Famous Knife Factory Fires

If you have been collecting knives for any time you have probably heard stories of the most famous knife company fires. There are quite a few, actually.

I’m sure you have heard about the Case Brothers fire that destroyed their Little Valley, New York factory on February 10th, 1912. But did you know this was actually their second factory to have burned to the ground?

Case Smethport Cutlery 6.11.1910

Case Smethport Cutlery ruins 1910

Two years earlier their Smethport, Pa factory burned. It had only been in operation since Dec. 1909 when they, along with W. R. & Russ Case, and H. N. Platts, purchased the Smethport Cutlery Company. Then on June 11th, 1910,  fire destroyed the entire plant.

Not to digress, but I found the entire set of circumstances of this fire very interesting- almost comical.

  • When the Night Watchman discovered the fire, he reportedly tried to extinguish it by grabbing a pail of water and throwing it on the fire, only to see the flames increase- he had thrown a pail of oil, instead of water.
  • smethport-pa-fire-depart-historyWhen the fire department and hose carts arrived and opened the hydrant, there was no water pressure.
  • “No team (horses) was handy to then haul the fire engine, so a number of firemen started out with it by hand, but the progress was slow and before it was on the ground and in operation this large building was completely enveloped in flames and all possibility of saving any part of it was gone.” Quote from McKean County Miner- June 16, 1910
  • One of the reasons the site was selected for the cutlery plant in the beginning was the location of the hydrant, which was immediately next to the building.

List of Knife Factory Fires

Throughout American cutlery history fire has been a big problem. It is not unusual to discover a knife company didn’t rebuild, instead they went out of business. Other times, I found factories that burned to the ground more than once and rebuilt each time.

Overall I was surprised with what I found. Before I show you, let me ask-

Can you history buffs name one or two other cutlery factory fires?

American Cutlery Works, Chicago, IL- 1871

American Cutlery Co., Chicago, IL- 1906

Andover Cutlery, Andover, NY- Burned twice- 1919 & 1920

A. F. Bannister & Co., Newark, NJ- 1914

Central City Knife Co., Phoenix, NY- 1916

Clauss Shear, Fremont, OH- 1917

Christy Knife Co., Fremont, OH- Burned twice- 1902 & 1910

Clay Cutlery Co., Andover, NY- 1920

Hatch Cutlery Co., Buchanan, MI- 1893

Derby Razor Co., Shelton, CT- 1904

First American Shear & Knife Co., Hotchkissville (Waterbury), CT- 1914

G. Knauth, Spring Valley, NY- 1941

Lackawanna Cutlery Co., Nicholson, PA- 1921

Lamson & Goodnow, NYC, NY (warehouse)- 1864

Ohio Cutlery Co., Massillon, OH- 1923

Phoenix Knife Co., Phoenix, NY- (founded as Central Knife Co. named changed in 1892)- 1916

Stephen Richard Co., Southbridge, MA-  Burned twice- late 1800s

J. C. Mount & Co., Newark, NJ- 1891

J. Russell Manufacturing Co., Deerfield, MA- 1868

Schaaf & Good Co., Fremont, OH- 1925

W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co., Bradford, PA- 1920 (Butcher Knife Factory)

Imperial Schrade, Providence, RI- 1957

Empire Knife Co., West Winsted, CT- 1893

Carrier Cutlery Co. (Conk Hauger), Rochester, NY- 1898

Honk Falls Knife Co., Napanoch, NY- 1929

Ulster Knife Co., Ellenville, NY- 1880

Union Cutlery & Hdwe Co., Unionville, CT- 1902

Union Knife Co., Naugatuck, NY- 1885

I also learned fire destroyed the buildings once used for knife factories-

Former Platts Cutlery Building, Eldred, PA- 1995

Former Aerial Cutlery Co. Building, Marinette, WI- 2006

Sources: Mclean County Miner; New York Times; Goins’ Encyclopedia of Cutlery Markings, wawarsing.net; The Case Dynasty; Smethporthistory.org

Smethport Fire wagon photo credit: Ross Porter

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As a side note- In talking with Mark Zalesky, editor of Knife World, about all the knife company fires, he made me aware that Camillus was so concerned about fire, they stored all their celluloid used for knife handles in a totally separate building.

  2. I purchased a Phoenix whittler knife on ebay(not an early one)and was told by seller that someone told him that the knife was made in Germany(no German markings)only”Phoenix Knife Co.,Phoenix,NY”.Can you confirm this?Thanks,George

  3. I have info about the burning of Grahamville (NY) Knife Co….

    Let me know if You are interested.

    Cheers,

    Alan

  4. I like to metal detect and I found a pocket knife from the Union Knife Company so that is pretty cool to put an age to it.


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