Think it’s true? “What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In the case of Sam HAWKEN he just happened to be the rose. There were a great many gunsmiths in St. Louis Mo. in the early 1800’s and Jacob and Sam HAWKEN were among them. That era saw St. Louis as a bustling city busy with traders, trappers and fur companies all preparing for their adventures to the west. Across the rivers and the plains to the Rocky Mountains and beyond they went in search of furs to meet public demand. These large fur companies employed a lot of men and these men needed to be outfitted with knives, traps and of course firearms. Small shops like the one run by Sam and Jacob HAWKEN didn’t have the manpower to build enough rifles to meet the needs of these large companies. There were, however; shops that could.
St. Louis was home to a lot of gunsmiths of different levels of talent. HAWKEN wasn’t necessarily the best gunsmith but his name is the one most often brought to mind when talking about the fur trade and its firearms. Sam HAWKEN built a fine rifle, a half stocked large caliber gun capable of taking big game. Grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, elk, bison and more would be encountered on travels to the west. A firearm sturdy enough to endure the abuse it would encounter on long journeys into the unsettled wilderness was a must. For the most part however, Sam Hawken’s name is associated with mountain men of such notarity, as Bridger, Carson, Meek, Tobin, Cody and a score of others. While these men owned HAWKEN rifles it was in their later years, long after the heyday of the fur trade. Still, the HAWKEN name prevails. In the 1970’s, by chance; the name HAWKEN was the Rose that was plucked from a bush of many roses and used in a very popular movie. It was then that “Jeremiah Johnson” (Johnston) came on the scene starring Robert Redford as the mountain man who left civilization after the civil war and headed for the wilderness looking for the peace he hoped to find. In the movie Johnson wanted a certain rifle…….a HAWKEN. It’s through the choice made by the movie people to use HAWKEN as the key firearm in the movie that is responsible for the recognition this gun enjoys after so many years.
A rifle built by any other gunsmith in St. Louisduring that time could have just as well become the rose. So, in this case a rose by any other name COULD have smelled as sweet. But it is HAWKEN that became the Rose and his name is now synonymous with the fur trappers and their phenomenal adventures.