SCAGEL CANOE or CROOKED KNIFE, MOCOTAUGAN, WITH SHEATH
WILLIAM WALES SCAGEL was the premier hand maker of sportsmen's knives in the United States in the 1920s (see below).
This Scagel knife is a traditional Indian-style Mocotaugan -- crooked knife, or canoe knife, used for all types of wood carving.
This knife belonged to John Malaguerra of Lexington, Massachusetts.
After John passed away in 2000, the knife came down to his nephew, who has now asked me to sell it for him.
I first saw this knife in the early 1980s.
Dr. Lucie has just sent me a letter to him from Mr. Malaguerra, dated February 9, 1981, along with other papers and photos
(all of which WILL BE INCLUDED with the knife in this sale). The letter states
... this knife--it is so recent an acquisition and so interesting to me that I am not yet ready to part with it.
This statement contradicts the story that Mr. Malaguerra told me and others at that time, that he had bought the knife on the way to Canada in 1927 or 1928.
Perhaps this had been the original owner's story that came with the knife when Mr. Malaguerra acquired it. I do not know.
Here is that letter, along with a photo of Mr. Malaguerra holding this knife.
Letter included with knife.
Photo included with knife.
About William Scagel
William Wales Scagel (1873-1963) was the link between the great American cutlers and surgical instrument makers of earlier generations -- men like Henry Schively, Daniel Searles, John Chevalier, Charles Reinhardt, and Michael Price, who supplied fine custom made Bowie and hunting knives to mid-19th century American gentry -- and the great custom knifemakers of our own time.
William Scagel began making knives in 1903, when a handful of the mid-19th century cutlers were still alive and working. Like Robert Loveless a half-century later, Scagel made some of his first knives while at sea in the merchant marine. After coming ashore and settling in Muskegon, Michigan, Scagel established a new pattern that was to be followed by more than a thousand knifemakers in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The great custom cutlers of the 19th century had lived in major cities and owned retail cutlery stores. They made only the top-of-the-line and special-order knives that they sold, the rest coming from factories around the world. Scagel, by contrast, lived in the country. In this, he might have been like any of the thousands of "crossroads" knifemakers who have supplied very localized markets throughout American history (there are still hundreds of such makers, most of them not even listed in any collector's directory).
What set Scagel apart from all the crossroads knifemakers was, that although he lived off in the woods, he sold his knives to a national, even a world, market. His knives first reached this market through a distinctive early 20th century phenomenon: the gentleman's sporting outfitter. Scagel sold his one-of-a- kind knives through Abercrombie & Fitch of New York; Von Lengerke & Antoine of Chicago; Pacific Arms Corporation of San Francisco; and Alcock, Late, & Westwood of Toronto and London. Avid and well-to-do sportsmen first learned about Scagel in their favorite stores, but it was then an easy transition for them to start ordering knives from him directly by mail.
Today few collectors, whatever their resources, own even one Scagel knife. Indeed Scagel is now best known, not for his own work, but for his direct influence on another knifemaker: W. D. "Bo" Randall, Jr., of Orlando, Florida. The story of Bo Randall's first encounter with a Scagel knife in 1938 has by now been told more times than the story of James Bowie's 1827 knife fight at the Vidalia sandbar. The Randall family owns extensive summer property in northern Michigan. Bo Randall and William Scagel became friends; under Scagel's guidance, Randall became a knifemaker.
(From The Knife Collection of Albert Blevins by Bernard Levine ©1988.)