Man of history: Part-time Natchez resident tours the country showing off his collection of artifacts
NATCHEZ — Jack Shaffer’s collection started with a few Native American relics when he was approximately 11 years old.
Sixty years later, it has grown to take up an entire house with enough historical trinkets left over to fill five tables at the 2012 Bowie Knife Show in Natchez.
Now the Lake Providence, La., native, who has homes in in Baton Rouge, Natchez and Roxie — during hunting season — takes his collection to shows all across the country. But he said he always loves coming back to Natchez for the Bowie Knife Show.
“I love Natchez enough to where I bought a home here,” Shaffer said. “The show’s motto is, ‘This is where it all began.’ And you can look out the front door and look at Giles Island where the Bowie knife duels were fought. And you can go to the Sandbar where Jim Bowie stabbed his way into history.”
Shaffer’s gigantic collection of artifacts, weapons and jewelry includes necklaces from 3,000 B.C., Roman lamps from 100 A.D., as well as American artifacts from several different centuries.
“I have a deep interest in history, particularly the Natchez Indians,” he said.
Shaffer himself is half Cherokee Indian, he said.
“My father was adopted off of the Five Nations Reservation,” he said.
Shaffer said he loves to travel around with his wife, Terry Kleinpeter, going to shows, selling his items and bartering with fellow collectors.
“They come here to con each other,” Kleinpeter said.
Shaffer said he acquired a knife this year at the Bowie Knife Show that he had already tried to buy 25 years ago.
“It’s a 1840s, very early American (piece), that’s actually from prior to the Bowie knife,” he said. “I like old blacksmith knives.”
Shaffer said almost all of his collection is up for grabs, but he does not bring his collection of push daggers.
“I’d say my early gamblers’ push daggers (are my favorite),” he said. “I have a big collection that I don’t sell.”
Kleinpeter said Shaffer’s collection is so extensive that when she moved into his home after they married two and a half years ago, there was little room for her things.
“There was zero room, so I had to keep my house, because his collection takes up four walk-in closets,” she said. “But I’m fine with him taking up 99.99 percent of the space in the house. And he knows if I move one thing.”
Kleinpeter said she helps Shaffer by typing reports on artifacts for him.
“I find it very interesting, but I just love seeing how happy it makes him to find (a new piece),” she said.
Shaffer said he plans to continue to add to his collection, as well as subtract from it with trades, sells and acts of kindness — like handing over a Native-American arrowhead free of charge to a young boy at this year’s show in Natchez — at shows, and he is excited about returning to Natchez next year.
“I’ve been here every year since it started,” he said. “I love the camaraderie, and everyone here has a sincere interest in research and history.”
Shaffer said Tropical Storm Isaac threatened his collection this past week, but he was able to keep major flooding out of his home in Baton Rouge and preserve his pieces.
“Thank God it didn’t (flood),” he said.
Shaffer said he would be participating in another show in approximately a month, but Natchez will always be the No. 1 stop on his tour.