For the May 2014 issue of TACTICAL KNIVES, author Steven Dick investigated the history of how English I. Wilson knives migrated to the American frontier during the late 1800s. Known for their “Sycamore Street” moniker, the shear-steel blades became a recognized presence among frontiersman, who needed rugged, utilitarian blades in their daily lives.

“The vast majority of the knives sold through the fur-trade supply houses to the mountain men and Indians in the far west were imported from Sheffield, England. And of those knives, the brand that seems to have been most highly prized was ‘I Wilson.’ I also find it interesting that rather than the monster blades sported by the modern “rendezvous” crowd, the records show 5-, 6- and 7-inch models were far more common,” notes Dick in his review.

“Wilson knives may be plain and not have the fearsome reputation of the Bowie, but they were the cutting tools that actually tamed the western wilderness,” says Dick. “The demand for Wilson knives did not go away with the beaver trade, as many of the same frontiersmen moved on to hunting buffalo for their robes. It should also be remembered that for every buffalo skinned there were probably 1,000 steers processed in Kansas City and Chicago. Wilson continued to be one of the most common brands offered in rural hardware store catalogs until at least the 1920s.”

For more information, check out the May 2014 issue of TACTICAL KNIVES, available on newsstands January 28, 2014. To subscribe, go to

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