Published: July 3, 2001
Historic Bowie Family Items in San Francisco Event Fetch $475,000
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Portraits and antique weapons related to the Bowie family were offered and sold at auction June 26 by Butterfields Auctioneers. The property was handed down directly from the famous Bowies – two brothers whose names are respected within Texas history and whose exploits popularized a weapon commonly known as a Bowie knife.
From the estate of Muriel Vernet Moore, direct descendant of Rezin and James Bowie, came a collection of Bowie family heirlooms, including an oil on canvas portrait of Colonel James Bowie, attributed to artist George Healy. The painting, the only known portrait of James Bowie, sold to competitive bidding for $321,875.
Officials from the state of Texas told the Associated Press on June 27 that they had purchased the portrait. “We had very short notice that this painting was being auctioned, and this presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Gov. Rick Perry.
According to AP, the painting had become the subject of nearly 10 years of litigation after Moore’s death in 1991. A permanent display site for the portrait was not announced.
Other rdf_Descriptions from the Bowie family were an elaborate silver-mounted half-stock flintlock rifle owned by Rezin Bowie that sold for $68,875; a gold mounted miniature ivory of Rezin P. Bowie that brought $40,625; an oil on canvas portrait of Martha Bowie (sister of James and Rezin) that found a new home for $11,162.50; and a French eagle-hilted officer’s sword belonging to James Bowie which sold for $9,987.50.
Rezin and James Bowie, owners of a vast sugar plantation in Louisiana circa 1815, are credited with creating the celebrated large format knife carried in the 1800s. Col James Bowie (born 1795) became immortalized when he died fighting at the Alamo in 1836. Legends abound about the Colonel’s prowess with what began to be called a “Bowie knife,” a term that became generic for all Nineteenth Century knives.
Older brother Rezin Pleasant Bowie (1793-1841) served in the military rising to the rank of Colonel himself, and also served in the Louisiana State Legislature. Rezin is credited with designing the first Bowie knife, distinctive in design and a favored weapon among riverboat gamblers, gentlemen and frontiersmen. Both men were instrumental in the Texas revolt against Mexico, their names revered among others in the “great” state’s history such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.
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