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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:11 pm
by LongBlade
Beechtree ::tu:: ::tu:: Please do join the fun ::nod:: To me these are first hand perspectives on the history of the cutlery industry here - no doubt a different angle on the history than any book one may read - first hand knowledge :)

Beechtree and for anyone else interested: I went with MB's lead and searched the Folklore project referred to in MB's opening thread... which lead me to the Library of Congress: ... ollection/

From there I tried a few search terms (e.g., knife) and started getting hits... personally I started saving the transcripts found just as in the Library of Congress to a folder and than cut and paste them into AAPK threads with some minor editing of only formatting... I think as MB had noted lots of these had grammatical and spelling mistakes but left all that be as originally transcribed... I have a few others to post but been trying to spread them out abit in time - so we can savior them one at a time :D

I think there is lots more to be found but haven't tried as of yet - this folklore project was only the years 1936-40 if I understand correctly so I want to try earlier as well and other search terms....

Hope this helps!

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:05 pm
by Miller Bro's
Excellent additions Lee!

Thanks for taking the time to find them :D ::handshake::

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:00 pm
by bighomer
Great stuff gentlemen I have enjoyed this immensely ,thanks for sharing your time and expertise. ::tu:: ::tu:: ::tu::

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 4:57 pm
by LongBlade
My pleasure ::tu:: ::tu::

Next - a good follow-up after Truelove as he is noted in this interview.... and some of the spelling is quite amusing... one word in particular but I won't point it out - hard not to see it when you read it but has to do with knife shop in Winsted :lol: ...

Albert Beaujon, 75 Park Street, Thomaston:

“I worked up in Lakeville, worked in Northfield, worked in Thomaston, worked down in Bridgeport, makin' knives, and made good money.
Business got bad and I went to work in the clock shop. Now I's seventy five years old and nobody wants as any more. I work on the WPA, but they wanta have me quit that. Say I's gettin' too old. Say I oughta apply for old age pension. Seven bucks a week. My old lady's sixty.
She can't get any, unless they change the law. She says if they change the law, fine, get through, we'll get along okay if we both draw pensions, but otherwise how're we gonna do it?

“I pay sixteen dollars rent. Then there's light and gas and fuel in the winter time. How's I gonna do all that on seven bucks a week? I got a boy works up here in the tavern. Know how much they pay him? Eight dollars a week. He can't help me much. He hasta work twelve-thirteen hours a day for it, too. And then they tell me I oughta quit work.

“I can still do a day's work. I don't look my age do I? You'd never think I was seventy
five, would you? I been all over lookin' for a job. What I'd like to get is to take care of somebody's place for 'em. You know, mow the lawn and like that. But I looked all over hell. Even went up to that knife shop in Winsted. Some Eyetalians run it. They ain't doin' much, though.

“It ain't nothin' like it used to be. I started workin' up in Lakeville at the knife trade. Worked there when Jim Truelove came to this country. He come up there to work, and I remember him well, a cocky little Johnny bull. His kids were all small then.

“My brother-in-law taught me the trade. He was a cutler, right from the old country. And
a good man, too. They put him in charge of a room. I s'pose you've heard a good many stories about how careful them English knifemakers was. This'll 2 show you. I was polishin' some bolsters one day and my brother-in-law come along. He looked at 'em and he says, ‘You'll have to do better than that, Al.’ I says, ‘What's the matter with 'em?’ ‘scratched’, he says. ‘I don't see no scratches,’ I says, ‘Go on out and get a cheap pair of glasses, Al,’ he says and come back. I did, and when I looked at them bolsters with the glasses, I could see scratches. ‘You better wear 'em when you're workin' after this,’ he says. I thought my eyes was all right, up to then.

“Lakeville was a good place to work. Well, they was all pretty good, in them days, except the cities. I went down to Bridgeport, and I was like a fish out of water. I couldn't get on to it at all, the way they did it. Up in Lakeville, the fellas used to like to go fish in'. Lake was right nearby , of course. They was about fifty of them workin', mostly English, and independent as hell. Old Man Holly used to get worried, along in the fishin' season, whether he was gonna get any work done or not. He used to come into the factory and say, ‘sow look, boys, this order has got to be done this week. Please try and stick it out unti Saturday.’ All the johnnies had their own boats, you know, and when the mood struck 'em they'd walk out and go fish in'.

“Shop's shut down now, ain't doin' anything. Knife business has gone to hell, but nobody seems to care. There ain't the demand for 'em there used to be, I guess. I worked on what they called the sportsman's knife. Had a half dozen different articles in it, like a screw driver, and a little pick for takin' the stones out of a horse's hoof and such. It was kind of difficult work, because you hadda fit the right sections together in every knife, see what I mean? I mean, you couldn't mix up the parts. Parts that were made for one knife, wouldn't fit another, see? But nobody wants knives like that any more. They make what they call 'skeleton knives' up in Winsted. Hell, a good knifemaker wouldn't even bother with 'em.

“I worked over in New Britain for a while, too. They went/ in for high pressure production over there. But brother, I's tellin' you their knives wasn't any damn good. Used to come back by the dozens. Blades would bend and break and chip. They didn't know how to temper 'em right, you see. That's an art in itself, hardenin' is. Ask Jim Truelove.

“Man used to get a good reputation at some particular job, he could go to work most anywhere. Like Jim Truelove. He was a good blade forger and hardener, and the clock shop down here is glad to have him workin' for 'em today, with all their high pressure production. Ever hear of the Holmes boys? They used to work around here, I think. They were good grinders. It stands to reason a machine ground knife ain't done as good as what those hand grinders could do.

“Well, I don't know. I s'pose even if I got a job in a knife shop tomorrow I wouldn't be able to remember half of it. Like to try it again, though. Even on piecework I could probably make more's I's makin' now. Thirteen months I was on the town, before I got on the WPA. You don't get any too much from the town, either. I thought I'd go crazy hangin' around. Work a couple days a week. I'da worked six, just to have somethin' to do, but they wouldn't let me. They didn't hare much to do.

“Just like now. What're they gonna do when they get all these roads fixed up? What're they gonna do when the work gives out? They must be pretty near caught up now. They don't wanta lot people start hangin' around, or they'll have a lot of crazy folks on their hands. Drives a man crazy, or drives him to drink, hangin' around. s'pose everybody'll be back on the town. But what're the towns gonna do? They can't stand it.

“Hell, they don't half feed a man. I was talkin' to Mike McDonald today. He gets a couple of days work from the town. He says he don't get enough to stick to his ribs. Says he don't know what the hell meat tastes like. He's livin' over there on School Street in Tommy Colwell's old place. Mike says he thinks there's a curse on it. Even a cat or a dog won't come near it, Mike says. Said he had the notion to try dog meat one—a these days, but nary a dog could he ketch.”

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 6:24 pm
by carrmillus
........very interesting!! reading these!!!......... ::tu:: ::tu:: ::tu:: ...................................

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:01 pm
by LongBlade
Given the recent discussion on Henry Gill in the thread below on jigged bone, and as Henry Gill was noted by Beechtree as the possible maker of his knife - I thought this would be an appropriate next installment to this thread ::nod:: This is only the first of a few interviews regarding Henry Gill noted in the Folklore Project:

Mr. Henry Gill #1

Almost at the top of the long hill lined on either side with old fashioned frame dwellings
in good and bad repair that constitutes Northfield's Main Street is the home of Henry Gill, who conducts as a one man industry the once flourishing Northfield Knife Company. Mr. Gill's big white house bears evidence of care and attention. Its paint is new, roof tightly shingled, front and side verandahs neat and shining. Over the front door is the date of erection, “1836”. Flanking the house is a two car garage on one side and on the other the shop itself, a long, narrow, one storied wooden building, white painted, many windowed.

Mr. Gill is not at home, but Mrs. Gill is sure he'll be back shortly “if you care to wait,”
and not long afterwards he enters the yard of the premises, surprisingly enough, as
a passenger on a fire truck. This venerable vehicle, it turns out, has been purchased
only recently by the citizenry after virtually 150 years of indifferent fire protection, and
the village as a whole and members of the newly organized department in particular experience a glow of pardonable pride every time it chugs up Main Street. The body and hood of the truck have been newly painted in brilliant scarlet, and in large gilt lettering over the engine is the legend, “Northfield Fire Department Number One.” (Number Two, it should be explained, is at this stage purely a matter of wishful thinking.)

Mr. Gill alights from his porch which in considerably higher than is considered fashionable these days—the truck being a Maxim of obvious maturity despite its brave new color—and opens the garage doors while the driver, a plump young man, hatless and curly haired, steers carefully inside. The tires need air, it appears, and Mr. Gill has an electric pump which is at the disposal of the department.

“How many you think she'll take, Herby?” asks Mr. Gill as the driver unscrews the valve. “About 45,” says Herby, applying the pump. Mr. Gill turns to me inquiringly 2 and I make known my business.

“Well,” he says, “if I had the time today, I could got you some data. I got some stuff in the ' ouse there. I got all the medals that were won at the World's Fairs, seven of 'em in all, and I got records down at the old shop. You see I kind of take care of that for the state, now. And all the records are there. But I couldn't get at 'em today.

“Would you like to see the little shop?” I answer affirmatively and Mr. Gill leads the way, talking fluently. His aitches are noticeably absent and he tells me that his father was one of the old “Sheffield Knifemakers” and that he himself was taken to Sheffield as a small boy by his father, both returning later to this country.

“My father said he wanted to take me over there so he could properly show me the knife trade, but I think to tell you the truth he just wanted an excuse to go back.” We enter the little shop, the interior of which is literally cluttered with old machinery, presses, drop hammers, forges, benches, wheels, boxes of stock, drawers, cupboards, belts, arranged in what is apparently a semblance of order to Mr. Gill, but confusing to the layman.

An ancient hand forge has been placed near the entrance and upon it is a most curious hammer, the haft polished smooth with long usage, the head—massive though it is, worn rough with the striking of countless blows. But its peculiarity lies in its shape, the head bent sharply downwards and in towards the haft instead of in the contentional fashion.

“That,” says Mr. Gill, “is a knifemaker's hammer, and the things they could do with that tool you probably wouldn't believe unless you saw them. It's old, at least a 'undred years and maybe more, that hammer is. Like all the stuff I got 'ere. I got the remnants of four knife companies 'ere. Four of the best companies in Connecticut, employin' between 'em nearly two thousand 'ands. And 3 this,” (Mr. Grill looks around the little room with a kind of melancholy pride,) “is all that's left.”

“If I 'ad the time I'd make up a knife for you right from the beginning, just to show you how it's done. I don't know whether I was fortunate or not, but I was of an inquiring turn of mind when I was a youngster and I wasn't satisfied till I learned all there was to know about the trade. There was about five principal operations to the knifemaking business. Bladers, forgers, grinders, cutlers, and finishers.

“Now this 'ammer 'ere. It was made this way so as to push the metal, instead of flatten it. And look 'ere,” indicating the forge, “the metal is sweating. That's a sign of rain. A barometer. “Beads of moisture are noticeable on the forge, and on some of the other old machinery. “Don't ask me to explain it,” says Mr. Gill.

“I bought out this stuff in 1930 and moved it up 'ere. I don't do much, and it gets less every year. You might say it's more of a hobby with me. The most business I've done in any one year was about eleven hundred dollars. Last year I did something like two 'undred and seventy five. And after I'd paid my 'elp and paid my taxes and so forth I 'ad just five dollars left to show for my year's work. So you see I don't got nothing out of it. I got old George Wright up at the top of the ['ill?] 'ere when I've any work. He's one of the old knifemakers. One of the few that's left around 'ere.

“This 'ere building is the original knife shop that was established in 1858. The lumber that's in this building is the lumber that was in the old knife shop; and the windows and doors and all.

“I was superintendent of the old placewhen the Clark Brothers owned it, and for a while after it went into receivership, and then when they discontinued the operations there the state took it over and they sort of had me look after it. But in 1930 I put up this building here and moved up the machinery and stock. All this 4 stuff that's in 'ere at one time would'ave brought eighty thousand dollars. That's what it was valued at. Remnants of four knife shops.

“Look 'ere,” Mr. Gill reaches under a bench, brings out a small, but heavy die. “Now it used to take a man all day to make up one of these. And 'e might 'ave to do two or three of them for one knife. I could make you a knife if you was to draw a design on paper for me. Just from lookin' at it. And so could any good knifemaker.

“Come 'ere, I want to show you what old man Wright does.” Mr. Gill takes out of a box one of the smallest of knife blades, the type used in knives of the watch charm variety, “He grinds these with his fingers, old man Wright does. Does it all by guesswork. Would you believe that? And it comes out perfect. And he fashions them with that big hammer there by the door, these little blades! See that swage there? Done with the hammer. And these and all the others made 'ere are from rod steel from England. I got a couple of tons of it down in my cellar.

“There's six thousand dozen blades 'ere, all shapes and sizes. If I say it myself, the knives I make are knives. They'll cut. You buy these things they sell in a ten cent store and see how good they are.

“The knife business was ruined by the machine age. The machine age and borrowing money. Those are the two evils of the times. They got hammering them out in mass production, and cheapening them more and more, and they forced all the little fellows out, like our little company.

“Machines, machines, machines, and more production, and no equalization, so that
the ones that want to buy can't buy—you've got a terrible problem there. All these little businesses, that started up in through 'ere, like this one, what's become of them? They've gone down, like this one, or they've grown out of proportion and are a dead weight. Top heavy. Like the automobile industry.

“There's a business that's got away from them and they can't control it. It's 5 responsible for a lot of bad things, say what you've a mind to. And the airplane. This world would be better off if the Wright brothers had never drawn breath of life. A toy, you might say, in the hands of children. Vicious children.

“I've lived my life, most of it, and I don't give a damn, in a way, but I 'ate to think of what's in store for my children and my grandchildren. Things can't go on this way. There's goin' to be some kind of an up'eaval, everything points to it.

“I honestly believe, young man, that I lived through the best period this country ever saw, or ever will see. There'll never be a return to it, without some vast change. There'll be
a lowerin' of the standard of livin', maybe. A return to where it used to be. 'Ow can this country continue to compete with countries like Japan, where they pay about seven cents a day for labor? Or Germany and Italy where it ain't much better.

“I can remember when things were much simpler 'ere, and it seems to me people were 'appy. They were secure, at least, and they know if they lost a job they could get another somewhere, if they were willing to work. Not that way today.

“'Ow much do you think those 'ouses cost across the street there, when they was put up, back in the sixties? The company 'ouses? Exactly four 'undred dollars apiece. They didn't 'ave the porches on like they 'ave now, nor anything fancy, but they were good solid little 'ouses. They rented for about six dollars a month. You 'ave to pay about two thousand for a 'ouse like that today.

“It was a 'ard life, maybe, in lots of ways, but it was 'ealthy, too. My father walked, one time, from Canton, o'io, to Southington. What do you think of that? There wasn't any 'itch 'ikin'. He walked all the way.

“They didn't make much in the shop, but they got by on it. Families with two or three or four or five children. I've seen women working in this 'ere knife factory 6 for four cents an hour. Setting edges and cleaning knives and that.

“The old time knifemakers worked on piecework, and they made pretty good money, as pay went in those days, but the important thing was their trade. The state was full of knife factories, and they could always get a job. That gave 'em security. And they'd work till they were so old they had to be helped down to the factory and set in their chairs. They took pride in their work, and the consequences was they did wonderful work. Do you see that today? A man can't take pride in it, if everything is done by machinery.

“So they saved and they scrimped and some of them bought farms and their own houses. They know how to do without things, which is something the young folks don't know today. You went up to see old man Wright, you say? Well, you didn't see any electric lights up there did you? Or any vacuum cleaners or things like that? No / sir, the Wrights burn oil lamps. But they're not on relief. They know how to live within their means. They never will be on relief.

“Look at the road out there. I can remember when it was so deep in mud this time the year, you'd go over your ankles. But now it's macadam surface, and if there's three inches of snow on it, the state plow 'as to clear it off. We've got to pay for that, 'aven't we, one way or the other. Things are getting away from us.

“I couldn't keep this business goin', if I was to depend on it for a livin'. Fortunately, I'm independent of it. It's a lobby with me, more than anything else. Well, if you come around some other day, I'll try and 'ave some data for you.”

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 4:51 pm
by danno50
Thanks for bumping up this thread, Dimitri, I don't recall seeing it when it first started. Very interesting and informative reading. Thanks also to Lee for digging up further information and adding it.

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:05 pm
by LongBlade
Time to kick this back into gear :D ... This was another interview with Henry Gill and George Wright....

Mr. Henry Gill # 2

The busy chug-chug of the small gasoline engine serves notice this afternoon that Mr. Gill, last of the Northfield knifemakers, (his old helper excepted) is at work in his little factory. I find him sitting on a sawed off piano stool, a power driven grindstone between his knees, expertly turning the blade of a jackknife. He explains that he is “doing a few repairs,” and will be free shortly. I watch him at work; the ease with which he moves from grindstone to grindstone to buffer, polishing, turning, sharpening with the skill born of years of practice is fascinating.

“Not much money in this,” he says. “Put on a new blade, all I got in half a dollar.” Two or three of the old knives on which he is working have been used for many years, and are treasured by their owners through long association, Mr. Gill believes. Finished with his task he lays them aside. “You want to see those medals I was telling you about,” he says. “Wait 'ere a second and I'll bring them out.”

While he is gone I examine a framed picture near the door of that famous case of 800 knives, still referred to with pride by older residents of the village, which was sent to the Centennial in Philadelphia, Mr. Gill returns to find me looking at the picture.

“One of them knives was three feet long,” he says; “and another had twenty four blades; and still another was thin enough to go down a pipe stem. Old Sam Mason made it. He let his finger nail grow till it could just cover it. Just a curiosity.”

“'Ere's the medals.” Mr. Gill dumps them unceremoniously on a bench. “This one's gold.” The inscription reads, ‘New Hampshire Mechanic and Artist Association, First Exhibition, Concord, October 1868.’

“'Ere's the first one they got,” Mr. Gill holds out a tarnished silver medallion, inscribed: ‘Connecticut State Agricultural Society, Awarded John S. Barnes, Northfield, Best Pocket Cutlery, 1858’. A large copper medal in a leather case is Mr. Gill's 2 particular pride, First Award of the ‘republique Francaise,’ at the International Exposition of 1872. There is another award from the United States Centennial commission, 1876; and a silver medal for first place in the Columbian Exposition at Chicago. “That's the last of 'em,” says Mr. Gill. “I thought there was more than that around.”

“I haven't got around to writin' out that 'istory for you. Thought I might do it this mornin', but I 'ad these things to take care of.” The bell of the adjacent schoolhouse tolls recess and Mr. Gill goes to the window. “Look at them kids, would you,” he observes. “The school yard ain't big enough for them, they have to run all over the back lot. 'Ere comes old George Wright down the 'ill. 'E may be able to give you some information.” Mr. Wright' enters presently, an old gentleman garbed in somber black, with drooping gray mustache, cap, dark colored spectacles. Mr. Gill explains that I am interested in knife shop history and Mr. Wright recalls that I have been to see him several weeks ago.

“I just came in for my unbrell',” he explains. “Look's though we might have rain. “Funny thing about an umbrell. If it's goodlooking you can't keep it long, but if it's a disreputable looking piece of furniture like this'n you can always find it again. Nobody 'd carry this but me, probably.”

Mr. Gill: “Your dad was one of the old timers, George. You ought to remember something about the old shops. You're in the business longer than me.”

Mr. Wright: “Oh, I don't know. It was quite a business, in my dad's day. There were small shops all over the state. One up in Litchfield, in 1859; one in Southington, Hotchkissville, Campville at one time; one below the Wigwam reservoir one at Reynolds Bridge—all small places. And our shop in Northfield here. That was about as prosperous as any of them when it was owned by the old fellas. It paid a hundred per cent dividend one year they say.”

Mr. Gill: “They had a thirty thousand dollar sinking fund when the Catlins 3 took it over, and when they got through with it there was a forty thousand dollar chattel mortgage on it.”

Mr. Wright: “That's so. But still I think it was the Civil War that pulled the old timers through. They weren't business men, those old johnnies weren't. They wouldn't have lasted as long as they did, if it hadn't been for the Civil War. They made an army knife that sold very well. A spoon, fork and blade combination. But they didn't have much business ability. Every man had an equal vote in the affairs of the company, regardless of the amount of stock he held. That wasn't business-like.”

Mr. Gill: “Yes, I suppose if the Catlins hadn't taken over the place some of these other Yankees would. They were shrewder than the johnnies.”

Mr. Wright: “Well, they were, and they weren't. Some people outsmart themselves, don't they? I know I have had dealings with some like that. And afterwards, I've let them severely alone. Decided they were a little too smart for me.”

Mr. Gill: “You know, of course this doesn't want to go in the paper, but in the old days, you could get whiskey and cider right over the counter in the grocery stores. They never had any license. And the old johnnies were nearly all hard drinkers. That's how they come to lose their stock. They'd get drunk and want more liquor and didn't have any money, and they'd give the stock to Catlin in exchange.

Mr. Wright: “Well, they say Mason building this big house up here had something to do with it too. Mason was president, and some of the rest of them thought it was going to his head. He built the house, and his wife started wearing silk dresses and so forth, and the others thought perhaps he was getting a little too much out of it, so they traded off their stock. That's one story.”

Mr. Gill: “They didn't make a great deal of money, to start with, anyway. And they had funny methods. I remember my father saying there was some that bought 4 stock without putting any money down. They worked for nothing until they paid for their shares.”

Mr. Wright: “Rastus French. He was one of the old Yankee stock. Not very competent, not a very good worker. All he got was twenty five cents a day. I remember my father wondering how he lived on it. But he had a little farm, and a few cows, and he raised vegetables and so forth.”

Mr. Gill: “Well, they worked piece work. It was up to them how much they made.”

Mr. Wright: “Yes, it was nice. It wasn't like factory work today. The pace was slower. They used to argue and talk for hours on end, some times. And they had ‘tobacco time’ twice a day, at ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, they'd all go downstairs for a smoke. I remember coming in the factory when I was eight years old and my father would hoist me up on a bench and set me to flashing blades. And Mr. Foster, his boy Robert tended to the stock early in the morning and did the chores around the house and then went to school and after school he'd come down to the factory and his father would always have some little job for him to do. That was the way the trade was learned. In those days children were supposed to help, and a good thing it was too. Kept them out of mischief and I don't know's it did any of them any harm. My old Grandmother used to come to see us; she'd always say to us children: ‘Come, come, make yourself useful, make yourself useful.’

Mr. Gill: “Yes, that's a fact.”

Mr. Wright: There was Mr. Martin, always said , by George his boy Calvin was never goin' to work in the factory. And look at the way he turned out. The old man must have often wished he'd put him to work. You take these children today, most of them never do a lick of work till they're past eighteen. And then they don't want to do anything, do they?”

Mr. Gill: “That's the truth.”

Mr. Wright: “I remember one time—the queerest arguments they used to have. They got fightin, over which was right pronunciation—'eether, or eyether.’ Finally old Uncle Sammy Mason got tired of it. He says, ‘Eether, eyether—Neether, nyether, 't'ain't any of 'em roight, go back to work ye bloody fools.’

Mr. Gill: (enthusiastically) “Didn't they 'ave some great sayin's though? Average man couldn't understand 'em. I remember my father talkin' to one of the old Yankees 'ereabouts, 'e says to 'im, ‘Now see if you can tell what ah say: Take potter out of ash nook and put it in coke oil.’ Old Yankee couldn't get it. The potter was the poker. And the ash nook was the coal pit. And coke oil was the oil barrel.”

Mr. Wright: “My father used to say, ‘I'm ban aboon.’ That meant, ‘I'm going above.’ But the best one I ever heard was the one about Uncle Sammy and the bellows boy. The youngster never came to work on time and the old man threatened to discharge him. The next day the boy came bright and early and the old man says: ‘Ah see tha's come first at last; tha's always be'ind before.’

Mr. Gill: “They were a 'appy go lucky tribe. Just like gypsies. My father used to tell about a couple 'e knew up in Waldron. They were goin' to work one noon, and one says, ‘What d'ye sye Jock, we go ‘one ‘ome ?’ ‘All roight,’ says the other, and without another word they went back to the lodging house and packed up and started for the Old Country.”

Mr. Wright: “Do you remember the time the fifteen came up here, the time of the strike? And when they found out what the situation was they scattered the next day. Not one of 'em stayed.”

Mr. Gill: “They could always get jobs. They'd go on a spree and perhaps never come back to work. I got a set of toos tools 'ere now belongs to a chap that left 'em 'ere and never came back after 'em. I sometimes think if they 'adn't been so independent the business would 'ave been better off. I 'eard my father say 'e's seen a blade forger brought in to work on a wheelbarrow and sobered up so the rest 6 of them could get started. They 'ad to wait for the blade / forgers, you know. Well, that kind of thing 'appened too often, and they began to cast around for some kind of machinery so's they wouldn't 'ave to depend on those chaps, and then your drop forges came in. Same with the grinders. They were always on strike. Pretty soon they got grindin' machines.”

Mr. Wright: “They used to tell about Dr. Ferguson that ran the knife shop down in Reynolds Bridge for a while. One of these men from the grinders' union came to see him and asked for more money for the men. Ferguson said if the men couldn't come to him themselves, he'd shut the place up. And that's just what he did. It was kind of hard to get more money here too, sometimes. I know one time I was talking to one of the men from the Bridge and I found out he was getting two cents a dozen more than I was on the same knife. I told Mr. Catlin about it and he said, surely, I could have the same price. But he never gave me any more of those knives to do.”

Mr. Gill: “They had a good many tricks like that.”

Mr. Wright: “Well, I've got to be getting on to the store. Must be near about supper time. I've got my umbrell, anyway, in case it rains.” He leaves.

Mr. Gill: “George is the only knifemaker left around 'ere, besides my self. There isn't any of the old bunch left. My mother's the last of them, that I can think of. Where'd' they go? They're dead, most of them. Some left the village. It's like I said, they were like gypsies. Come and go all the time. My father was over 'ere three times before 'e brought us over to stay. Some went out west with the Mormons, years ago. Some went from 'ere, did you know that? And there's a company out in Boulder, Colorado that was started by a boy who learned 'is trade right in Northfield, Faym Platts.

“They were a great bunch. Rough and ready. No table manners, most of them, and most of them drank more than was good for them, but they were artists. Why, 6 they used to do etching, years ago. Not one of them but what 'ad an 'obby. And the knives they made were knives, not cheap junk.

“After I go there'll be nobody bother with it, I s'pose. You can see I don't make anything on it. It's just a hobby with me. Well, I'll try to get out that 'istory for you one of these days.”

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 2:13 pm
by FRJ
LongBlade wrote:Time to kick this back into gear :D “'Ere's the medals.” Mr. Gill dumps them unceremoniously on a bench.

A great read in Mr. Henry Gill #2 Lee. Thanks for bringing this back.
I have handled some of these medals. Equally unceremoniously shown to me. :o

Mr. Gill: “They could always get jobs. They'd go on a spree and perhaps never come back to work. I got a set of toos tools 'ere now belongs to a chap that left 'em 'ere and never came back after 'em. I sometimes think if they 'adn't been so independent the business would 'ave been better off. I 'eard my father say 'e's seen a blade forger brought in to work on a wheelbarrow and sobered up so the rest 6 of them could get started. They 'ad to wait for the blade / forgers, you know. Well, that kind of thing 'appened too often, and they began to cast around for some kind of machinery so's they wouldn't 'ave to depend on those chaps, and then your drop forges came in. Same with the grinders. They were always on strike. Pretty soon they got grindin' machines.”
A telling story from Mr. Gill.

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:18 am
by Beechtree
These are sure fun reads. It makes me feel as though I'm there.

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 5:00 pm
by Lansky1
carrmillus wrote:........very interesting!! reading these!!!......... ::tu:: ::tu:: ::tu:: ...................................
yep these are great - I enjoyed reading them immensely - thanks so much for posting

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Sat May 06, 2017 10:37 am
by Stringplucker
Hearing these perspectives as to what happened to their trade reminds me greatly of what happened to mine. I started in the tool and die trade at the young age of 13, working for my dad. For the first few months, I swept floors and cleaned machines, while watching the "old guys" work. Those "old guys" were German born and raised that dad had hired, all in their 80's or so, and all of them grumpy. But, they took a liking to me and my curiosity. They confronted my dad one day, inquiring if he minded them teaching me a few things, to which he agreed to. I learned most of what I know from those fellas. Today's CNC and cheap labor overseas has killed the manufacturing that I learned and loved. These stories are proof of history repeating itself with modern techniques, labor unions and foreign labor killing it all.

At least, that's my opinion of it, for what it's worth.

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:39 am
by BigStanley
It's an exciting thread and I really enjoyed reading it! Thank you guys for sharing this information with us!

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:35 am
by stumpstalker
Quote from Longblade’s post of Jim Truelove on 7-13-18:

“Sheffield was a big city…sixty to eighty different knive companies there…Jealous[!?] Why, those men were so jealous of the reputations of the companies they worked for, they used to have stand up and drag-out fights every day in the week because of arguments over who made the best knives.”

And, today as I understand it, if you find any pocket knife for sale at all in Sheffield, it is probably an imported one.

But, at least some examples of these historically-significant objects, then produced by those “jealous” men, whether over here or over there, are in some of our collections.

Re: Real American Knife Lore

Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:42 pm
by LongBlade
stumpstalker ::tu:: ::tu:: ... Quite interesting to read the perspective of those who knew the cutlery industry here and their experience & perceptions put a different perspective on the industry in contrast to reading "facts" in knife reference books ::nod::

Remember this was published in 1938 - Sheffield had long slid down hill because of the tariffs on imported goods instituted 1890s - early 1900s as Sheffield makers (in particular Wostenholm but others) made lots of money from export and retail in the USA - I find it amusing that he mentioned American knives being sold in England - there can not have been many sold there in my opinion as some collectors I know in England have much difficulty finding American-made knives in their "boot" or flea market finds (boot being the truck of the car :wink: ) - just a speculative conclusion that not many were exported from the USA to England based on that info....

On the other hand and somewhat related but certainly in contrast - I was reading this morning Congressional Records from 1889 (don't ask why :lol: but was searching for something unrelated and came upon it :) ) which was a year prior to the McKinley Tariifs which was the first legislature to put a hurt on the imported Sheffield market... It was interesting to note that some American cutleries were accused of stamping Sheffield and related etches such as Celebrated on their knives to increase their own sales in the 1880s or prior ::nod:: ... The German cutleries certainly were stamping Sheffield marks to increase sales but indeed part of the reason was American importers requesting them to do so for "money making " retail purposes here... This part of the Congressional records from 1889 was a pdf or I would post it - extremely interesting read !!!!!