This photo takes us back to a time when the Covid19 was over 66 years in the future. Bob Loveless was 25 years old and building knives for Abercrombie&Fitch on Madison Ave in NYC.
The knife you are looking at is the earliest recorded number sub hilt for Abercrombie. The photo is knife #9. Loveless said this was the first one made, and the other know numbers are #26 and #28. The knife is unique because of all the sub hilts made in Delaware that I have owned this one is the cleanest blade. Number 9 came from the Al Williams book “Living on the Edge.” The 7-inch blade is magical in the way it feels, the brass strip on top of the blade is excellent, and the leather handles with Aluminum butt cap make the whole package of a classic Loveless. The sheath is original to the knife. The #9 is on the back of the blade just to the left of Abercrombie & Fitch.
When Bob was out of the service, he went to college in Chicago, learned about the Bauhaus, and how form and function with simplistic shapes could be art in the making of everyday items. So this spoke to Loveless. He always said, “less is more,” don’t make a heavy knife, don’t make it too dressy, but make it feel grand and function in the real world.” That was how he grew his legend. The knives he sold to Abercrombie & Fitch all met those requirements. No fancy jewels, nothing engraved, just clean, balanced work for a working tool. Now the bowie was not used so much as the hunters, just about the only thing you could do well with the sub hilts was not a good thing to use a knife for this purpose. But people are and always have been attracted to a big knife. These knives were not big and clumsy; they were not boat anchors. The extension of a 7-inch metal blade out in front of your hand felt like holding the wind; it just moved lightly, and it felt small and usable.
The Abercrombie & Fitch knives are getting very, very hard to find in a clean condition. It is not from abuse, but rather the steel was unclean and did not give a high polish. Plus, some people stored them in sheaths, and that will make a mess of the blade.
Bob is credited with making the first “Art Knife” when he did the Ivory handled engraved Delaware Sub Hilt Bowie, as seen in the Al Williams book. That knife was sold at one time for $150,000. We owned it for a while after buying the Al Williams collection and this #9 knife. But in reality, between the two blades, we liked #9 better than the Ivory engraved Bowie. Now the Bowie in Ivory photographs beautifully; it was a huge disappointment when you picked it up. It was just a heavy clunker, didn’t feel like the magical Loveless knives we had held over the years. Plus, we have had Ivory crack before, and this to us was a ticking time bomb. Should the Ivory, which was also engraved ever cracked, there went 80% of the knife's value.
Also, going back to the Bauhaus and their theory, the simple working thing could be the most artistic of anything out there; it did not matter if it a designed house or Furniture it would stand the test of time. I realize that Bob, when asked to do the “Art Knife Invitational,” he told Phil Lobred that he did not make Art Knives….. so what Loveless did was send six knives, they were pure drops and semi skinners. To Loveless, that was all the art he wanted to have in one of his knives. Diamonds and Pearls were not anywhere near the true nature of a using knife. Pearl would shatter, nobody could ever use it, and Bob swore he would never use Pearl on his knives as it “was Pimps” and cheapened the blade, not to mention made it unusable in the real world.
These early knives from Abercrombie & Fitch show the early path that Loveless was on, he had not yet fully embraced the tapered tang, and certainly had not gotten down to make a hard pattern of the drop hunter of semi skinner. He was still experimenting with designs. But man, he hit most of them out of the ballpark.
If you want to own something to pass down the next 200 years, you cannot beat having a sub hilt with Abercrombie & Fitch. Loveless ended his association with the company in 1967. Some of the Loveless-Parke knives will have Abercrombie & Fitch on the back of them but very, very few. I know that not all of the sub hilts were Abercrombie & Fitch logos. Maybe 2-3 were made with the logo when he was in the Delaware Maid period.
Price is $47,500 U.S. Dollars
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