Seth Kinman Bowie Knife

14.5" clip point blade,  1/2" thick on the false edge, Engraved on the left side of the blade "Seth Kinmans Grizzly Dissector."  Overall length 20.75".  Iron guard with abalone handles and Hawk Bill pommel.  Wood scabbard held together by copper pins.  Iron throat and two iron rings.  

The son of a Pennsylvania ferryman and Inn-keeper, Seth Kinman worked as a log miller and farmer until 1839 following the death of his father.  After owning an inn in Indiana for several years, Kinman migrated to California during the Gold Rush and was instrumental in the forming of Humbolt County, where legend states he was the first to populate the area with cattle.  During his time in Humbolt he is said to have met future General and President Ulysses Grant. 

Like many "mountain men," Kinman possessed a seemingly contradictory personality; a blend of adventure-loving outdoorsmanship and violent tendencies.  A Methodist Minister described Kinman as being:

"...expressive of a mixture of brutality, cunning, and good humor. He was a thorough animal. Wild frontier life had not sublimated this old sinner in the way pictured by writers who romance about such things at a distance....His eyes were nature's special label of one of her malignest creations. Only in two other human beings have I ever seen such eyes as those.... It was the eye of a wild beast, the baleful glitter you have seen in the eyes of snakes, panthers, catamounts, or other creatures of the reptile or feline kind."

He was most famous for his construction of furniture fashioned from the limbs of animals such as elk, deer, and most notably, bears.  He gained much of his public fame after presenting an elk-horn chair to President James Buchanan in 1857.  After this event, Kinman recalled  "l awoke one fine morning and found myself famous."  He took his newfound fame on the road throughout the 1860s and 1870s, dressing in buckskins and furs to the awe and delight of his audiences, regaling them with stories of daring raids and narrow escapes while playing them fiddle tunes from an instrument made of mule bone.
He became the guest of many distinguished individuals, and was the guest of President Abraham Lincoln, to whom he presented another elk-horn chair.  Kinman was allegedly present at Lincoln's Assassination at Ford's Theater, and while there is a lack of substantial evidence to support that claim, it was publicly noted in the New York Times that he took part in the late President's funeral procession.  Kinman's tours continued for at least a decade, during which he distributed hundreds of cartes de visite, several of which display his "grizzly dissector."  He continued to make animal furniture, presenting pieces to Andrew Johnson and Rutherford B. Hayes.  In 1886, Kinman died of an accidental gunshot wound and was buried in his beloved California dressed in his signature buckskins.  His traveling show was purchased by Mrs. R.F. Herrick, who displayed them in her own museum, and later sold them at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

Provenance:From the Estate of Clem Caldwell


Fair condition.  Blade has a gunmetal gray patina with no chips nor cracks in cutting edge.  Grip is missing some of the mother-of-pearl near pommel.  With some additional mother-of-pearl loss throughout the handle.  Scabbard is in good condition with all pins present.  3" crack near tip of scabbard.  

Estimate: $25,000 - $50,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium


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