside to the steady the instrument and keep the exposed blade from cutting through the case when carried. The instrument is complete and in excellent, untouched condition. The top band and sides of the coin silver case are decoratively knurled. The steel blade has no nicks or chips, just a few tiny stains. The cocking lever on the top and the checkered release button on the left are present. The right side panel has a fingernail groove to withdraw the side panel. When removed this has a prominent marking on its inner face reading, “SCHIVELY PHILAD.” Some of the steel elements inside retain their bluing. Others show a little superficial corrosion. The coin silver exterior has an undisturbed age patina. The leather surface of the box shows some very minor scuffs.

Schively worked at several locations in Philadelphia, including 45 Chestnut (1813-14,) 75 Chestnut (1816-37,) and 64 S. 8th (1838-1861, with his son Charles as partner from 1844.) This is a rare example of his work in excellent condition.  [sr]

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