HAM Releases Bowie Knife Book

Historic Arkansas Museum - Wednesday, November 29, 2017


“A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America” officially went on sale this past Tuesday. The book, co-authored by Bill Worthen, former director of HAM, and Mark Zalesky, renowned knife expert and journalist, covers the history and legacy of the Bowie knife and includes more than 200 full-color illustrations and descriptions of selected knives with craft or historical significance.

The Bowie knife has special significance in Arkansas history, as it proved to be a useful weapon and tool on the Arkansas frontier. Named after the famous frontiersman, Jim Bowie, it is also known as the “Arkansas Toothpick.” Further, Arkansas blacksmith, James Black is famous for having forged a blade for Jim Bowie.

Swannee Bennett, director of HAM, and Donna Uptigrove, exhibits curator, oversaw development of the book, both working closely with Worthen and Zalesky. “Bill and Mark are to be commended for the in-depth documentation and research they have completed for this monumental work on the historic origins, subsequent history and mythology of the Bowie knife,” said Bennett. “This is an authoritative text, built upon excellent scholarship, coupled with exquisite graphics of more than 200 important Bowie knives that tell the story of one of the most iconic objects in American history.”

In celebration of the release, Worthen and Zalesky will be signing copies of their book at HAM on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, from 1 - 4 p.m., in conjunction with the museum’s 50th Annual Christmas Frolic. Copies of the book will also be available for purchase.

“A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America,” is available for purchase at HAM’s Museum Store and online: