World-Famous “Bowie No. 1” Makes Homecoming 200 Years After Leaving James Black’s Forge


In the early 1830s, James Black crafted the most famous Bowie Knife ever forged for James Bowie in Washington, Arkansas. James Black, with his fire and forge, shaped the history and legacy of the world’s most famous blade from his blacksmith shop in Historic Washington, Arkansas.  Several years ago, Historic Arkansas Museum acquired Bowie No. 1 from an auction of the collections of two prominent Texas knife collectors. Once secured by Historic Arkansas Museum, Bowie No. 1 was returned to Little Rock to be analyzed and displayed. Curatorial analysis soon conclusively determined that Bowie No. 1 was a James Black forged knife and cemented its significance as a superb example of the early American Bowie knife. As Bowie No. 1’s name suggests, many have concluded that it is “THE” Bowie Knife crafted by James Black for James Bowie. 


On January 17, almost two centuries later, Bowie No. 1 will return home to Historic Washington for public viewing. For the first time, the knife will leave Historic Arkansas Museum and be on loan for the grand opening of the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades.


The Arkansas Bowie knife is the official knife of the State of Arkansas. Bowie No.1 is a “guardless coffin” knife well-known among collectors as one of the most distinctive and desirable bowie knives in existence. The knife’s characteristics are very similar to the Carrigan knife. While several guardless coffin knives exist, from a curatorial perspective, the Carrigan and Bowie No. 1 share so much in common that they are almost certainly both from the shop of James Black.


The James Black School Grand Opening will be held on January 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the James Black School located in the Stephens House at 601 Lawrence Street in Washington, Arkansas. The grand opening will feature special guest, Governor Asa Hutchinson, who will formally dedicate the “Arkansas #1” Bowie knife. Arkansas #1 was commissioned by the UAHT Foundation to commemorate the monumental significance of the Bowie knife being named Arkansas’s official blade and Washington, Arkansas, being designated as an official Arkansas Heritage Site.


Join the event at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades Grand Opening to view Bowie No. 1. For more information, call 870-722-8516.


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