Interview with man who started working in knife factory in 1872

Part II in the American Life Histories– manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project 1936- 1940. Today’s interview is with William Dunbar of Reynolds Bridge, Connecticut during the year of 1938. The person conducting the interview is not identified and it begins with a note about Mr. Dunbar.

William Dunbar, of Reynolds Bridge, a hale and hearty old gentleman who admits to “over eighty” but astonishingly active is the last of the knifemakers remaining in his section. Commonly known as the “village,” this little suburb is composed of two straggling rows of houses over the mile long road intersecting the main highways from Thomaston to Waterbury and Watertown, (Connecticut). Built expressly for the English knifemakers who once worked in the old wooden factory in the heart of the village–long since abandoned and falling into decay–the little settlement is now occupied largely by poorer families attracted by the low rents. The home of Mr. Dunbar however is comfortably furnished, equipped with modern conveniences. He spends his winters in Florida, has a summer camp at a nearby lake–and only last year, he says, built himself a small power boat which he used successfully for fishing excursions.

“This here concern,” says Mr. Dunbar (meaning the old knife factory at Reynolds Bridge)” was called the American Knife Company, and when it started I can’t tell you. But I know it was begun by Pierpont and Morse. Squire Morse, he owned a clock shop down there on the site of the factory building, and it burned down. And afterwards (c.1849) he got together with Pierpont and started the knife factory. (Goins’ dates American Knife Company c. 1875- 1895. It was sold to Northfield Knife Co. in 1894- SK)

“No, I don’t think either one of them knew anything about knifemakin’. They were good businessmen. They hired the knifemakers and let ’em go, and I guess they made money. My father worked in Waterville and then came up here. No sir, he was a Yankee, he wasn’t an Englishman. I learned the trade from him when I was a kid and went to work in the shop here when I was fourteen.