SCARCE FIRST PATTERN IRON MOUNTED US ARMY MODEL 1880 HUNTING KNIFE

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Item Code: 1047-191

The Civil War taught officers and military theorists the virtues of earthworks and field fortifications that could be thrown up quickly. The 1870s were a decade of experimentation with dedicated entrenching tools or combination tools like the trowel-bayonet. The Model 1880 was hunting knife was the culmination of these efforts with a wide blade that could be used for scooping out earth and as a utility knife for cutting, butchering and chopping.

This is a scarce example of the first, iron-mounted version bearing serial number “304” of just 1002 made at Springfield Arsenal in 1881. It was not until 1883, after successful reports from field trials, that another batch was ordered, this time numbering 5,000 but mounted in brass. The knife is roughly 13 ½ inches overall, with a wide 8 ½ inch blade with a median ridge and scalloped ricasso. The oak turned handle is in excellent condition with just light wear to the finish. Blade and guard are medium steel gray in color with darkening to both near the handle and some light, gray spotting elsewhere. One edge has two medium and two small chips to the edge. The other edge and point are good.

These knives were very useful and had a long service life. This one was updated during its period of use with the 1889 style scabbard using a simple, flat brass belt hook bearing a Rock Island “R.I.A.” maker’s stamp. The brass has an even, age patina. The leather shows crackling to the finish and some finish loss on the billet and on the scabbard body, mostly on the reverse, which also has a set of deeply carved initials, “P.D.”

This is a nice example of the very first pattern Indian War hunting knife.    [sr]

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