She worked in a Connecticut knife factory from 1888 to 1914

During the Depression folks were hired to travel the Country documenting American Life as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. These interviews are now in the Library of Congress.

The following is an interview conducted with the Widow Buckingham in 1938. She worked for American Shear & Knife for 26 years, beginning in 1888.

This interview brings working in a knife factory to life- in a personal way. It’s American cutlery history at its finest.

It begins with Mrs. Buckingham being asked about the history of knife factories in her area- the Reynolds Bridge area of Connecticut.

“Don’t know’s I can give you much history about these Reynolds Bridge Companies,” she says. “We only lived here since 1916. I came from a knifemakin’ family, though. Worked at it for twenty-six years myself, over in Hotchkissville. American Shear and Knife Company–that burnt down in 1914, and they never rebuilt it. (Goins’ dates American Shear  c.1853- 1914. At one time it employed 150 workers-SK)

“My father was from Sheffield, England, where all the good knifemakers come from. I was six years old when we moved to Hotchkissville. Of course I don’t remember much about the old country, but I can remember my mother tellin’ about how when she first come over here she was scared of everything. Sheffield was a big city, you know, and they weren’t used to country ways. She was afraid of the peep frogs, when first she heard ’em. My sister and my two brothers was born in Hotchkissville. My sister–she lives down here on the flat now–father used to say, ‘she’s the first bloody Yankee in our family, and she’s a bugger.’

“Women in the knife shops? Oh, yes, there was about ten of ’em over in Hotchkissville. We used to clean, and pack the knives, little jobs like that. They had boys to get the work ready for the finishers. Most all English people, I don’t know what it was, whether the Yanks couldn’t learn the trade, or what. Oh, there was some, of course. The men that owned the companies used to go to Sheffield to hire help, pay their passage to this country, and let ’em work it out.


We know knives can talk, but what about bones?

drAren’t bones interesting? Yes, bones. They can reveal a lot about a person. 

The job of a forensic anthropologist is to examine bones to piece together a person’s past. 

From skeletal remains, a person’s age, sex, height and ancestry can be determined. OK to all of that, but what about their job? Can someone’s profession be figured out by studying their bones?

Let’s take a someone who worked in the knife industry, for example. Can a forensic anthropologist figure out who worked in a cutlery factory?

Evidently so, and here’s the story-

Dr. Rafael Brusilow (pictured above), a forensic anthropologist, figured out the owner of a particular set of bones was in fact a cutlery factory worker. 

An unidentified skeleton was examined to find it had a missing finger tip and signs of stress on the right elbow. After investigating it, the Dr. correctly determined that the man had worked as a buffer in the cutlery industry from the stress of the right elbow. The elbow scars were from constantly extending his arm as he polished cutlery.

This all came about because the man had been murdered and from Dr. Brusilow’s findings, the victim was identified. And within days of releasing the information to the public, the police received enough leads to eventually arrest and charge the murderers.

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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