Gold Rush Dagger Punches Up Knife Sale

The gambler’s collectible makes the cut—along with other rare California blades.

The gambler’s collectible makes the cut—along with other rare California blades.

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The discovery of a gold nugget at German immigrant John Sutter's mill heralded in the Gold Rush to California; another German helped arm the populace.

Julius Finck, who may have been among the nearly one million who immigrated to America in the decade after the revolutions of 1848 failed to establish democracy in Germany, certainly found his fresh start out in the goldfields. Yet he did so not by digging for placer gold, but by supplying miners and other citizens with weaponry.

The auction of the estate of schoolteacher Donald Littman, held by Greg Martin on February 25, featured 1,500 knives. Included in the sale was a San Francisco push dagger, a hideout weapon that first appeared during the Gold Rush era, that was the weapon par excellence of gamblers, with...

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