You Find History in the Most Surprising Places





Not long ago I went to my very first Gun & Knife Show. I’m a sport shooter–I only aim at things that don’t bleed–but I must admit, I was curious. 

Mostly I found what I expected, guns and knives of all shapes, kinds and makes. Surprisingly, though, there was also an amazing array of history there. I studied replica Colt revolvers, Navy revolvers, and dragoons. Derringers were in abundance, too.1884-colt

What excited me the most were the originals! Colt, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Walker. Black powder percussion cartridge, Civil War era and the guns that “won the West.” All the pistols and revolvers I’ve researched for my western historical novels were right there in front of me. Pearl handles, hand-rubbed walnut grips, elaborate engravings. Totally amazing.

At shows like the one I attended, you will find everyone from the curious to the expert. There was the man who displayed an amazing collection of knives. He had Bowie knives from several different decades and parts of the country; also a Civil War-era personal knife that you might find in the kitchen of any household in 1850. Some had rough-hewn handles, others fancy silver scrollwork. There was even an abalone-inlaid beauty that could bring more than $10k in a collector’s auction. None of the collection was for sale, of course–he just brought it because he loves collecting and wanted to share his many treasures with others.

Besides weapons, there was all kinds of Americana, like old photographs and books, a Harper’s Weekly from 1889, even advertisement cards that prove using scantily clad women to sell your products is not an invention of 20th century adcat-house-tokens agencies.

My favorite item? Brass tokens the size of 50 cent pieces, stamped on one side with “Cat House Tokens – good for a bath, a screw and beans.”

I found battlefield souvenirs, from shell casings to buttons to the decorated leather holder for a cannon tamper, period clothing and gear, belts, spurs… I could go on and on, but it would be easier if you just saw it all for yourself.

So the next time there’s a gun and knife show in your area, go. You won’t be sorry.


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24 thoughts on “You Find History in the Most Surprising Places”

  1. Hi, Tracy. We have an annual gun and knife show that comes to our local expo center, but I have never attended. Despite my fascination for cowboys and the historic West, I’m not a fan of weapons. However, hearing you describe all the history represented makes me wonder if I’ve been missing out on a valuable research opportunity. Those Cat House tokens you found were hilarious! Who would have dreamed that something like that actually existed. maybe I’ll have to give the gun and knife show a try the time it comes to town.

  2. Hi. I have been to a couple of the knife and gun shows but have never found anything like your find. I love history and your books are great.

  3. Karen,
    I don’t mind weapons, I just never thought spending an afternoon looking at them would be fun. But a friend was in town and he wanted to go. I’m so glad I did. Not all of the shows include the history stuff, though, so call and ask before you pay your entry fee. And have fun!

  4. Hi April,
    I was surprised to find out that not all shows have the “stuff” like our little one here did. I will definitely call ahead to be sure for the next one.

  5. Good morning, Melinda!
    Check out at least one show – it really is cool to handle at 150 year old revolver (the old Colts were HEAVY) and talk to the owners, who love history as much as we do. 🙂

  6. Hey Tracy,
    I’ve never been to a gun show. But I’ve seen the bullet shells carved out of trees from the Civil War at a reenactment and those were so neat. They claim there are many on people’s property in the south and they are still finding them. Love the Brothel tokens!

  7. Bus tokens, games tokens, but cat house tokens!
    Never heard of them before, but then there’s lots
    of things in the world that are unknown to me!
    Knowledge makes this world go around and education
    comes in all forms, even tokens and gun shows!

    Pat Cochran



    I love the knifes and historical stuff. I might just take in a gun show. I suppose I’ll have to take my husband as ‘cover’. 🙂

  9. I had no idea. I thought a gun show would be overrun by ganstas or something. Seriously.

    Next time I see one in the paper I will check it out to see if any historians are displaying. That would be worth a look-see.

  10. Wow, Tracy! I didn’t know those shows have all that extra stuff. I’m going to have to make it a priority to go to the next one that comes here. Thanks for sharing those tidbits. You’ve sparked my curiosity. Funny about the tokens.

  11. Yep, Mary, that’s what it said. I nearly dropped it I was laughing so hard.

    And definitely take the dh. The exhibitors will be busy talking to him and you can look your fill.

  12. hi Tracy, what a wonderful post. And thanks for not shooting things that bleed LOL. In the inspiratonal I’m reading right now, the hero is a modern-day mountain man (well, also a CEO) who guides hunting trips and I’m having a hard time with it.)

    Anyway, the token for bath, screw and beans is having me laugh out loud. In an alternate universe, that could be a great book title.

    Thanks oxoxoxoxox

  13. Tracy;

    What a neat post. And I have to go with the general concensus – the cat house tokens are hilarous!

    I just so love the idea that history really is all around us – your post definitey reminded me of that.


  14. Love the cat house tokens, Tracy. What a neat experience, seeing guns and knives from the past. I’m fascinated by historical weapons–the modern day ones, not so much.

  15. Can’t believe the bath tokens! How funny.
    Have a friend and her husband who used to travel the gun show circuit with their wares. They never got close to us, so we never attended a show. I know they had a lot of money tied up in their inventory. I appreciate the antique guns, but the new ones, on the whole, lack the craftsmanship. That is a generalization and I know there are some lovely handmade specialty guns being made today.
    I didn’t realize there were so many antique items available. Will have to talk my DH into going next time one is in the area.

  16. Hi Jennie! Thanks for stopping in.

    Patricia, your friends would definitely know which shows usually have the “extra” stuff. Or call ahead and check–unless you don’t mind looking at a lot of guns and knives. 😀

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