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The U.S. M-1917 & M-1918 Trench Knives’ Thread (Yes, just the wooden handled ones).

Article about: Greetings all, With the popularity of The U.S. M1918 Mk. I Trench Knife Thread http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/ww1-al...-knife-414102/ I thought it was high time to complete a companion thread

  1. #1

    Default The U.S. M-1917 & M-1918 Trench Knives’ Thread (Yes, just the wooden handled ones).

    Greetings all,

    With the popularity of The U.S. M1918 Mk. I Trench Knife Thread The U.S. M1918 Mk. I Trench Knife Thread. I thought it was high time to complete a companion thread on the Mark I’s predecessors, the U.S. M-1917 & M-1918 series of Trench Knives. This thread will be a closed thread, in order to keep it uncluttered for those desiring a quick reference guide to these knives.

    First a note on models’ designations

    Over the decades, various knife enthusiasts have pondered the question, “Which is the Model-1917 and which is the Model-1918 trench knife.” Some knife enthusiasts have taken the scholarly high road and just refer to them both collectively as the M-1917/18 trench knives, while others employ Occam's Razor (The simplest answer is usually correct) and look at the evidence available to make a reasoned/informed judgment. Personally, I tend to favor the latter’s methodology.

    Let us now review the often quoted primary source’s evidence. Below, are two scanned pages from Benedict Crowell’s 1919 report America’s Munitions 1917-1918. At that time, Mr. Crowell was the Assistant Secretary of War Director of Munitions. Several key pieces of information come from these pages; first, that Henry Disston & Sons (H.D. & S.), of Philadelphia made the knife, which “received the most favorable consideration. This knife was manufactured and known as the M1917.” (1) Second, "This knife (the M-1917) was slightly changed as regards handle and given a different guard to protect the man’s knuckles, and was known as model 1918." (2) And finally, if you observe the lower knife pictured on the second page, the knife clearly possesses the characteristics of an Oneida Communities Limited (O. C. L.) knife, (i.e. flat handles, threaded skull crusher & flanged knuckles). This pictured knife is labeled as “1917 Model of Trench Knife and Scabbard.” (3)

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    So, what may we gather from this pedantic exercise? Well, if H. D. & S’. design won the competition and they only manufactured one variant of wooden handled trench knife, is it such a hard supposition, to make the claim that their knife is the “true” M-1917? We may also see that the M-1918 Trench Knife was an improvement of sorts upon the M-1917, one glance at a Landers Frary & Clark (L. F. & C.) manufactured trench knife and one may readily view these improvements to simplify production costs and time (a peened skull crusher and pressed pyramidal Bow’s knuckles). Additionally, if a knife is pictured (the aforementioned O. C. L.), which shares most of the design features of a H. D. & S’. knife and it too, is designated the “1917 Model,” it is rather hard to understand what all the “fuss” is about when it comes to determining which trench knife model is which.

    Ahhh, if life were but only that simple. The reason for the confusion (I & other enthusiasts believe), is due to the date/designation marks stamped upon these differing designs. On the M-1917 H. D. & S. and O. C. L. manufactured trench knives, a 1918 date appears; whereas, on the L. F. & C. a 1917 designation appears. And to further confuse things, the American Cutlery Company (A. C. CO.) variant, which (largely) shares most of the H. D. & S. and O. C. L. designs’ features has (correctly) a 1917 designation. Interestingly, these date versus models’ designation mix ups are hardly new affair to collectors of the M-1917 Bayonet. In 1918 Remington, started to stamp the new year’s date on their latest run of bayonets, just like Springfield/Rock Island Arsenals did for their M-1905 Springfield Rifle Bayonets. (4) Remington Arms, was told to stop with the 1918 dates and stick with the 1917 designation instead. It is little wonder with the M-1917 and M-1918 trench knives’ reversed dates/designations, why there has been continued confusion on the correct nomenclature for these various models’ trench knives. For your further enlightenment, here are some more articulate (than me) individuals’ thoughts on this same subject’s matter CR_Commentaries_10 and Model 1917 - Model 1918 Trench Knives - EDGED WEAPONS - U.S. Militaria Forum

    In the end, call these knives what you will. For the purpose of this thread, I will refer to the H. D. & S., O. C. L. and A. C. CO. as M-1917s and the two variants of the L. F. & C. as the M-1918. My intent with all of the above ramblings/pseudo-drama, is to merely inform you why I have selected to designate one group M-1917s and the other M-1918s. Below is a quick reference guide of the correct manufacture's markings/fonts for these knives:

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    And here's a comparison shot of each M-1917's flanges in one picture.

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    1. Benedict Crowell, America’s Munitions 1917-1918 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office 1919), 228.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Ibid., Illustration 88.
    4. Gary Cunningham’s “Collecting the US Bayonet, Model 1917,” Usmilitaryknives.com, Bayo Points 10 [accessed August 31, 2015].
    Last edited by militariaone; 09-02-2015 at 08:17 AM.

  2. #2

    Default M-1917: The H. D. & S. type (Henry Disston & Sons) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 1865-1955.

    M-1917: The H. D. & S. type (Henry Disston & Sons) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 1865-1955.

    By far the rarest of the M-1917 Trench Knives’ variants, which is odd, because their design won the competition. There are three observed H. D. & S’. variations, the first is pictured below. The second, possesses a “Heavy square nut screw on knob” in place of the normal panned screw on skull crusher (as mentioned in Cole’s Book IV). (1) Finally, there is an un-marked “H. D. & S. type” variant out there, see the second knife down on post #1 here M1917/1918 Trench Knives - EDGED WEAPONS REFERENCE - U.S. Militaria Forum for that example.

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    1. M.H. Cole, U.S. Military Knives Bayonets & Machetes Book IV (Birmingham, AL: M. H. Cole, 1991), 25.

  3. #3

    Default M-1917: The O. C. L. type (Oneida Communities Limited) Oneida, New York: 1880-1935.

    M-1917: The O. C. L. type (Oneida Communities Limited) Oneida, New York: 1880-1935.

    Note, the signature flat sided wooden (walnut) handles. 10,000 made according to Crowell’s report, however the militaria market does not seem to reflect this quantity. These are the second rarest M-1917 variant. Other than the variant shown below, Cole’s Book III, lists a leather washer re-handled O. C. L. M-1917, but this seems less a factory’s production piece and more of a replacement handle. (1)

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    1. M.H. Cole, U.S. Military Knives Bayonets & Machetes Book III (Birmingham, AL: M.H. Cole, 1981), 24.

  4. #4

    Default M-1917: The A. C. CO. type (American Cutlery Company) Chicago, Illinois: 1865-1923.

    M-1917: The A. C. CO. type (American Cutlery Company) Chicago, Illinois: 1865-1923.

    By far, the easiest of all of the M-1917 variants to obtain, perhaps Crowell’s report mistook A. C. CO’s. output/contract for O. C. L’s? (1) Note, how the markings of the A. C. CO’s. variant is on the inside of the knuckle’s bow and not on the hilt. I am unaware of any other A. C. CO’s. variants other than the example shown below.

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    1. Benedict Crowell, America’s Munitions 1917-1918 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office 1919), 228.

  5. #5

    Default M-1918: The L.F. & C. type (Landers Frary & Clark) New Britain, Connecticut: 1865-1965.

    M-1918: The L.F. & C. type (Landers Frary & Clark) New Britain, Connecticut: 1865-1965.

    There are three variants, the most prolific/common is the example shown below with seven “pyramids” on the knuckle’s bow.

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    The second L. F. & C. variant (pictured below), has an “Extra-Knuckle” for a total of eight “pyramids,” on the knuckle bow. There is speculation these are either an early or a late manufacturer’s variant. These eight pyramid L. F. & C. M-1918 variants are about as rare as the O. C. L. M-1917’s are. The final L. F. & C. variant (not pictured), is an un-marked seven pyramid version, which Cole references in his Book III. (1)

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    1. M.H. Cole, U.S. Military Knives Bayonets & Machetes Book III (Birmingham, AL: M.H. Cole, 1981), 22.

  6. #6

    Default Scabbard Variants

    There are at least five known scabbard variants as discussed by several knife specialty authors. Frank Trzaska informs us, of a one-off he observed at a gun-show, which was constructed in the same manner as the “pressed steel scabbards” produced by L. F. & C. for the M-1910 Bolo-Knife (i.e. M.H Cole’s Type 2 Scabbard), this scabbard was also marked L. F. & C. (1) M.H. Cole in his Book IV, displays another experimental type manufactured by A. C. CO., which is of leather construction and has an M-1910 belt hook sewn to the very top, this scabbard is stamped AC CO over “US” on the front top of the scabbard. (2)

    The most common scabbard for the M-1917 and M-1918 trench Knives is the one manufactured by the Jewell Company. This scabbard is pictured below. Note: “Jewell 1918” on the back, the two “MS” stamps, and one “HE” proof stamps each outlined in white. These scabbards did not fare well in the trenches or as surplused sale items after the Army sold them off. That brings us to the next type of scabbard.

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    The one below is another style of scabbard. I do not believe these style of scabbards were made to be used (yes, I know that sounds pretty stupid), when encountered they invariably appear to be far too lightly constructed for actual field use. My thought on this scabbard type (see below) is they were an aftermarket construction, so when offered by surplus sales outlets, there was “technically” a scabbard to go with the knife. The unsuspecting mail-order buyer would purchase a “genuine trench knife” and get this POS, rinky-dink lightweight scabbard tossed in almost as an afterthought. Perhaps, this minimalist scabbard, was to get past some obscure USPS shipping regulations on mailing open bladed knives in the post? I have viewed several styles of this scabbard in darker brown leather and of course, there are now too, newly made examples of these types regularly offered on the Bay. Whatever they are, they are a complete train-wreck when it comes to durability and functionality.

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    The last type of scabbard, is again, a replacement type made of leather. However, this is thick durable leather and frankly, a better (read: more comfortable & more durable) designed scabbard than the standard Jewell type. These may be found with or without tie-down holes for tying the scabbard’s end down to one’s leg. These may very well be aftermarket scabbards made for World War II service personnel who had inherited Dad’s World War I trench knife, all guess work until further documentation comes to light.

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    1. Mark D. Zalesky, ed., Military Knives A Reference Book (Knoxville, TN: Knife World Publications, 2001), 19.
    2. M.H. Cole, U.S. Military Knives Bayonets & Machetes Book IV (Birmingham, AL: M. H. Cole, 1991), 24.

  7. #7

    Default Contemporary Photos of M-1918s knives in use.

    Just like the topic line says folks, and thank you, to all of the original posters. Oddly, I have not seen any clear photographs with the M-1917 in use, although the second photo down may be an M-1917.

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  8. #8

    Default Shenanigans Ahoy! Or what to observe when purchasing an original M-1917 or M-1918 Trench Knife.

    Shenanigans Ahoy! Or what to observe when purchasing an original M-1917 or M-1918 Trench Knife.

    OK, just a few tips on what to look for when purchasing original/period (read: un-messed with) M-1917 or M-1918 Trench Knives. Let me caution you up front, these are my own thoughts, opinions, and ideas on what “right looks like.” You are of course free to believe otherwise, but if it is my money we are spending, here’s my one simple rule with both M-1917 and M-1918 Trench Knives. I firmly believe the vast majority of M-1917 and M-1918 Trench Knives departed their respective factories with their triangular blades oriented, so that an edge bisects their logos (although of course, the A. C. CO. variant does not have a logo on its upper guard to bisect). If the blade is oriented any other way A: it has been messed with/altered or B: You have discovered a Unicorn or more exactly a “Monday Morning Special” that left the factory oriented in a direction so as to make the knife in question not face in the proper direction whilst worn on the left side (as confirmed by internal divisional memos).

    I know what you are thinking, “But Lance, in both Cole’s Books III and IV he shows examples of M-1917s with the flat of the triangular blade oriented toward the aforementioned upper guards’ logos” and too, you may find many posted examples on various militaria forums with this flat-of-the-blade orientation as well. Yes, you are correct, however these examples are all types, which have easily removed rear nuts/skull crushers, which enable the blade’s initial orientation to be manipulated (for whatever reason). For instance, if you were going to discuss that these are legitimately original/un-messed with examples, how about something initially believable, “Lance these are factory-made left-handed variations.” However, that’s not plausible, due to the orientation of the Jewell scabbard’s throat-piece (we'll come back to this in a moment). In the contemporary pictures I have added to this thread, only one Doughboy is wearing his M-1918 Trench Knife on his right side and if you look at the orientation of the pictured trench knife it is consistent with flipping it from the wearer's left side. Knuckles forward, on the left-side, that’s how the knife was designed to be worn in the most prolific Jewell’s scabbard. Due to the directional orientation of the Jewell scabbard’s triangular throat, the logo bisected blade’s orientation is the only manner, which enables this proper wear. Take your Jewell scabbard out, hold it to your left side, look down at it and observe how the scabbard’s mouth is oriented… your welcome! Any other blade orientation makes no earthy sense and would have been addressed by quality control at the factory.

    After the above initial review sinks in, there are only a few other minor things to note when approaching a potential M-1917 or M-1918 to add to your collection. If it is an M-1917 look at how the parts fit together, are there gaps, overlaps, or generally poorly fitted components? As an example, take a look at the rare H. D. & S. (pictured below), while surely the metal parts of this knife are wholly original, the fit of the handle (note: the wood handle overlapping the knuckle bow, & orientation of the blade) let us see that we more likely than not have an ill-fitted A. C. CO. type of handle retro-fitted to this H. D. & S. knife. Hmmmmmnnnn, take a rare H. D. & S. variant with a damaged handle and switch that handle out with something close enough (like an A. C. CO’s. handle) and you have made a suitable profit, especially so if the buyer is “freaking-out” over the rare knife factor (much akin to “buck fever”).

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    Another H. D. & S. (yes, an original knife) that has been played with. The knife would have not left the factory with a gap showing into the handle's interior, due to the blade's orientation (see white arrow).

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    Here are some O. C. L. fakes. You gotta love the stamping jobs on both of these examples.

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    Similarly, with the L. F. & C. M-1918 types look at the peen on the skull crusher, is it a nice circular peen or has it been pounded out of shape (i.e. as when a broken handle has been replaced)?

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    While the M-1917 and M-1918 Trench Knives are not “high quality handmade knives” on par with say Randal Made Knives, they were manufactured by craftsmen who took pride in their finished products. That is why the wood to metal fit of these knives is an excellent means to determine they have been altered. Kindly, spare me, the “wood handles drying out” or some other such nonsense for altering the original wood to metal fit. If you have to make excuses for the knife’s composition, that will be your albatross to wear for as long as you own it. Look closely at the examples I have posted, and view for yourself what the “proper fit” between wood and metal looks like.

    Let us face it, the M-1917 and M-1918 Trench Knives have never been as coveted as their “cooler” M-1918 Mark I decedents. As such, the M-1917 and M-1918 Trench Knives are not as heavily faked. Yet, with the 100 year anniversary of American involvement in World War I fast approaching, prices for unmolested (& molested, come to think of it) examples are steadily rising. This allows room for “parted together” knives to become profitable (a long-standing problem with the M-1918 Mk. Is). Replacement washers/skull crushers, knuckle bows, wooden handles are available for M-1917s and wooden replacement handles for the M-1918s on the Bay, so bottom line, buyer beware!

    Finally, some stamps on reproduction "Jewell type" scabbards. While not made to pass as originals to anyone familiar with them, I wanted to include this picture to advise the novice collector. The top scabbard is produced by Windlass Steelcrafts (out of India) and the other by the Prairie Flower Leather Company (PFLC) out of Nebraska, USA.

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    Last edited by militariaone; 09-18-2015 at 07:37 PM.

  9. #9

    Default These styled knives in Hollywood!

    OK, this is a slight distraction, but please indulge me. Here are some of these knives in movies. Granted, the one shown in Objective Burma has been modified, but it definitely uses an original knuckle's bow. Although, it's a different knife than shown in the movie poster.

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  10. #10

    Default An M-1918 (L. F. & C.) used during World War II.

    While not used in the numbers that the M-1918 Mk. I was during WWII, the odd M-1917 & M-1918 soldiered on.

    Bellow is a U.S. Marine on Okinawa wearing an M-1918 on his side.

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    And here's an example of a re-handled (with leather covering) M-1918 in a well-made custom scabbard, used during WWII.

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