March Artifact of the Month: Searles Bowie Knife

This month’s artifact of the month is a Bowie knife, made on commission by James Bowie’s older brother, Rezin Pleasant Bowie in the 1830s. It is one of the finest examples of an early Bowie knife in existence. The knife was made by Baton Rouge jeweler and cutler Daniel Searles. Several similar knives attributed to Searles and Rezin Bowie exist in private collections.

Fast Facts: Blade length: 9.4 in. ǀ Overall length: 14.4 in. ǀ Markings: On blade “Searles. Baton Rouge, LA.” ǀ Donors: Lt. Col. Richard T. Bowie and & Richard Bowie, Jr.

The presentation-grade knife is inscribed on the sheath throat “R.P. Bowie to H.W. Fowler, U.S.D.” Henry Waller Fowler, a native New Yorker, held a captain’s commission in the 2nd U.S. Dragoon Regiment (1836–1841) before retiring to Louisiana where he met Rezin Bowie. Fowler later was elected major of the 3rd Regiment of Louisiana Volunteers at the start of the Mexican War but the unit disbanded and saw no action.

The Searles Bowie Knife is currently on display as part of our new exhibition exploring the life of legendary Alamo defender James Bowie and his famous knife. This free exhibition uses translucent touch screen technology to allow visitors to interact with the Searles knife and other historically significant Bowie knives.