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Antique Winchester Knives and Company History 1919-1942

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by MerryMadMonk, Feb 17, 2020.

  1. MerryMadMonk

    MerryMadMonk Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 22, 2011
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    While the primary focus is 1919-1942 Winchester-branded knives, I don't think it would be out of place to discuss E.C. Simmons Keen Kutter-branded knives made during the Winchester era. Additionally, for comparison/discussion purposes, if you have any Napanoch and/or early Walden knives, feel free to show 'em. I think they will add to our appreciation of this particular slice of knife history.


    Key dates/events:

    1919 - Winchester Repeating Arms Company enters the cutlery market.

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    Winchester buys Eagle Knife Company (also located in New Haven) and...

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    ...Napanoch Knife Company of Napanoch, New York and moves most of its equipment and all employees willing to relocate to New Haven. Begins to manufacture pocket knives.
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    1922 - Winchester merges with E.C. Simmons Hardware and acquires Walden Knife Company in which Simmons had controlling interest since at least 1911.
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    The new company's name is changed to Winchester-Simmons.


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    1923 - Walden Knife Company's equipment (most? some?) along with employees (many? some?) are moved to New Haven (*See note below).

    1929 - Winchester and Simmons go their separate ways. Winchester continues to make high quality pocket knives for a few more years.

    1931 - Winchester Repeating Arms Company goes into receivership and is bought at bankruptcy auction by the Olin family's Western Cartridge Company on December 22, 1931, becoming a subsidiary of Western Cartridge.

    1933 - Due to competition from companies making low-priced and lesser quality knives, Winchester begins to produce light-gauge, machine-made assortment knives which soon become a major part of its business. Winchester continues to make high quality pocket knives, but in less patterns and lower quantities than before.

    1935 - Western Cartridge merges with its subsidiary to form the Winchester-Western Company.

    1942 - With America's entry into World War II, Winchester's cutlery manufacturing ceases in early 1942.


    *Note: to muddy the waters and in spite of the cited references below, there seems to be some evidence that some part of Walden Knife Company remained in Walden and continued to make knives there as late as 1926. I believe Dan @danno50 can shed some light on this.


    As always, post 'em if you got 'em!
     
  2. MerryMadMonk

    MerryMadMonk Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 22, 2011
    Extract from Levine's Guide to Knives and Their Values, 4th Edition (1997) by Bernard Levine:
     
  3. Grandpa Peter's and Grandma Betty's

    Grandpa Peter's and Grandma Betty's KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    326
    Aug 5, 2016
    ~ Some of my favorite knives ~ the old ones of-coarse ~
     
    waynorth likes this.
  4. MerryMadMonk

    MerryMadMonk Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 22, 2011
    Extract from Official Price Guide to Collector Knives, 15th Edition (2008) by C. Houston Price and Mark D. Zalesky:
     
  5. MerryMadMonk

    MerryMadMonk Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 22, 2011
    Extract from The Standard Knife Collector's Guide, 6th Edition (2009) by Ron Stewart:
     
  6. Grandpa Peter's and Grandma Betty's

    Grandpa Peter's and Grandma Betty's KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    326
    Aug 5, 2016
    ~ Here is one ~ Has anyone ever seen another one ~ Pattern 3888 with locking Clip Blade one Spear Blade and one Pen Blade ~ On its Clip it has the Winchester etch....and all tangs have its Winchester Trademark ~ Believe it is a Cattle Knife Pattern 88 ~
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  7. Gevonovich

    Gevonovich Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 17, 2011
    Looking forward to a great thread !! Those two Winchesters are divine, Al ! Great thread idea:thumbsup:

    E.C. Simmons

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    Eagle
    This Eagle is stamped Phila. ????
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    Walden Knife Co.

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    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 13, 2017
    Keen Kutter

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    navaja, ccsavage, LongBlade and 20 others like this.
  9. GE Jr

    GE Jr Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 29, 2015
    Great thread! :thumbsup:
    Excerpt from quote in post #4 above...
    "The pattern numbers used by Winchester can be used to identify knives as follows:
    The first digit signifies the number of blades, while the second digit signifies the following handle material:

    0 - Celluloid
    1 - Fancy Celluloid
    2 - Nickel Silver
    3 - Genuine Pearl
    6 - Cocobolo or Other Wood
    7 - Bone
    8 - Bone Stag
    9 - Sometimes used for Bone or Stag

    The third and fourth digits signify factory pattern.

    There were two distinct lines of Winchester knives. Those of higher quality (earlier manufacture) are stamped WINCHESTER/TRADEMARK/MADE IN USA on all blades, or with that mark on the master and WINCHESTER alone on secondary blades. The lesser quality line knives are stamped on only one blade. While these stamping differences did exist on most of Winchester's production, the collector should be aware that there are some exceptions."

    So - breaking down the stamped number, 2=2 blades, 7=bone, and 03=Barlow? Likely not a premium knife having unadorned bolsters and only one blade stamped. It'd be kinda neat to know the approximate date of mfr.


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  10. danno50

    danno50 Gold Member Gold Member

    851
    Apr 15, 2008
    Great thread, MerryMadMonk (Al, I believe?). I have been considering starting a similar one on Walden Knife. I have been attempting to research Walden Knife for some time now, mostly with a view to the making of Keen Kutter pocket knives. In 1902 a principal stockholder in Walden, by the name of George Weller, retired and E.C. Simmons bought all of his stocks, gaining control of Walden Knife. In 1922 Simmons and Winchester merged. All good to here. As was cited by Al in the posts above, most of the knife collecting world believes that shortly after the merger, about 1923, the Walden plant was closed and the equipment and workers moved to New Haven.
    There is quite a bit of historical evidence that may not be what happened. I will present the evidence I have uncovered and let everyone else judge for themselves.

    The first thing that caused me to question the conventional wisdom was the letter below, which was posted by galvanic1882 on AAPK. It is a letter on Walden Knife Company letterhead, dated August 27, 1926. The letterhead proclaims Walden Knife as "SOLE MAKERS OF THE CELEBRATED KEEN KUTTER POCKET KNIVES".

    IMG_1249a.jpg

    Next I visited the website for the Walden and Walkill Vallery Historical Society. There I found this bulletin, for a talk on Walden Knife and Schrade, given by the Walden village historian back in 2016. Not the long title for the Walden Knife section - "Home of Keen Kutter Knives from 1874 to 1927".

    Local History Day2016 (knife shops part 2 & 3)tn-600.jpg
    I joined the historical society and started emailing with the village historian. I have received some interesting information from her, but not yet exactly what I was hoping for. I was hoping she would have some information from village records (tax records etc) to back up the 1927 closing date of the Walden Knife plant. When I get more information I will post it.

    Will continue in the next post.
     
  11. danno50

    danno50 Gold Member Gold Member

    851
    Apr 15, 2008
    Also available on the WWVHSC (www.thewaldenhouse.org), is an excerpt from a book "Old Walden" by String Cooper. Below is the link to this:

    http://www.thewaldenhouse.org/LHD 2012/Knife Industry.pdf

    The quote below is from about the middle of page 4.

    "During World War I government contracts kept the factory operating to full capacity. One of the major items produced were large knives for the Navy. After the armistice there was a sharp decline in the demand for pocket cutlery. E. C. Simmons Company, being in a precarious financial situation merged with the Winchester Arms Company who were as bad off with their large munitions factories standing empty, and started making knives in their Bridgeport, Connecticut factory. The Walden plant started down hill. They continued working in a small way until 1927 when they closed their doors for the last times."

    Through searching old newspapers, I found the article below. It is from the Warwick Advertiser, dated July 27, 1922. I talks about a visit by President Otterson, of the Winchester Arms-Simmons Hardware Co., to the Walden Knife plant. At the end of the day he gathers the plant foreman and assures them that operations will continue as usual at the Walden plant.

    Untitled.jpg
    I also have two newspaper articles giving an exact closing date for the Walden Knife plant. One is from the Ithaca Journal, dated April 16, 1927 and the other is from the Walden Citizen Herald, dated April 14, 1927. Both state that the Walden Plant will shut down on April 30, 1927. The Ithaca Journal article also states that the 175 employees had been notified.

    The_Ithaca_Journal_Sat__Apr_16__1927_.jpg

    Page 1 of Citizen Herald,published in Walden, New York on Thursday, April 14th, 1927.jpg



    There is the notice for the Public Auction of the Walden Knife Co. equipment available on www.collectors-of-schrades-r-us.com as below:

    http://www.collectors-of-schrades-r.us/Walden/Walden.pdf

    The list of equipment up for auction is over 20 pages long. I have looked through it and don't see as much of some types of equipment (grinders, anvils etc) as I would expect, but, it is still quite an extensive list.

    That is pretty much a summary of what I have to date. As I said, I am still hoping for more from the Walden village historian, and will post information as I get it.
     
  12. MerryMadMonk

    MerryMadMonk Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 22, 2011
    @J's Custom Handmade Very interesting! Never seen one like it by any maker.

    @Gevonovich Thanks, Gev! I also look forward to what this thread brings us! Beautiful examples!

    @SteveC Beautiful old cattle knife!

    @GE Jr Thanks, GE! Not sure if the older ones have stamped bolsters or if it's the other way around.


    @danno50 Dan, thanks so much for sharing! That kind of information/research doesn't come without a lot of time and effort. Much appreciated!
     
  13. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    Great research, Al and Dan!!! I look forward to further, as it occurs!!
    Here are some older pics of Winchester knives. I will eventually take some more for this great thread!!
    Three Barlows and a fancy Jack!!
    Assort 1.jpg Assort 2.jpg

    Two Harness Jacks , one with a Napanoch style punch!! Assort 3.jpg Assort 4.jpg
     
  14. danno50

    danno50 Gold Member Gold Member

    851
    Apr 15, 2008
    I do not have any Winchester stamped knives. However, here a few Keen Kutters made by Winchester.

    RIMG1397.JPG RIMG1400.JPG RIMG1578.JPG RIMG1584.JPG RIMG1756.JPG
     
  15. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    Here is a Winchester-marked 4 1/2", 2-blade English Jack. Half-stops, and a Washington-style bolster, with both blades stamped; it looks like a Schrade sub-contract, or . . . . . .?:rolleyes: English 1.jpg English 2.jpg
     
  16. danno50

    danno50 Gold Member Gold Member

    851
    Apr 15, 2008
    Nice Winchesters, Charlie, that English jack is a beauty, regardless of origins!:thumbsup:
     
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  17. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    A couple of Pruners, Winchester, and a KeenKutter.:)
    They have some similarities; I wonder if they were made in the same place??
    Win and KK pruners 1.jpg Win and KK pruners 2.jpg
     
  18. danno50

    danno50 Gold Member Gold Member

    851
    Apr 15, 2008
    I would not bet against it.
    The tang stamp on the Keen Kutter is a variation I have not seen before. I have ST LOUIS / MO. and MADE / IN / USA, however, this is the first one I have seen with ST LOUIS / USA.
     
    waynorth likes this.
  19. Will Power

    Will Power Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 18, 2007
    Great work all round, The Old School teaches us all:thumbsup:

    @Gevonovich That Barehead Eagle just sublime :cool:

    Thanks, Will
     
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  20. SteveC

    SteveC Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 13, 2017
    I read on the AAPK that Winchester also made knives for Montgomery Wards ?
     
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