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Author Topic: 18th Century Knife - New Pictures Added  (Read 6483 times)
Fullstock longrifle
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« on: July 21, 2012, 07:38:31 PM »

I recently acquired this knife and was wondering if any of the people here who know knives can give me some information about it.  The knife has a carved wooden handle that's in the shape of a preening bird. It has a heart carved at the foot of the bird with the initials "K J Z" inside of the heart.  It also has the date 1796 (17 heart 96) on each side of the heart.  Lastly, there is a silver band at the base of the handle that has the name "K J Zeman" engrave in script on it.  The person I got the knife from said that it was found in Up State New York.  Any information will be appreciated, thanks in advanced.

Frank











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LRB
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2012, 06:12:41 AM »

  I would suggest you contact Ken Hamilton, or Ken Gahagan. Either of these gentleman should be able to help you with some info. Knives of that type are their specialty. I would say that it is likely German due to the bird carving,  but that doesn't tell you much. The sheepfoot blade was popular all over Europe during that time. It would appear to be an unusual and maybe unique piece, and in unusually good condition.
  I am no expert, but a few things seem a little odd, or at least notable. The blade heel on all of these types I have seen shoulder against the bolster, and do not have that stepped contact. Most knives of this general type are relatively small, and the grip never exceeds 3 or 3 1/2" which ever was a guild standard. You gave no measurements, but the handle seems longer than that. That may mean very little, as it could have been re-handled. The silver ferrule appears longer than the few I have seen, but that also means little as I mentioned, I am no expert. Try and contact Ken Hamilton.
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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2012, 09:28:09 AM »

Thanks for the information LRB, here are some measurements of the knife.  The handle is 4 1/2 inches (including the silver band) and the blade is 5 1/2 inches, for a total overall length of 10 inches.  There is in fact a small shoulder on the knife (it doesn't show well in the picture) where it meets the handle. The knife is in very good condition, but it does show appropriate wear in the right places.  The blade is pretty solid with little flex.

Do either of the two guys you mentioned post here?  If not, do you have contact information?

Frank
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LRB
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2012, 01:38:09 PM »

Ken Hamilton is often on the "Frontier Folk" forum. I emailed him about the knife, just telling him he ought check here and see it. It looks like a great piece.
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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2012, 05:36:57 PM »

Thanks, I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Frank
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2012, 07:17:55 PM »

Frank,
A great looking knife! I wonder what type of wood the handle is to hold such a detail carving?

Van
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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2012, 08:45:55 PM »

I'm not sure Van, it has a slight reddish tint to the wood and at first I wondered if it was cherry.  Of course if it was European made I guess it wouldn't be cherry.  Or would it?  Did cherry grow in Europe?

Frank
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2012, 07:33:44 AM »

  I am only going by what appears to be a very fine tight grain, but it could be stained boxwood. Boxwood is extremely tight grained, but is great for carving, and will take a very fine polished finish like that. I read somewhere that boxwood was the only knife grip wood the guilds in Europe would allow to be stained, but I don't know that to be a fact.
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2012, 01:10:48 PM »

A very interesting piece, especially with a given name engraved upon it!!

May we have two (2) more full length photos, of the handle?

a.) Bottom (under the birds beak)

b.) Top (opposing side.bird's back)

At first glance, the carving of the bird's neck made me think of the Louisiana State Seal. 

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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2012, 06:26:41 PM »

Here are some additional pictures.  The preening bird is actually two birds, and yes, it reminds me of the Louisiana pelican as well.

Frank







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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2012, 03:05:00 PM »

Thanks for the additional photos!  And, I do believe that they are feeding their three (3) young , seen with out-stretched necks!

It would be something now, if you could find a K (female) J (male) Zeman, or vice versa, with three (3) kids in 1796 and have a possible attribution to the original family/owner.

This obviously wasn't made by someone just whittling-away on the back porch in their spare time and it's been well cared for, over these many years; a rarity, I'd think,  for a knife.

A great find, with mysteries yet to solve!
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Shreckmeister
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2012, 03:47:55 PM »

Wedding gift to the Zeman's would make sense to me.  Mother and Father feeding the family.

How can I find stuff like this? 
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Johan (Yock), John, William and Lincoln Shreckengost. Father, son, grandson and great grandson.  4 Generations of gunsmiths in Pennsylvania.
Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2012, 06:24:34 PM »

Thanks Collector, now that you said it, I do see the three young ones being fed!  It's always good to have another set of eyes look at something like this, I completely missed it.  With the heart, name and date this must have been made for a special event.

Rob, You kick the bushes hard and on a regular basis, you'll turn up better stuff than this eventually if you stay at it, you probably already have.   Wink

Frank

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Shreckmeister
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2012, 09:16:47 PM »

That didn't take long on my way home from work I found a 2 foot by 9 inch gristmill stone.  Dirt cheap
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Johan (Yock), John, William and Lincoln Shreckengost. Father, son, grandson and great grandson.  4 Generations of gunsmiths in Pennsylvania.
Luke MacGillie
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« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2012, 05:59:00 AM »

How can I find stuff like this? 

Im sure you have heard "Discretion is the better part of valor"  Its a misquote of Shakespeare, but it does hold true.  15 years ago I was tearing up Ebay, and I purchsed some really nice actual 18th century artifacts, but I also payed a bunch for some fakes.  I would say spend money on books, but better advice would be to get a mentor, borrow his books, and if he is worth his salt, he will tell you what the fakes are in the books.  That will always be the bad side of any book that is written for, or by collectors.  A safer bet would be to Be a voracious reader of dig reports.  But, Sometimes folks who dig up stuff, are not experts in the stuff they dig up so do not take their word 100% that the "Iron Thunderbird birthing chamber" is not a crushed tin cook pot that had a clan ownership mark scratched on the side......

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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2012, 12:36:26 PM »

I heard from Ken Gahagan last night in a private email.  He said that the knife is made in the form of an early Dutch Trade Knife, but the carving reminded him of work he had seen on Scandinavian wedding knives.  He also said that it is possible that the handle was either re-carved from the original or was replaced, hopefully  contemporary to the 1796 date on the handle.  The best compliment he gave about the knife was when he asked me to let him know if I ever got tired of it.

Frank
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LRB
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« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2012, 01:27:18 PM »

  Excellent!! Good for you. A great find. If you haven't seen Kens repro work with these types of  knives,  it is fantastic.
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« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2012, 04:39:45 PM »

That is really great news about the knife and extremely interesting about the handle being carved similar to a Scandanavian wedding knife.  Did it come from an area settled by Scandanavians? 

I thought the blade was good, but wasn't sure about the handle and I had no idea on it. 

Gus
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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2012, 05:36:55 PM »

The knife was initially found in Up State New York, I'm not sure if there is a Scandinavian community there.  Would the last name Zeman be Scandinavian?

Frank
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« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2012, 05:41:45 PM »

There's a history mystery in that knife, for sure.
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Fullstock longrifle
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« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2012, 05:48:59 PM »

I just did a quick check on google and found that the surname Zeman is common in Northern Spain, couldn't find anything connecting it to Scandinavia.  I did find that a Mical Zeman, age 38, landed in Philadelphia in 1741.  So there were Zemans in America in the 18th century. I guess there is no way to tell for sure where this knife was made, but it's turning into a nice conversation piece.  Smiley

Frank
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« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2012, 06:48:56 AM »

  I did a quick search and came up with Zeman being a Czech/Slavian/Bohemian/ and German name, derived from it's meaning of "landowner and gentleman".
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Stophel
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« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2013, 12:59:52 PM »

Resurrecting an old thread here...

Add one more "e" to make it "Zeeman" and you get a much more Dutch looking name.  The knife looks very Dutch to me, and seems like something a Hudson Valley New York Dutchman might have had made for him.   Wink
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I'm sorry, I thought we were building flintlocks...not fiberglass stocked, tactical bolt action sniper rifles.
mr. no gold
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« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2013, 03:29:33 PM »

Can't quite tell from the photos, but is that a bird, (perhaps an evil looking bird?) carved into the handle? I have seen a powder horn that has an evil appearing bird worked into the design. There are also skulls integrated into the motif, with the birds. Not sure of age, but the art comports with that on your knife, possibly. Then there is the celebrated Nicholas Beyer rifle with the 'bad' bird carved behind the cheek rest. Anyone know what the birds might represent?
Dick 
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Waldmaus
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« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2013, 05:20:14 PM »

 Huh
Storks...babies
Crows...death
Pelicans...good place to fish Roll Eyes
Bluebirds...happiness
BIRDS...Hitchcock Shocked Shocked
                                        Shreck
PS  Wonderful knife though!!!
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To err is human, to admit it ain't!
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