Saturday, February 19, 2005

Knife awarded for faithful service

Thanks for your question about the decorated knife.

Many "transcontinental railroad" novelty commemorative items have manufactured over the years.

What is now called the "transcontinental railroad" was called the "Pacific Railroad" in the 19th century.

One "Straight Razor Manufacturers" website lists: M. PRICE, San Francisco, CA, ca. 1856 - 1889.

There is a post "M Price Bowie Knife" that matches your description, that indicates that these are modern items made by Collins and Co., not like a real Model 1887 Hospital Corps Knife, but rather a modern fake with modern decorations, made to appeal to modern buyers, with no actual connection to Michael Price.

Knife Reproduction Recognition

Book: "Knifemakers of Old San Francisco" by Bernard R. Levine

Knife Links

On Feb 20, 2005, at 12:03 AM, wrote:

Hello My name is Gary Wolfer and I have purchased at auction a knife that has writing on both sides of the blade and carvings like scrimshaw of both engines, the Jupiter x and the No. 119 and above them Transcontinental Railroad and below them Promontory Summit Utah. At the base of the blade is the manufacturers name M. Price San Francisco.On the other side it says Awarded For Faithful Service and under that May God Continue the Unity of our Country on this Railroad unites the two Great Oceans of the world.  It is a large Knife with brass and wood handle and appears to be hand made. Have you ever heard of such a knife?

I couldn’t be so lucky. Could you return my e-mail and let me know whether or not it could be from that time.

Thanks Gary A. Wolfer


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Photographs of another such knife, courtesy of an anonymous donor.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6

Photo 7

Photo 8

Described as follows: "This bowie knife measures 17 7/8" long. The unsharpened blade is 12 3/8" long and the handle measures 5 1/8". It is signed on the blade near the hilt M. Price, San Francisco, and both sides of the blade are etched. The side with the name on it has two locomotives facing each other with the inscription Transcontinental Railroad, 1869, Jupiter, Central Pacific RR, No. 119 Union Pacific RR, Promontory Summit Utah. The other side of the blade is engraved Awarded For Faithful Service, May God Continue the Unity of our country as this Railroad Unites the two Great Oceans of the World. All of the component parts are very tight and straight, and the blade appears to be high carbon steel with no rust. Other than the etching, this knife looks identical to a Will & Fenck, and may also be known as the 1887 Army Hospital Corps knife."

9/04/2005 9:23 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I was recently contacted by John Gabrick who has a commemorative knife of the Promontory ceremony.  He wonders if it is authentic.  He notes the style seems correct.  Also, the knife maker name (from San Francisco) was a period knife maker.  We know there were a number of freelance makers of commemorative mementoes after the ceremony.
Attached is a photo of the knife.
First off, the locomotives are generic period representations, not specific representations of the two at Promontory.  The give-away is the large stack and short smokebox on the UP #119 - the original had a straight stack and an extended smokebox.
The quote "May God continue the unity of our country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world." is also engraved (word for word) on the Hewes gold spike (the generally recognized "Last Spike" from the 1869 ceremony at Promontory).  I'm not sure how familiar people were with that quote at the time - they may have been, or may not have been.
Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum
111 "I" Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

In a message dated 12/3/2005 8:49:29 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
... Overall length is 17 3/4"
Blade 12 1/4"
Handle 5"
Crossguard 4 3/4"
These measurements are a close approximation of the knife +/- a little.
The blade is blued and the crossguard and pommel are brass.  They retain most of the original patina.  There seems to have been some effort to clean the crossguard and blade, although nearly all of the patina remains.
The front of the blade is marked at the ricasso  M.Price
                                                                    San Francisco
The blade is etched with the two engines opposing each other (front to front) the words above "Transcontinental Railroad" and the date 1869 between the stacks of the two engines.  Directly below, center, are the words Promontory Summit Utah.  To the left   Jupiter                                    To the right No 119
                   Central Pacific RR                               Union Pacific RR
Reverse of the blade at top  "Awarded for Faithful Service"
A large space is provided as if to inscribe a name.
Bottom:  May God continue the unity of our country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.
That is all that is on the knife.  There is no sheath and probably never was one. ...
Thanks for your help.

—John Gabrick

12/04/2005 6:13 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Don Snoddy"

Having been stung by a couple of "engraved" pieces that were supposed to be original let me say that the first thing to do is check the engraving with a loupe our high powered magnifying glass. Look for the striations the chisels would have made. They would not be uniform and they definitely have to be there. When I was with the museum, we bought from a crooked arms dealer, an 1866 Winchester which was engraved from Dodge to Casement for Christmas etc. The gun was authentic, but the engraving was done after WWII with an electric engraving machine which left no chisel marks.

This we didn't find out until after we bought it.

So even though the knife is authentic, the engraving may not be.


12/04/2005 9:50 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Subject: commemorative 1869 engraved bowie knife

Do you know of any issued commemorative 1869 engraved bowie knife?? Past or present??? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

—Dr Roger

10/24/2006 3:11 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See the above discussion.

10/24/2006 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I picked up what looks like to be the exact knife as the above in the posts. I'm just curious, is this knife worth anything at all? I purchased @ a estate sale with the reguards of seeing if it's worth what I paid for it or more?

11/01/2009 8:10 AM  
Blogger bilfig60 said...

I just bought one of these thinking that I really found a "winner". I paid $80.00 for it. I will sell it as a reproduction and if I make money good, if not I will keep it and pass on the word that it is not genuine to that event....I can laugh at myself today and it does make for a good story......bilfig60

3/05/2010 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, this discussion is great. Now does anyone have the history of Collins? Since we all have one of these knives, I would like to know when they were inscribed and were they given to railroad employees for their service or just sold as commemoratives? It will be good to let our Grandchildren know, as well as how not to buy a fake.

6/08/2010 6:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is the same Collins Company.

6/08/2010 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll check it out and if there is anything to report....I'll let you know. Thanks to all.

6/10/2010 4:16 PM  
Anonymous kershaw leek said...

That is a decorative knife that costs a lot more than the usual.

1/12/2012 1:37 AM  

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