Hot Commodities July 2012

Decorative but Deadly
The monkey’s fist, named for its resemblance to a clasped pair of primate hands, began as a sailor’s tool to add weight to the end of a line for easier, more controlled throwing. The knot can be tied around objects like cannonballs or stones for added heft, allowing sailors to toss ropes from ship to wharf even in extreme wind. Over time, these intricate knots made their way from boat decks to living rooms as nautical decorations. (A 1942 article in The Christian Science Monitor tells readers to find library books with monkey’s fist instructions “to aid the landlubber in fashioning…sailors’ knots into personal and household pieces that, in addition to decorative or utilitarian value, are vested with the aura of man’s progress down the pathway of time.”) Beautiful as these decorative knots are, it is considered a felony to carry one concealed on your person. Monkey’s fists tied around heavy objects, known as “slungshots,” were commonly used as weapons and were outlawed in New York in 1912 under the same statute that outlaws brass knuckles.