The Wilson business was founded by John Wilson in 1750. Wilson knives figured prominently in fur trade history. Wilson Knives were mentioned by name in the records of Pierre Chouteau Jr. &Co. through the1820s- 1840s. Wilson added "Sheffield England" to their knives to conform to the McKinley act of 1891 which required all manufactured goods imported into the United States to be marked with the name of the country of origin. Before that they were marked with the Wilson name and various symbols. For an article on Wilson Knife markings by Lee Burke refer to "The Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly" volume 14 No. 3 Fall, 1978.
Nice looking Wilson. If you want to start learning about Wilson knives I highly recommend the MFT Quarterly referenced in the earlier post to you. It is outstanding. Also go to the link below, and then to Articles (36).
These guys have done some outstanding work with Wilson knives, and are really great fellows.
I'm assuming your knife is a half tang?? And the handle is not original.
You have a excellent knife. Yes the marking are past the magic date of 1840...so what? Unless someone is looking very close no one will know. The fur trade did go on past the big rendezvous era and your knife could have been part of that. One of my favorite knives that I own is a Chris Johnson butcher from the same time as your Wilson...I love to use it hunting and as a camp knife. Andy
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Posts: 668 | Location: Everson, Washington | Registered: 27 June 2008
The relevance of markings are for historical interest only. For my period dress I use a green river butcher blade that I pinned a handle on and that's about as historically correct as a T C Hawken. Not at all.
That is a nice knife! Of course, for regular ol' rendezvous, wearing only dated, from-the-period gear isn't required. After all, a set of 170-old buckskins wouldn't be very wearable! If you want to use it, use it! Only experts would know, anyway.
That is why my green river blade works for my pre-1840 style outfit. It has the right shape, if not the markings. That Wilson is a very fine knife that anyone should be proud to have in their collection.
I have never personally seen or read about original Wilsons with the large brass center pin or the brass piece at handle blade transition.
In all likelihood it is as you stated, the blade is original with a replaced handle. This should not take away from the knife at all, and as stated above is a great knife to carry and use to represent the western fur trade.
Photo below is my original blade with replaced handle. Rio
I'd respectfully disagree about the handle being a replacement - this style handle (looks like rosewood)with a bolster and large rivet or inlay in the middle is typically seen on not just Wilson's, but also several other makers fancier pieces from the post 1890 period with some even before - both cast pewter and brass were used for decoration. In fact the same type brass (or German silver) bolster was used on the big buffalo/camp knives sold by the HBC and others and they date to at least the 1840's.
I believe what should be in the middle of the handle is a brass screw with the ends filed off- that's how they are listed in the Wilson catalog (the brass screw was one option, all iron nails/pins were more common)but that center brass "thing" seems awful big. Rosewood is a handle option (listed in the catalog) I meant the condition of the wood seems really good. I'm told most originals are pretty beat up with slightly loose handles.
If you have the back issue of Muzzleloader from Sept/October 2003 go to page 21 Artical by Rex Allen Norman, Butchers & Scalpers there is the knife in question with an indepth answer, even fgive a referance for contact, www.sheffieldknives.co.uk and ten other referances.