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?
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.
- When 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