Real American Knife Lore

This forum is dedicated to the discussion and display of old knives. The rich history of all the many companies that made them through the early years will be found here as well as many fine examples of the cutlers art. Share pictures of your old knives and your knowledge here!
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Real American Knife Lore

Postby Miller Bro's » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:55 am

"These life histories were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents consist of drafts and revisions, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report to case history. The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts."

I found these very interesting to read, if you like old knives, history and real knife lore then you will like the following stories.

"1 Conn. 1938-9 Mrs. Buckingham

A number of small boys are industriously digging in the ground near the tumbled down old knife factory in the village of Reynolds Bridge as I approach it this afternoon, and as I descend the little hill that leads to the factory entrance, they pause to stare at me curiously. They are gathered--four of them--upon a heap of rubbish nearly overgrown with brush and weeds, but bare and brown in huge patches where scrap metal in various stages of disintegration offers no roothold for growing things.

"We ain't doin' anything, mister," says one. "Just diggin'." He holds out a grimy little fist for inspection, clutching tightly some bits of wooden knife handles in unfinished state, rusty old blades, corroded and worthless. Assured that I mean them no harm, his companions exhibit their finds, one, with no small degree of pride, pointing to a sizeable bit of mother of pearl, shaped and drilled and apparently ready for use. "I found a whole knife once," he confides. "Wasn't no good, though. All rusty."

What do they do with their loot? "Oh, nothin'. We just take it home and put it away. Sometimes we play Knifemakers." How do they play that? "Oh, we just play."

Satisfied that there is no cause for alarm, they return to their digging. I go back up the hill and past the mustard-colored "chapel" toward the more populous section of the village. Next house past the chapel in that of Mrs. Buckingham

Page 2 { page image }

(previously interviewed) and the lady is entertaining company on the lawn. She greets me pleasantly: "Still lookin' for knifemakers?" Her guests are her daughter-in-law and a "lady next door" named Mrs. Fitzsimons.

"This lady's father used to be a knifemaker," says Mrs. Buckingham, indicating Mrs. Fitzsimons.

Mrs. Fitzsimons: "Lord, don't ask me anything about it. Sure, my dad worked all his life at it, but I never worked in the knife shop. Dad said it wasn't no place for a girl.

Mrs. Buckingham: "Oh, bosh, Emma. I worked twenty six years at it, and I can't say's it ever did me any harm. Some very nice girls worked in the knife shop, now let me tell you."

Mrs. Fitzsimons: "Well, dad said the language you heard wasn't the best in the world."

Mrs. Buckingham: "It ain't in any shop is it?"

Mrs. Fitzsimons: "No, that's true. I worked up in the Marine shop for a while, and there was pretty rough talk up there sometimes."

Daughter-in-law: "It's the same all over, like Ma says. I used to work in the needle shop in Torrington. You can't tell me anything about it."

Mrs. Buckingham: "Some of the knifemakers were a pretty rough lot, I'll admit. They said what they pleased, regardless whether they was women around or not, and just as often as not they'd be drunk, but with all that they were goodhearted. Now there was a girl workin' over here to the Thomaston knife company. I remember Chet Sherman--he boards here--comin' home

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and tellin' me about it. She had some argument or other and lost her job over it, and she needed the work. She was supportin' her mother. So they got together and agreed to give her ten dollars a week until she found another job."

Mrs. Fitzsimons: "It's a wonder they didn't strike. Dad as always ready to go on strike."

Mrs. Buckingham: "They probably woulda, in the old days, but work wasn't so good toward the last and they couldn't afford to be so independent. It wasn't like when my father first came to this country, if you lost your job in one company you could go on to another. Why, I showed this young man that paper I got with all the knife companies on it. How many was there, young man? Over forty, wasn't there? All over the country, too."

Daughter-in-law: "I think there's one up in Winsted, Ma."

Mrs. Buckingham: "Well, is it doin' anything, that's the question."

Daughter-in-law: "Oh, I don't know about that. They ain't any of them doin' very much right now. I went up here to the clock shop for a job the other day, heard they were hirin' 'em in. And Perley, the employment manager, he said they couldn't take on any married women. He said there's so many young people lookin' for jobs the company feels they oughta give them first chance."

Mrs. Fitzsimons: "My man says that nobody that ever worked anywhere before wants to work in the clock shop these

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days. That's why they're hirin' in the young help. The young ones don't know any better."

Daughter-in-law: "Maybe something in that. Well, I wish I could get something. I's gettin' tired of stayin' home. A few hours a day and I's through with my housework. And then I have to {Begin deleted text}han?{End deleted text} {Begin inserted text}{Begin handwritten}hang{End handwritten}{End inserted text} around all day. It's monotonous."

Mrs. Buckingham: "Well, you're lucky you get that nice new house. Everything clean and shinin'. It don't take you long to clean up."

Daughter-in-law: "I forgot to tell you, Mrs. Fitzsimons, they gave me a house-warmin' Saturday night. Bucky and me were just sittin' there with our teeth in our mouth wonderin' what to do with ourselves, when the door opened and in they came. Twenty one of them. What a racket! Honest, I didn't know half of them-----"

It is obvious at this point that there will be no further discussion of knifemakers this afternoon, and I depart in the midst of an animated conversation about the party."
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Miller Bro's » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:06 am

Next one.

"The Widow Buckingham
The Widow Buckingham's kitchen door is wide open this afternoon, to admit warm spring air, and the lady herself is enjoying a moment of leisure by her radio in the living room. I am forced to rap repeatedly upon the open door in an attempt to make myself heard above the din of a military band, eventually attracting attention by an emphatic knock inserted strategically between the concluding bars of "Stars and Stripes Forever," and the station announcement. The radio clicks off, and Mrs. Buckingham, plump, gray, in the sixties, comes into the kitchen, her determined frown evidence of a particularly high order of sales resistance. When I explain the reason for my call, however, the lady relaxes perceptibly and invites me to be seated.

"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.

"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

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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.

"When I got married--I know it don't sound like much, but they were wonderful knives--they gave me a set of the finest kitchen cutlery. They don't make knives any more, they really don't.

"The girls didn't get much money. Paid by the month. Some of them get about twenty five cents a day. I remember the first month I worked I made eight dollars and fifteen cents. I gave it to my mother and she gave me a quarter to buy candy with and I had to make it last until the next payday, too. You could get more with a quarter then, though. You could get as much candy for a quarter as you get for a dollar today.

"Father was a cutler. That was the best job there was. And he was a fine workman, too. When he died he was working on a knife an inch long. It had fourteen different articles in it, and you could carry it in a snuff box. My brother Willie always said he was going to finish it, but I told him, "Willie, you'll never be the knifemaker father was.' And he wasn't either. My nephew Joe down in Bridgeport has got that knife now, but I don't think he ever finished it either.

"Willie worked at grindin', and it give him consumption in the end. He never cared anything about the work, always rather play ball or something. Old Mr. Coles came to father one day and he siad, 'I'm goin' to make a knifemaker out of Willie.' Father said, 'take the bloody bugger and see what you can do with him, I can't seem to teach him the trade.' So Mr. Coles showed him the grindin'. Willie never liked it but he stuck to it. He came to work at the Thomaston Knife shop afterwards.

"A big strappin' chap, Willie was. Six feet one, and as husky. You'd never think there was anything wrong with him. I remember the day he knew what was wrong with him. He'd been out choppin' wood and he come in and told me he'd spit up some blood. I told him it was probably somethin' caught inside his throat that had cut

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him a little, a crust of bread or the like. Finally we got the doctor and he thumped him and sounded him. He says, 'One lung is kind of bad, but the other one's sound as a dollar.' After he'd gone Willie says 'He's a goddamn liar, they're both gone and I know it.'

"Well, he had a horror of sanitariums. But finally the doctor persuaded him he'd be better off and he consented to go. Went down to Shelton. He stayed there fourteen days, and when I went to see him he was so homesick he cried to come back with me. I hadn't the heart to refuse him so I brought him home. Fixed up a room upstairs, screened it all in and all, and tried to give him the same care he'd get in the sanitarium, but it was hard. He says to me, 'Ada,' he says, 'You're not able to do it, it's too much for you.' I didn't say nothin', but he was right, of course. Finally one day I was goin, to the city to pay the gas bill, and he says, 'Ada, he says, 'you better put in an application for me to the state, I think I'd be better off in the sanitarium. It was a mistake to come home,' he says. That was in May. I put the application in for him, but it was August before his turn came. He went away and lived two years, but finally he died. Fifty years old when he died. You'd never think there was a thing wrong with him, right up till the last.

"It was a common thing with grinders. There was a young fella named Paddy, used to board with me years ago, he got it too. Only twenty four years old, he was. He had an application in for Wallingford, but they wouldn't take him in over there, he was that bad. They only take the mild cases. I remember the day he got the letter, turnin' him down. I says, is it good news or bad? He says, bad, very bad. Had the doctor and the doctor took me to one side and says 'mr. B. this boy won't live a month. He shouldn't be here. It will be hard on you.' I says, 'doctor, that boy hasn't got kith or kin in the world and no place to go, and here he'll stay as long as I'm able to do anything for him.' Four weeks later to the day, he died.

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"Well, it's history you're after, ain't it? I've got something here may interest you." Mrs. Buckingham leaves the room, returns after a protracted absence, with a yard long roll of paper, which she spreads upon the kitchen table. "Pictures," she says, "of every knife company in the country. Just think of the hundreds and hundreds of people who worked in those places, and now most every one of them is out of business."

These were the "American Pocket Knife Manufacturers of 1811" according to the inscription on the bottom of the sheet," compiled by Walter C. Lindemann, Walden, N.Y."

"Take em down" urges Mrs. Buckingham, "that's history. Think of the hundreds and hundreds of people that used to work in those shops." A complete list follows:

Schatt and Morgan Knife Co., Titusville, Pa.; W.R. Case & Sons, Bradford, Pa.; The Cutlery Works, Smethpart, Pa,; Union Cutlery Co., Tidouta, Pa.; Case Cutlery Co., Kane, Pa.; A. F. Bannister Co., Newark, N.J.; Valley Forge Cutlery Co., Newark, N.J.; Booth Brothers, Sussex, N.J.; Keyport Cutlery Co., Keyport, N.J.; Ulster Knife Works, Ellensville, N.J.; Naponach Knife Co., Naponach, N.Y., Cattaraugus Cutlery Co., Montour Falls, N.Y.

[Robeson?] Cutlery Co., Perry, N.Y., Union Knife Co., Union, N.Y.; Warwick Knife Co., Warwick, N.Y.; Utica Cutlery Co., Utica, N.Y.; Northfield Knife Co., Northfield, Conn.; American Shear and Knife Co., Hotchkissville, Conn.; Empire Knife Co., Winsted, Conn.; Challenge Cutlery Co., Bridgeport, Conn,; Miller Brothers, Meriden, Conn.; Southington Cutlery Co., Southington, Conn.; Old American Knife Co., Reynolds Bridge, Conn.; Watterville Cutlery Co., Waterville, Conn.; Thomaston Knife Co., Reynolds Bridge, Conn.; Humason and Bickley, New Britain, Conn.; John Russell Knife Co., Turners Falls, Mass.; Burkinshaw Pepperell Co., Mass.; Novelty Co., Canton, Ohio; Canton Cutlery Co., Canton, Ohio; Morris Cutlery Co., Morris, Ill.; Crandall Cutlery Co., Bradford, Pa.

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"That's all the history I can give you," says Mrs. Buckingham. "Don't know where you'll get any more of it around here either. No knifemakers left except Old Man Dunbar. All gone. The Bensons and the Buxtons and them. All moved away."


Look at the company names listed closely, a few spelling errors and a couple I have never heard of before :o And one in particular David might be interested in ::nod::
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Miller Bro's » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:19 am

Third

"William Dutcher, age 60, Judson Street, Thomaston:

"Me? I hope you're not classing me with the old timers. Sure, I knew plenty of them. Started working at the knife trade when I was sixteen years old up in Phoenix, New York, and followed the business all around the county. Sure, I worked all over. Maybe a dozen different places, the last one down here at Reynolds Bridge. Thomaston Knife Company. The one that burned down.

"Yes, I started at Phoenix when I was a kid. Man named Van Doren owned the factory, and there was mostly English working there, just like all the others. They were very amusing people, that's a fact, and I wish I could remember some of the things they used to say and do. You know how it is, you try to remember something particularly funny, and you can't seem to do it, and afterwards, when it's too late, stories come to you by the dozen.

"They all liked their ale, all of them were hard drinkers. They used to get 'em over to this country, the manufacturers did, there wasn't any immigration restriction then to speak of, and pay their passage, and pay their board for a certain time[,?] give them every inducement to come, and then when they got here they were just as liable to decide they didn't want to go to work as not. And they wouldn't go till they got damn good and ready, either. Maybe a month or so after they got here. The manufacturer who paid their way would be sore as hell, but what could he do?

"They weren't so bad to learn things from as some people would try to make you believe. I was a Yankee kid. My people lived in Cherry Valley since 1818 so that makes me a white man for more than a hundred years, as the fella says. But they were pretty good to me. I learned about all there was to learn. I was a grinder for a while. I was a cutler and finisher. I worked in every department. Never had any of them refuse to show me anything. You see, over in the old country, in Sheffield, they kept it right in their own families. A father would teach his son, or an uncle his nephew. And they'd bring the work home nights, so I was told and have the whole

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family work on it.

"Some of them--most of them in fact-- were illiterate, uneducated men, but once in a while you'd meet one who had out of the ordinary advantages, and he could tell you plenty about the old historical cutlery business. The city of Sheffield, they say, has been the heart of the cutlery business in England since there was any cutlery business.

"And way back when there were knights with swords and armors, Sheffield was famous for cutlery. One of those limeys told me once that the early history of knifemaking and cutlery reads like fiction. There was legends and stories by the dozen connected with it. They used to say, for instance, that a Sheffield man made a knife handle out of a bone from the body of Richard the Lion Hearted.

"'Whittlers" they were called in those early days. The story was that this 'whittlers' broke open the grave of the king years after he was buried, and took a bone from the skeleton and made it into the haft of a knife. It might be true. The fella that told me said he'd read it in a history.

"Too bad you couldn't have talked to some of the old guys I used to know. They'd give you enough to fill a book, and a lot of it was humorous too. They were a great bunch, and its a damn shame the industry went to hell the way it did.

"No, I never saw much hand forging done, except an special jobs. I worked on the drop forges though. They don't have them any more either, they tell me. Press the blades right out. And I wish I had some of that old steel we used. It was great stuff. I'd like to get hold of some to make some chisels out of.

"I followed the trade for thirty five years. Worked at it till this place here on the Waterbury road folded up. Haven't done any knifmaking since. It's a damn shame what happened to that industry. I blame the tariff and the importers.

"There was a firm of importers down in New York, I forget their names now,

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but they were a sharp bunch. They used to bring in these unfinished knives. Wasn't any duty on them, you see, or a very low one at the most.

"Then they'd send the knives out and have them assembled and they were all set. They'd come in all ready to put together, but still they were 'unfinished goods' according to the law.

"That's what put the kibosh on it. That and the goddamn cheap German knives. It wasn't the English competition that hurt the business, it was the Germans. The knives were no damn good, but they looked good and the public didn't know the difference.

"You see Jim Truelove? You did, hey. He's pretty well educated, Jim is, and he comes from a knifemaking family? How about John Wood, did you see him? He's about the only one of the limeys I can think of outside Truelove that's left around here. He's not so very old, but he was born over there, and his folks were knifemakers. The rest of them are about all gone. Old Jimmy Fox died here last winter. He was over eighty. He would have been the man for you."

A very interesting insight into the workings of the knife trade and the things that were done to avoid the Tariff. "Cheap German knives" now in this day and age it is cheap Chinese knives killing the industry, some things never change.
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby garddogg56 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:32 am

::tu:: great read ::nod::
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Beechtree » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:37 am

Thanks MB, a very interesting read, fascinating actually. Thank goodness someone went out of there way to record these stories.
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby philco » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:01 am

Thanks for posting those MB. I love to read that kind of stuff. ::tu::
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby goldpan » Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:02 am

Wow that was very cool! ::tu:: thank you 8)

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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby PA Knives » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:17 pm

Dimitri,

I love reading those old files. The one I used for Northfield was from Mr. Gill himself. GREAT stuff.
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby upnorth » Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:50 pm

Thanks for posting those, Dmitri! Wonderful reading! ::tu::

Question: is this a typo?
"American Pocket Knife Manufacturers of 1811"
Should it read 1911?
Utopia!! A chicken in every pot!! And a Barlow in every pocket!!!


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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Miller Bro's » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:33 pm

Thanks guys, glad you like `em ::tu::

Charlie, That was the date given, there are a lot of spelling errors in the text, see the paragraph below, I have underlined some of the spelling mistakes. So, entirely possible they got the date wrong too ::nod::


Schatt and Morgan Knife Co., Titusville, Pa.; W.R. Case & Sons, Bradford, Pa.; The Cutlery Works, Smethpart, Pa,; Union Cutlery Co., Tidouta, Pa.; Case Cutlery Co., Kane, Pa.; A. F. Bannister Co., Newark, N.J.; Valley Forge Cutlery Co., Newark, N.J.; Booth Brothers, Sussex, N.J.; Keyport Cutlery Co., Keyport, N.J.; Ulster Knife Works, Ellensville, N.J.; Naponach Knife Co., Naponach, N.Y., Cattaraugus Cutlery Co., Montour Falls, N.Y.

[Robeson?] Cutlery Co., Perry, N.Y., Union Knife Co., Union, N.Y.; Warwick Knife Co., Warwick, N.Y.; Utica Cutlery Co., Utica, N.Y.; Northfield Knife Co., Northfield, Conn.; American Shear and Knife Co., Hotchkissville, Conn.; Empire Knife Co., Winsted, Conn.; Challenge Cutlery Co., Bridgeport, Conn,; Miller Brothers, Meriden, Conn.; Southington Cutlery Co., Southington, Conn.; Old American Knife Co., Reynolds Bridge, Conn.; Watterville Cutlery Co., Waterville, Conn.; Thomaston Knife Co., Reynolds Bridge, Conn.; Humason and Bickley, New Britain, Conn.; John Russell Knife Co., Turners Falls, Mass.; Burkinshaw Pepperell Co., Mass.; Novelty Co., Canton, Ohio; Canton Cutlery Co., Canton, Ohio; Morris Cutlery Co., Morris, Ill.; Crandall Cutlery Co., Bradford, Pa.
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby RobesonsRme.com » Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:04 am

MB; I saw this when you first posted it, but I've delayed reading it until today.

Fascinating, poignant and sad all at the same time.

Killing a young grinder at twenty-four years of age with aspiration consumption (not the same thing as TB) is nothing for anybody to have been proud of.

As much as we love these things we cherish, knives, we must never forget the sacrifices of those that built them.

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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Miller Bro's » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:47 am

Time to wake up this four year old thread.

Here's another installment of the individual memories of the cutlery workers.


“Billy” Morehouse, age 77, bent and infirm, was a “groinder” at the old American Knife Company, Reynolds Bridge, Thomaston, and his father before him was a “groinder” who left Sheffield, England, like many of his [kind?], midway in nineteenth century, to ply his trade in busy New England, Morehouse pere came to Lakeville, Conn., where in years gone by there was a thriving knife business, moved to Winsted, thence to Northfield and Thomaston, like others of the peripatetic craft, returned once to the old country on a “visit” which lasted three years, but came back to Connecticut where he was eventually killed as the result of an accident peculiar to his calling.

“Billy”, feeble, “hard of hearing” but mentally keen still lives in the house his father built high on a hilltop overlooking the Watertown Thomaston road at the western end of the “village.” He switches off his favorite rade program—the National league [game?] broadcast from Boston this afternoon—to answer questions about his vanished trade, first bringing out for inspection a ferocious appearing hunting knife with a blade eight inches long and solid bone handle, and a [combina?]-knife fork and spoon made for the Grand Army of the Republic in wholesale [lots?]. These, he declares, are the only mementoes he possesses of years spent as a knifemaker.

“Made the huntin' knife myself,” he says, “fifty years ago. Look at it. Just as keen and shining as it was the day I finished it. And this other thing here— “ Mr. Morehouse, by deft manipulation, converts the army knife into knife and fork—two pieces where one had been before. Another sleight of hand performance results in the appearance of a spoon, small but serviceable, Folded, the implement appears to be an ordinary, if old fashioned, wooden jack knife, gives no hint of its surprising utility.

“I just kind of drifted into the business,” says Mr. Morehouse. Traces of

the broad Sheffield dialect, refined in these second generation knifemakers, are barely perceptibly in his speech, consist mainly of dropped aitches.

“In the old days, you know, you followed in your father's footsteps as a rule, and that's what I did. That was especially true of knifemakers. My father was a ‘groinder’, and so I became a ‘groinder’.

Learned my trade from 'im. Pierpont and Morse ran the company then—that's the old shop in the village I mean. There was the Thomaston Knife Company up on the main road. I worked there for a while, too, when Warner ran it. Then I left knifemakin' one time and went to work in the watch shop.

“They' 'ad a strike down were 'ere in ninety two. The grinders and the finishers struck. That was when Dr. Feguson owned the place. They tried substitute workmen, but of course some of them didn't know what they were doin' and spoiled a lot of work, so the doctor got tired of it and sold out to a firm in Newark, New Jersy. Then I went to work for Warner. I worked up in Northfield for a while, too.

“The shop in the village 'ere burnt down twice the same year, did Dunbar tell you that when you saw him? I think it was in seventy six. Burnt down once and they rebuilt it and eleven months later it burnt down again.

“My father? Oh, it's kind of a long story. He came 'ere from the old country and went to work up at the Holly Manufacturing Company in Lakeville. Then not long afterwards the Civil War broke out and he enlisted in the Eleventh Connecticut and lost a toe at Fredericksburg. Why'd 'e enlist? Hell, I don't think 'e 'ad any outstandin' reason. He was a militiaman in the old country, he was always [attracted?] to soldierin'.

“I was nine months old when he brought 'is family over 'ere. We lived in Goshen for a while, and then in Northfield. 'E worked up there quite a while before 'e came to the village. 'E was quite a drinker, my father was, like most of the old timers in the trade, and very independent. But 'e was a good worker. It wasn't

anything for him to do three and a half and four dollars a day in the days when two dollars was good pay. But 'e'd go on a spree about once a month and stay out a week or so, so 'e never 'ad any more comin' than the ones that worked steady.

“'E'd be on a [bet?], and run out of money and down 'e'd go to the office and ask them for an advance. If they said no, he'd say, all right by God he wouldn't be back. Then they'd give it to 'em, for 'e was a good worker.

“ 'E finally got killed at 'is work. Up in Winsted it was. A grindstone burst under 'im. It knocked 'im clear to the ceiling, and down the opposity wall, and onto the floor. A piece of the stone hit 'im in the forehead. Well, couple of the men picked 'im up and rushed 'im right to the doctor, and in the meantime 'e come to. At the doctor's 'e bagan to joke about it, and even walked upstairs without 'elp. Wouldn't let them touch 'im. Doctor examined 'im and said 'e seemed to be all right, and 'e went home, and ate 'is supper that night, though 'e didn't eat very much. Followin' day 'e complained of feelin' bad, and soon after 'e was dead. It's my belief 'e 'ad a concussion. They didn't know any too much in those days, the doctors didn't.

“My father wasn't a very tall man, but 'e 'ad a pair of shoulders on 'im like a bull, and 'e was plenty strong. A lot of the grinders would drop off with the con. ‘Groinders' complaint’ they used to call it. It probably would've got me, if I'd worked steadier at it. But I worked in between in the watch shop, you see. I was never as husky as my father, only weight about 127 in the summer and 135 in the wintor. It was very unhealthy work, grindin' was.

“Never 'ad any protection. They used a hankerchief over their noses when they ‘faced’ a stone—that is, trued it up. They were forty two to fifty inches in diameter, the stones were, and had a face about four and a half inches. You'd hang 'em in a trough and true 'em up. Used sharpened steel to true 'em and it made an awful dust. Very unhealthy.

“Used to use English sandstone, mostly, or American bluestone. The sandstone would cut better, but it was apt to break on you. You know 'ow we used to work, sittin' right over the grindstone on a block of oak, with the stone runnin' between the knees and the work in the center. You can see what was likely to 'appen if the stone burst. I 'ad one break on me one time, but as luck would 'ave it I wasn't workin' on it. I was sittin' back readin' a novel at lunch hour, and when they started up at one o'clock I was almost through. I wanted to finish the book,'so I kept on readin'. And damned it my stone didn't go up.

“First thing you 'ad to watch for when you was truin' [em?] was crack or flaws. That's what made 'em break. You might get one almost done and find a flaw in it, and have to start on another. These Lake Huron stones used to give good cuts and some were as [?}]hard as hell's steps,’ they used to say. The Germans, I've heard, worked in front of the stone, some way.

“Well, strikes and fights, and cheap foreign knives were what ruined the grinder's trade. They got strikin' too much around this section, and first thing you know they were doin, the work by machine.

“They struck up in Northfield, I remember. And Catlin went over to England to bring back knifemakers to run his plant, but the Knights of Labor, or some such organizations got to 'em as soon as they landed 'ere and not one of 'em went to work in Northfield. Catlin was liable, under the law, for bringin' those men over 'ere. I think there was a fine of a thousand dollars a head for the offense.

But 'e got Senator Hawley workin' for 'im and 'e got out of it pretty cheap in the end.

“'Owever the boys fixed Senator Hawley for 'is part in it. Next time 'e stood for reelection they sent the senator back 'ome.

“I wish I could give you more details. I'm no good on dates and names. Dunbar's much better at it. He's older than I am, too, over eighty.”
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Mumbleypeg
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Mumbleypeg » Thu Jun 30, 2016 3:17 am

Some great reading here - thanks Dimitri, I agree it's time to bump this up so more can enjoy it! ::tu::

Ken
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treefarmer
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby treefarmer » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:13 am

Miller Bros,
Very interesting! Just sat here and read the whole thing, passed my bedtime :roll: . Thanks for posting, somehow I never saw the Opening post so it's all new reading ::tu:: .
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Miller Bro's » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:21 am

Thanks Ken and TF glad you liked it ::tu::



I figured there are a lot of new members here since I first started this thread and for any older members that missed it the first time it might be of interest to someone :wink:
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