The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades, on the grounds of Historic Washington State Park, will hold a grand opening on January 17, 2020, at 2:30 p.m. The grand opening will be held at the James Black School located in the Stephens House at 601 Lawrence Street in Washington, Arkansas.

According to a press release, the 92nd General Assembly in ACT 510 designed the Bowie knife, commonly known as the “Arkansas Toothpick,” as the official knife of the State of Arkansas. The General Assembly also passed, and Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law, ACT 818 which designated Historic Washington, Arkansas, as the “Birthplace of the Bowie Knife, Arkansas Heritage Site” and designated the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana to develop and operate a school of bladesmithing in Historic Washington.

The grand opening will feature special guest, Governor Asa Hutchinson, who will formally dedicate the “Arkansas #1” Bowie knife. Arkansas #1 was commissioned by the UAHT Foundation to commemorate the monumental significance of the Bowie knife being named Arkansas’s official blade and Washington, Arkansas, being designated as an official Arkansas Heritage Site. To create a piece of artwork as significant as Arkansas #1, the UAHT Foundation commissioned world-renowned Master Bladesmith and National Living Treasure, Jerry Fisk. Those in attendance will also be able to view a special exhibit of Bowie No. 1, on loan from Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock. Bowie No. 1, crafted by James Black, is considered by all as an important early 1830’s Bowie knife and is suggested by many as “THE” knife made by Black for Jim Bowie. Following the dedication, there will be a ceremonial “First Firing of the Forge” at the historic campus Bladesmith Shop to welcome the first class of James Black School students.

There will also be several other special events on the day of the grand opening. A community education class entitled “The History and Art of the Bowie Knife,” will take place at 11:00 a.m. in the beautifully restored 1860 Brunson House at Historic Washington State Park. Individuals wishing to participate in the class can register by calling the UAHT Community Education Department at 870-722-8102. Students in the course will learn about the history of the Bowie Knife and its place in the history of Arkansas with Master Bladesmiths Jerry Fisk, National Living Treasure; Lin Rhea, Resident Historic Blacksmith at Historic Arkansas Museum; and Billy Nations, Supervisor of Interpretive Programs at Historic Washington State Park. The cost of the course is only $20 and will include lunch. The class will be followed by a Bowie knife “Cutting Competition” at 1:00 p.m. that will feature renowned knife makers and competitors using their personally crafted knives in an exciting display of art and skill.

UAHT will offer a Certificate of Proficiency in Bladesmithing beginning January 17. The degree plan is designed to provide students with a unique opportunity to earn a degree in the historic art of bladesmithing. Courses in the credit program will include Introduction to Bladesmithing, Intermediate Bladesmithing, Knifemaking, Handles and Guards, Damascus Steel, and Advanced Bladesmithing. Students will also have the option to enroll in classes as non-credit students. To enroll, visit

Please join us at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades Grand Opening. For more information, call 870-722-8516.

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