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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Dinadan
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Dinadan » Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:02 pm

There is some very interesting reading in this thread. I never thought much about it, but it sounds as if knife making was a bigger part of the economy than I would have expected. In some places, anyway. Thanks for posting, fellows!
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby stumpstalker » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:40 am

Dinadan: Well, as for knifemaking and the magnitude that would be its sector in a pie chart of the American economy, I do not have. But, I do recall reading that prior to WW I 90% of Americans grew up on farms. Some of those folks may have milked the cows, collected eggs or pitched manure before going into town to work in a store or shop; but still, they were daily exposed to strenuous manual labor. And, this would mean a handy knife would have been a necessity for nearly every worker.

Even in the kitchen, the ladies of the house would not have been buying dressed chickens, in parts, all on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in cellophane from a market, but would have needed a good cleaver to do the requisite processing at home. I have collected a lot of vintage American-made light weight “kitchen cleavers”, which utensils are no longer a regular consumer item.

LongBlade: When you speak of Sheffield knife-making having slid downhill after 1891, you are referring to the volume produced and exported, I assume. I will add that the quality purportedly also declined, if gradually, after World War I. This is usually attributed to the claim that many skilled employees never returned from the war. Additionally, the Great War was a fundamental turning point for all societies of the Western World; that is, not much was ever going to be the same. The Old Order had abruptly been swept away, and knife making was going to reflect the changes.

I once engaged the late Jim Taylor in a discussion several years ago that touched upon this topic. There are many collectors that will remember Jim, who was a British émigré dealer. He could be readily spotted at the shows because he was the guy wearing a bowler. Jim averred that to assign a date to many Sheffield knives, especially if produced by one of the large and long-lived firms whose "town patterns", etches and tang stamps varied little over several decades, you could only go by quality. No date stamps or “dot” codes were going to give their age away.

As Jim put it to me, other than indicating that a Sheffield knife was issued post-1891, due to “England” being stamped on the tang, you had to “handle these things all the time…you get a feel for these things after a while”. The assumption was that over time the quality decreased. Then he went on to say that he had put in 40-50 years looking at knives, and his wife Cindy had been a pro for 35 years.

And, what wonderful catalogues Jim and Cindy published for several years, of some of the nicest American, German and English folding and fixed blade knives! Then came the internet.

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LongBlade
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:19 pm

Some excellent points stumpstalker ::tu::

No doubt knives were extremely important tools in the 1800s as you noted but in truth when I think about it – Are not knives, or maybe I should note “sharp cutting edged tools”, still not an important facet of life today? I think they are but as you note many do not carry a pocket knife compared to those who lived in the 1800s-early 1900s… Today, and this is my perception, it unfortunately seems many just use scissors or box cutters when needed – and many folks just buy some large cheap retail brand knife that in my opinion are almost disposable tools (and imported from Asia for the most part)…. Indeed life has changed for many reasons… This is of course a generalization....

You are indeed correct in interpreting my comment regarding Sheffield sliding downhill due to the tariffs - I was referring to the market here in the USA but not the quality at first which also no doubt slid, albeit slowly, during the 1900s probably for the reasons you noted regarding the WWs … Many of us own or have seen exceptional quality Sheffield knives from post-1890 and certainly into the early 1900s – but again my opinion and perception is that once I see ‘Oil the Joints” on the pile side stamps on Sheffield knives that, for the most part, we do not see the exceptional quality of old Sheffield… There were or are just a few “master” or “little mester” cutlers who carried on such as Trevor Abbott (who passed away the last few years) or Stan Shaw who in his 90s but is still making lovely knives but Sheffield became essentially a “ghost town” of old knife factories and shops... (I digress but I have a good British friend who lives not far from Sheffield and will take me there for a tour once I am able to jump back across the pond for a visit… hopefully before the many abandoned buildings that still are marked by the old signs of the knife factories are gone forever... From my understanding Cutlers Hall and a few Sheffield Museums do have some nice exhibits that no doubt will be there for the long term)…

It is also important to point out (and I know many know the following) but CT (and MA and of course NY along with PA) were centers of the cutlery industry in the 1800s and early 1900s that were indeed almost completely wiped out by the depression of the 1930s (many of which went under way before the depression) though literally a few survived into the mid 1900s and very few exist today but not in CT… I can say in CT where there were practically 90 knife factories or cutlery shops during the “heyday” of the 19th and early 20th centuries that all but a few ceased to exist by 1930... There were but a handful left that eventually went under in the mid 1900s and today essentially none exist barring a few custom makers….. Very sad but times changed..

I am glad this thread was resurrected again… I have searched for other interviews to add but think I have exhausted what is available in terms of the WPA project of the late 1930s… however there are some interesting articles from The American Cutlery Journal of the early 1900s and some extremely interesting Congressional Records from the late 1800s and early 1900s that I believe those interested in “Knife Lore” would truly enjoy :D
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby stumpstalker » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:14 pm

LongBlade:

Indeed, “sharp cutting edged tools” are still an “important facet of life today”. But, those of us that don’t leave the house without one are now a minority. (The majority, when they need one, just ask to be handed ours.)

Alas, the vintage knife elegance, reflective of Victorian and Edwardian aesthetics -- the shields, for instance, evocative of heraldry -- is now passé for modern-day knife makers and users. Now the practical and tactical predominates.

Only the outlying few still hew to “pleasing-to-the -eye” (form) and function in their carry knives.

Some of the “slide” may have to do with the fact that in the 19th Century our brainiest people were doing advanced work with metal and machines, and set a standard that carried to some extent into the mid-20th Century. For decades now that cohort of intellect has had its attention on electronics and beyond. And, in general, the quality and appearance of our physical objects has suffered accordingly.

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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:51 pm

Here is another addition to this thread on “Real American Knife Lore” but as opposed to an interview this was an article in the American Cutler Journal of June 1921 entitled “Remington Enters Cutlery Field”… It describes their cutlery business in detail as to why it was started in 1919 and is an excellent wide angle view of the whole Remington knife making production process from start to finish including marketing. (NOTE: This was a pdf which can’t be posted on AAPK so after much trial and error I turned it into jpegs of each page - unfortunately the photos wouldn't copy with the article text so any figure photos from each individual page would be below though the legend should be mostly on the original page (sorry if this sounds confusing but you will see as you read and go from attachment to attachment. This will have to be 2 continuous posts to get all the pages and photos included due to attachment restrictions per post. Just a note - the last attachment which is the end of article ends about halfway or so down the page. Importantly you may need to increase your screen view to over 100% or find your reading glasses :) ) …. Personally I can now see why Remington put out so many knives - lots of workers and equipment - and a step by step sequential process from raw materials to a finished product that was so well organized ... Hope most enjoy it – indeed it really gives insight as to knife factory processes!

Page 1.jpg


Page 2.jpg


Page 2  - Tool Room.jpg


Page 3.jpg


Page 3 - Automatic Grinding Machines.jpg


Page 3 - Grease and Lime Brushing.png


Page 4.jpg


Page 4  - Hafting Room.jpg
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:53 pm

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE:

Page 5.jpg


Page 5 - Finishing Room.jpg


Page 6.jpg


Page 6 - Ware Room and Finishing.jpg


Page 7.jpg


Page 7 - Service Floor.png


Page 8.jpg
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby Duffer » Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:12 am

Lee thanks for posting this! I enjoyed reading it ::tu::
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby JAMESC41001 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:14 am

Thanks for posting this lee. Super helpful for me with my little project. I’m having trouble finding the September 1927 addition of the journal can you or someone her help??

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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:39 am

JAMESC41001 wrote:Thanks for posting this lee. Super helpful for me with my little project. I’m having trouble finding the September 1927 addition of the journal can you or someone her help??


Glad it was helpful Jay ::tu:: ::tu:: .. Sorry but don't have any issues from 1927... I wish I had found others but nothing later than 1923 at least on the internet - The few annual compilations I found on the internet are huge pdfs... anyway I wonder as the industry started to decline during the 20s if the journal also went under - I am just thinking and really don't know... It was a monthly journal and quite enjoy looking at them (The American Cutler Journal), a few interesting articles and the advertising is very cool 8) ..
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby danno50 » Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:29 pm

Lee, any chance you could post a link to where you find the American Cutler Journal? I am about to pop a gasket here trying to search for it. Even google books gives me nothing. The internet is really starting to tick me off!
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:29 pm

danno50 wrote:Lee, any chance you could post a link to where you find the American Cutler Journal? I am about to pop a gasket here trying to search for it. Even google books gives me nothing. The internet is really starting to tick me off!


Dan - I found a few when searching other topics so it was serendipitous - don't feel frustrated :wink: - I saved the few I found as a pdf so been searching through saved bookmarks on my computer - Hope this helps Dan ::tu:: and of course anybody who is interested....

I found at least these links so far to issues -

1921
https://books.google.com/books?id=IZs1A ... 17&f=false

1922
https://books.google.com/books?id=m3kiA ... er&f=false

1923
https://books.google.com/books?id=6SgdA ... er&f=false

I have the pdf for 1917 but can't seem to find the link ::dang:: - but I'll post it if I find it!!
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby danno50 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 3:05 am

Lee, I added two google DNS servers to my network settings and found the link below. It has access to the full year's journals from 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1923. It will load the full journal, but it is slow, took me 15 minutes or so to go through Jan, Feb and Mar of 1923. I cannot download the full PDF, but can save individual pages as PDFs to my desktop. As an example below is a page of adds from the Jan 1923 issue.

https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/012306931

I believe that with the googlebooks links you need to sign up with an account to download the PDF??
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1923WaldenAdinACJ.jpg
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:59 pm

Dan - Yes those are under google and I was able to download the full pdf... I did find that link you provided at hathitrust but was unable to get the full pdf... either way some interesting info - BTW - I find the ads rather interesting - Among the many company ads there is a few for Warwick Knife Co of Walden (which from my understanding are rare knife finds) and it was interesting to me that a claim in the ad was Warwick has all American employees except for two in addition to the pitch for their knives..
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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby danno50 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:12 pm

Lee - with the google locations, it would not let me download any of the PDF, unless I signed up for an account with google books?
With the hathitrust website, I could view the full PDF. However, it is slow as it loads and comes up as one scrolls through it. Last night it took an hour to scroll through the entire of the 1919 journals. That was without any detailed reading.
The ads are interesting, I did notice the ad for Warwick and also a couple of other cutlerly companies I have never seen mentioned on here.
Dan

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Re: Real American Knife Lore

Postby LongBlade » Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:28 pm

Dan - I think maybe you need an account - as I found out if you have gmail than you already have one...
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