The Arkansas Toothpick is essentially a heavy dagger with a pointed, straight 12-20 inch blade. The "toothpick" is balanced and weighted for throwing and can also be used for thrusting and slashing. James Black, known as a potential inventor of the Bowie knife, is also credited with inventing the Arkansas Toothpick but no firm evidence exists for this claim. It was originally a weapon used by the late 18th century and early 19th century seamen. Because of its large size, the Arkansas Toothpick is usually carried in a holster across the back.
When Bowie first received the "Bowie Knife" from James Black he had become a Texas citizen and was attacked by three men who had been hired to kill him. Bowie killed all three of his attackers with the new "Bowie Knife", ensuring the fame of James Black and the "Bowie Knife". The Arkansas toothpick is designed with equal craft, but it simply received less fame, without having a "test incident" tied to it to prove its efficiency. The fame of Bowie and Black helped to perpetuate the craft of knife-shaping as well as the throwing "Arkansas toothpick".
The nature of a Bowie Knife or "Arkansas toothpick" is to be heavy enough to be used as a hatchet for cutting wood, but sharp enough for shaving or combat. Its versatility had such an impact that two of Arkansas's nicknames became "The Bowie State" and "The Toothpick State".