Pieces of Knife Company History

I’m thankful to be a collector of old knives and knife company memorabilia today.

Why am I thankful? Because I can find things folks are selling so much easier now than I ever could have back pre-World Wide Web.

I’m convinced we now find more of what we collect than ever before. No wonder folks used to quit collecting because they no longer could find knives/memorabilia they hunted.

Think about it- Folks find knife “stuff” that we collect all the time. In the old days, it would get chunked in the garbage. Today, more folks take a few minutes to “research” online first. And as more collectors put up websites and other “flags” folks can find to help them identify the collectiblity of this “stuff,” the more it goes into circulation and makes its way to us.

Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about- A significant piece of knife company history.

Napanoch Knife Company printers block

It’s a printers block used by the Napanoch Knife Company during the years of 1900-1919. It sold on eBay for $261 yesterday.

Napanoch Knife Company ad from 1910

Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 11:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Knife Company Memorabilia- Cattaraugus Cutlery Co. wall display

It’s not everyday we find a true piece of knife company history. Last week an item sold on eBay and it was a true treasure.

Here’s the seller’s description:

c.1920- 1930 36” X 48″ FOLDING ADVERTISING BOARD, made of heavy cardboard, beautiful colors with blue, brown, cream, red and green.  The center picture is of a grey haired gentlemen in suit and tie peeling an apple with his pocket knife with “FRIENDS FOR 30 YEARS” in the frame.  The other two frames are (1) a picture of kitchen cutlery with “CATTARAUGUS –IS A GUARANTEE FOR CUTLERY” and on the other pocket knives with “LITTLE INJUN LINE-A KNIFE FOR EVERY USE.”  At the top center it says “CATTARAUGUS CUTLERY CO., LITTLE VALLEY, N.Y.”   On the top left is a picture of the “LITTLE INJUN” and on the top right is another picture of an “LITTLE INJUN.”  We understand that one is on display in the National Knife Museum.”

Oh yeah, I almost forgot- it sold for $869 plus $150 shipping (proving again, good stuff brings good prices, even in a bad economy).

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm  Comments (6)  
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Benchmade Knife Company Wins Award

Benchmade Knife Company Recognized as a Most Admired Company in Oregon

The Portland Business Journal recognized Benchmade Knife Company as one of Oregon’s Most Admired Companies within the Manufacturing Companies division.

“It is an honor to be recognized among such admired and prestigious organizations in the state” says Les de Asis, Founder and Owner of Benchmade Knife Company.

Surveys were sent to more than 1,800 CEO’s throughout the Oregon and Southwest Washington region and asked them to select the companies they most admire. These awards recognize companies that CEO’s believe to be the very best organizations in the region.

Other companies winning awards in the manufacturing category include Nike Inc., Columbia Sportswear Co., and Leatherman Tool Group Inc.


Published in: on December 18, 2009 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cutlery History- Every puzzle piece helps

Let’s see a show of hands of how many of you like to learn about cutlery life in the early 1900s?

I’m excited. Got me a new picture book yesterday off eBay and can’t wait to look at it. It’s a 224 page manufacturer’s catalog of cutlery factory equipment from 1918.

While I don’t expect it to paint much of a picture of working in a factory back then- it will provide a glimpse. And every little puzzle piece helps.

Sounds dry, you say? Maybe. But nothing like the 493 page The Cutlery Trades by G. I. H. Lloyd of 1913. Now that book will make your eyes roll back in your head- lots of charts and tables, and no pictures.


Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

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Knife Company History- Northfield Knife Company advertisement 1884

October 4, 1884 Northfield Knife Company advertisement

October 2, 1884 Northfield Knife Company advertisement

Source: The Iron Age- October 2, 1884

Published in: on October 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm  Comments (3)  
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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.

The weak economy continues to impact Knife Industry

BuckLogoLast week, Buck Knives announced it was cutting 200 employees salary to hold its own through these uncertain economic times.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reported the Post Falls, Idaho knife company, one of the largest employers in Northern Idaho, made a 10 percent reduction in pay and/or work hours. While the company hasn’t had layoffs in several months this move is a result of “economic woes endured by Buck’s customers” that continues to impact Buck according to Phil Duckett, Buck COO in an interview with staff writer Brian Walker. Buck had multiple layoffs during 2008.

“One of our significant customers is off- plan over 20%, and we have had multiple customers file for bankruptcy,” Ducket said. “(Those) are the major factors in the action we’ve taken.”

Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Leading Knife Companies Hold Gigantic Knife Auctions

Now that it appears the immediate threat to the Knife Manufacturers is well in hand, these companies’ focus is back to the business. Yes, before the recent scare about the Customs and Border Patrol redefining a switchblade, the knife makers had a more pressing problem- very sluggish knife sales.

Knife companies, like other manufacturers, are trying to balance production against sales orders. Unfortunately, knife companies are out there with a high level of knives produced before the severity of this current economic slowdown was clear.

In the past, knife companies found themselves in a similar dilemma, that is a substantial inventory on hand and insufficient demand through their normal channels to absorb it within a reasonable period of time.

Knife inventory represents precious capital.

J P King Auction Did you know cutlery history provides us examples of knife companies actually cooperating together during tough economic times to sell off their respective knife inventory?

Knife companies joined forces to hold gigantic knife auctions.

gavelA large two day auction of pocket knives and other cutlery was held on February 13 & 14, 1877.  John Russell Cutlery Company, Meriden Cutlery Company, Lamson & Goodnow, Frary & Clark, Beaver Falls and Chicago Cutlery contributed inventory. The New York Times reported “..the prices obtained were extremely satisfactory, being well up to current market prices. There was a very large attendance, including representatives of the leading houses in Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Baltimore, and even San Francisco.”

gavelAlso another very large 4 day sale conducted in New York that same year. The knife inventory was contributed directly from the manufacturers. Buyers came from all over the country, including 156 wholesale and dealer firms, as reported in the August 13th 1877 edition of The New York Times. The articles also notes, “Prices ran well, and the sale is said to indicate that there will be a good demand for cutlery this fall and that prices will be stiffly maintained.”

gavelThe next year another auction was held for “large quantities of hunting knives, pocket knives, skinning knives, sticking knives, and other similar articles.” The two day auction was held July 24 & 25, 1878 and was reported by The New York Times. The article states, “Bidding was spirited and fair prices realized.” And while a lot might contain a single knife or dozens of knives, in all 2481 lots were offered.

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With the advances in technology, compared to the late 1800s, the auction bidding could be simultaneously offered online and “live” right from the auction room. The firms with inventory in the auction would be allowed to set up booths outside the auction ballroom to promote their firm- much like a huge knife show- but the difference is the real purpose behind the event would be the auction, unlike today, where the auctions are but a side note to the knife shows.

Wouldn’t it be exciting to attend an auction of current production knives represented by all the top knife manufacturers?

It would be hotter than the Blade Show and the SHOT Show combined!

Photo credit: J P King Auction Company

A different way to sell cutlery

cutcosalesman

Jack Gillette- Cutlery Salesman

Large knife manufacturers don’t sell directly to the public; instead, they sell to dealers and retailers, and then the knives are sold to the consumers.

But, what if a knife salesman came calling directly on you to buy. I’m talking about one-on-one direct sales. You would either buy or not, depending if you needed them or, in the case of collector knives, wanted them to collector or not, right?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if a knife company could create a situation where we bought their knives for reasons other than to use or collect?

I’m talking about creating a situation where the buyers want to help the salesman. 

That is exactly the business model used by one particular knife company.

To most collectors this company isn’t typically thought of as a knife company, but consider the following:

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Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 6:30 am  Comments (2)  
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