Case Brothers Knife History- An extremely rare find

Had an opportunity to buy a knife recently. Well, I didn’t really get a knife, only a part of it. A blade actually. But at least it was the masterblade.

CaseBrothers51blade

It looks like an elephant toenail blade, or does it?

Case Brothers 2250 005 cropped

Case Brothers Standard Style Ebony 2250 Toenail 3 7/8"

A friend  sent a pic of this blade telling me it was a toenail blade, in case I was interested. It was a Case Brothers Cutlery Co. of Little Valley, NY (c.1900- 1915)- one of my all-time favorites.

When I opened the picture attached to his email, I thought- that isn’t a toenail blade. I expected to see the typical CB toenail blade – short, fat and with a long pull like the one pictured here.

While it was a spear point type blade, and it did resemble an old toenail blade, it clearly wasn’t for the typical CB toenail. “Wait a minute, could it be…..?” flashed in my head. Case Brothers was one of the very few firms to make toenails in two different styles. The most common was the “standard style” – the ’50 pattern (2250, 5250, 6250, 7250 & 8250), but they also made a longer version called the ’51 pattern.

Everybody and their brother(s) made the standard style toenail back in the early 1900s, but the longer variety was another matter.

007 Case Brothers Little Valley NY 2281- 04 copy

Case Brothers Ebony 2251 4 1/2"

You should have seen me dart to where I keep my Case Brothers toenails. Grabbed my ’51 patterns and ran back. Couldn’t get them open quickly enough and when I did- it was a match– the same swedge, the single pull and even the TESTED XX matched one of mine.

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Case Brothers 2251 pictured in 1904 Catalog

Do you know how rare it is to find an old blade that is full? I’m talking about the fullest of full. And yet, this blade represented so much more than simply a full toenail blade to me.

OK, call me nuts if you want, but I value this baby right up there with the best of the best I have. It has it all- my favorite brand, a significant artifact from cutlery history, a toenail masterblade and the rarest of the two varieties at that. It also represents the fullest ’51 pattern masterblade I have ever seen.

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The Case Brothers Ebony 2251 Pattern Toenails

In case you are wondering….

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Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 9:10 am  Comments (1)  
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Pieces of cutlery history travel down through time- together

puzzleMany collectors of vintage knives also collect old knife company memorabilia- the knife boxes, letterhead, ads, catalogs, buttons, signs, letters, photographs and those type things from their favorite knife company of days gone by. These rare items are pieces of the puzzle to help us get a better glimpse into the life and times back then.

Anytime we can link two or more items directly, like a knife box marked with the our favorite knife pattern number, an old ad illustrating our favorite knife or an old invoice with our knife’s pattern number on it, we go nuts.

Not long ago I had the opportunity to purchase some knife company memorabilia from a collector- old knife boxes, billheads, invoices, postcards and the like from many of the granddaddies of American cutlery firms. I didn’t study them at the time, instead I put them in plastic sleeves and then in notebooks labeled for each of the knife companies.

Only later when I was looking up some knife history factoid did I realize two of the items directly linked. Yes, they were both from the year 1900 and also both from Case Brothers Cutlery Co., Little Valley, NY, but to me the direct link is they were both addressed to a Mr. G. C. Monchow in Marilla, NY and are about the same knife order.

casebrothersmonchow

On Oct 29, 1900, Case Brothers issued an invoice to Mr. Monchow showing the order and shipment method initialed by the salesman “JRC” (John Russell ‘Russ” Case- the eventual founder of W R Case & Son). Then on Nov. 12th, 1900, Case Brothers mailed a postcard to Mr. Monchow acknowledging his payment on that specific order.

“We acknowledge with pleasure the receipt of your favor of Nov. 10 enclosing check for $62.08 which has been placed to your credit, in payment of bill of Oct. 29, 1900 for which accept our thanks: cordially inviting your further orders, we remain, yours respectfully,” Case Bros., Cutlery Co.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? It is extremely rare for two directly related items of cutlery history both to have survived and still together after 109 years!

In case you are wondering, Mr. Monchow owned a general store in Marilla (Erie County) New York. The store opened under the name H. T. Foster & Co. in 1865. Mr. Monchow became a partner in 1874. He survived his partner and sometime between 1889 and 1900 changed its name to G. C. Monchow & Co- the name reflected on the billing invoice and receipt from Case Brothers. The store closed in 1938.

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?

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Guess what I got for Christmas!

 

Christmas 2008- Stag Case Brothers Toenail

Christmas 2008- Stag Case Brothers Toenail

Published in: on December 25, 2008 at 9:09 am  Comments (4)  
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The Year 1900 Here I Come- Google & Time Travel

 

Beginner

Geek Rated: Beginner

I have this affinity for early American cutlery firm history around the years of 1900 through about 1915.

Case Brothers began making their own knives in Little Valley, NY. Then W R Case & Son opened in LVNY too.  C Platts opened its factory in Eldred, Pa. And then you have all other cutlery firms too, like NYKC, Miller Bros., and Cattaraugus, just to name a few.

The truth is I really wouldn’t want to have lived during that time, but would love to fold time and step back… just for a few days. I’d give my eye tooth to be able to handle a newly made Case Bros. pearl elephant toenail knife (or C. Platts Jumbo Swellcenter!), or walk through the Case Brothers factory.  

In case you are wondering where I am going with this- Well, I am two clicks away from being able to go back in time to that place. Google is replicating time travel. It has already provided the wormhole to ancient Rome on Google Earth. If you have never used Google Earth, it is really cool coming in from space to that spot on the earth. 

If Google can transport us to 320 A. D, then I just know it will be any day I will be able to go back a mere 108 years… I just don’t want to get Grinders Consumption while I’m there.