(Belting, 45-46 emphasis mine)
Hopefully fall and winter weather will free up time for more how-to posts in the future, but I felt it was just as important to look at some of the common things a habitant would have carried or used daily. Among those items used daily, if not carried daily, would have been the common hunting/butcher knife or couteau boucheron.
This posting will take a look at fixed-blade knives used in the Pays des Illinois during the 18th century. My target for acquiring materials for my living history impression continues to be 1750.
The inventory of Marie Catherine Baron listed above has been translated as containing a "hunting knife". This raises the question: What makes a knife a hunting knife? My personal thoughts on this is that the knife would be a fixed-blade knife used in dressing game for the table and it would have been sheathed for portability so that the user can wear it for use in the field.
My next question: What is a common French fixed-blade knife?
We French reenactors are fortunate that a set of wonderful articles have recently been written by Kevin Gladysz and Ken Hamilton for the Journal of the Early Americas. To date, there are three articles entailing the topics of French knives and the fourth, most recent, article is about French Biscayne axes. Gladysz and Hamilton's article on boucherons, "French Knives in North America: Part III" can be found in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of JOTEA (Volume I, Issue VI).
From "French Knives in North America: Part III":
The couteau boucheron was not only extremely popular in the Indian trade, but was frequently considered as a frontier weapon. According to surviving French archival documents, the couteau boucheron was by far the most numerous fixed-blade knife of the period. (p. 7, emphasis mine)
The article goes on to mention that around 10,000 boucherons were recorded to be in the King's storehouses at Quebec and Montreal in 1749. It is pretty evident that LARGE numbers of these knives were available in Nouvelle France and could have easily found their way into every reach of France's holdings in North America. Archaeological examples have been found from Michilimackinac to Ticonderoga and south into Louisiana.
In an Illinois context, examples have been found at the Duckhouse Site in Cahokia. The three Duckhouse Site examples shown below are from French Colonial Cahokia 1765 - 1800. Although the date is a bit late for my use, I believe it is worthy of note because a knife that was dropped or lost in that period may have been manufactured in an earlier year closer to my target date of 1750.
|Note the half-tang construction|
Image from At Home in the Illinois Country by Robert F. Mazrim (page 67)
|Image from "French Knives in North America: Part III" Journal of the Early Americas, Volume I, Issue VI (page 14)|
Flipped horizontally for comparison
|Overall length is 10 inches, with a 6 1/8 inch blade|
|Wowee! Even the sheath is pretty!|