Cotton Samplers- An Evolution of Pattern
By R. Scott Decker, Ph.D.
Cotton samplers with the heavy swell-end blade and flattened area forward of the tang have always had that cool-factor for me. They just look neat. I certainly don’t have a practical use for them, although they look like they would function well as small game skinners should I take up hunting again. Indeed, a nineteenth century catalog from Maher & Grosh advertises the pattern (without the flattened area) as a skinner.
As a native New Jerseyan, then Boston and Las Vegas transplant, the only time I came close to a cotton bale was on a drive down a country road west of Phoenix during a temporary duty assignment while still a Fed. And this cotton had not yet seen a gin for cleaning – the time when a cotton sampling knife comes into play.
Doing research for this article piqued my interest. When did the commonly known swell-end, flattened notch blade pattern come about? The answer was not readily apparent, but looking into the origin of cotton samplers pulled me into my favorite subjects of knives and history.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Knife Magazine. Premium Online Members can read the whole thing by clicking the blue box below.