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Southington Cutlery Company "1867-1905" and Gardner Cutlery "1876"

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by Primble, Feb 2, 2015.

  1. Primble

    Primble Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Mar 31, 2014
    I felt lucky to find these old Barlows and wanted to include some company history with their premier appearances:

    Southington Cutlery Company 1867-1905:



    A stock company was organized in Southington, Connecticut in October, 1867 for the manufacture of cutlery. Amon Bradley*was president, and John Gridley secretary and treasurer.*

    Wheaton Solomon Plumb accepted the position of superintendent of the Southington Cutlery Company, in April of 1868. He had learned the machinist's trade at the Waterville Knife Company, the Co-operative Knife Company at Unionville, and worked for the Springfield Armory during the Civil War.

    Mr. Plumb continued as superintendent of the Southington Cutlery Company until 1894. He was prominent in business circles and was a man of shrewd business judgement, alert to every changing phase in the business world, conservative yet thoroughly abreast of the times.

    Mr. Plumb was also a stockholder of the Southington Cutlery Company, the Atwater Maufacturing Company, the Blakeslee Forging Company, and the Southington Water Company. From 1884 until his death he was president of the Southington Savings Bank. He was president of the Southington Lumber and Feed Company from 1870 until his demise. He stood in very high regard of the community and few of this contemporaries filled so honored and influential a place in the life of Southington.

    The business grew steadily, until 1899. The buildings covered a large area, fronting on Centre Street. The company was*originally formed for the manufacture of table and pocket knives.

    In 1869, it was decided to engage in the manufacture of steel squares and other small items. By 1899, squares, curry*combs, tire bolts, stove bolts, and bicycle parts were also manufactured. The cutlery made by Southington was of the*highest quality.*They dropped the manufacture of cutlery in 1905. The name was changed to the Southington Hardware Company in 1908, and*they continued doing business under this new name for several years.







    Joseph William Gardner

    was born in 1823, in the city of Birmingham, England. The Gardners were a Warwickshire family, and, while most of them remained farmers, quite a number became distinguished as engineers, builders of heavy machinery, and in other branches of the mechanical arts. The family name on his mother's side was Philpott. They seem to have been of a more adventurous dispostion, and several members of the family emigrated to this country. Among others, the grandfather and uncle of the subject of this article came over as early as 1830, going at once to Pittsburg, Pa. The younger, Mr. William Philpott, who had been largely engaged in coal and iron mining in Wales, at once commenced mining for coal, having brought quite a large force of Welsh miners with him. He afterwards removed to Middleburg, Ohio, where he opened mines in both coal and iron, and soon amassed a fortune.

    Joseph W. Garner was the only surviving son of a large family of children. After leaving school he was apprenticed as a tool-maker, where in due time he became proficient in every part of the business, having a great aptitude and liking for the mechanical arts. In 1843, having served his apprenticeship and hearing glowing accounts of America, he came to this country. He landed in New York on the 4th of July, and his first inquiry was for work. Taking up a newspaper, he saw an advertisement for workmen at J. Russell & Co., manufacturers of table cutlery in Greenfield, Mass. He left for that place almost immediately, and found no difficulty obtaining the employment he sought. He did not remain long, however, but yielded to the urgent invitations of his relatives in the west to visit them.

    There were but few railroads at that time, and the journey to Ohio was made partly by stage and partly by the Erie Canal and Erie Lake. Ohio was a comparitively new country. There were few, if any, manufactures and very little money, and, though his uncle offered him an easy situation, he found things so little to his taste that, after remaining six months, he turned his face eastward. Arriving in Pittsburg, after a tedious journey by stage over what were called "corduroy" roads, he stopped there about three months. Afterward he proceeded to Wheeling, Virginia where he remained about the same length of time, and in rather less than a year after leaving Greenfield he was again there at work for J. Russell & Co. Displaying more than common ability, he was soon placed as foreman of the hafting department, which situation he retained as long as he remained in their employment. It was during that period that he was married to Frances L. Denin and his only child, a daughter, was born.

    In 1848, he was threatened with pulmonary disease, and was pronounced by the doctors as incurable, but was advised to try a change of climate. He accordingly again visited his family in the West, and after an absence of three months he returned, much improved in health and able to work, greatly to the astonishment of everyone.

    Not caring to retain his position with the Russell company any longer, he went at once to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Lamson, Goodnow, & Co., who for some years had engaged in the manufacture of scythe-snatches, had just commenced making butchers' knives and a few patterns of table cutlery. Mr. William G. Clement had at that time the management of the business, and employed about twenty men in making cutlery, much of whom were from Sheffield, England. Mr. Gardner suggested some important changes to him, and in a short time, convinced that he could not do better, Mr. Clement appointed Mr. Gardner to the superintendency of the cutlery department. In a year and a half they had increased the number of their workmen to one hundred and thirty.

    The work was at this time carried on in a few old wooden buildings on the Shelburne side of the Deerfield river, but, in two years after Mr. Gardner's arrival they commenced building the fine brick shops which they now occupy in Buckland. About this time he introduced a new bolster for knives, known as the concave bolster, which has been generally adopted both in this country and in England.

    During the building of the new factories, Mr. Gardner went to England to negotiate for the purchase of carver-forks and steels, and also to make arrangements for introducing into their own manufacturies the making of cast or run-steel forks and to also bring back with him a number of skillful workmen. From that time forward the business steadily increased for many years. Each year brought some new invention in cutlery, or some new machine for improving and decreasing the cost of making it. Chief among the many patents are the "patent shell bolster" and "Gardner's patent guard" carver-fork. After the introduction of the latter they ceased to import carver-forks, and have since made their own.

    In 1859, Mr. William G. Clement, a most worthy gentleman, left Lamson, Goodnow, & Co., and commenced business for himself in Northampton. Mr. Gardner was at once installed in his place and had the care of the entire business. During that year, and again in 1868, he was sent to England on business for the company. Like all other manufacturers, they had their losses by fires, floods, and commercial panics; but any and every emergency found them ready, courageous, and hopeful.

    At last in 1876, Mr. Gardner, weary with long service, yet too young and too industrious to retire from business, and having invented a new and superior pocket knife, he left the active management of the Lamson, Goodnow, & Company, and commenced manufacturing pocket-cutlery, intending at first to employ only a limited number of men, and also to make the best knives in the world. His first goods, stamped "Gardner, 1876" were in the market in the month of August of that year.

    Since them, not withstanding the hard times, he has had an increasing demand for them. In these days of competition it is no easy task to do the best work and sell goods at the low prices required; but this Mr. Gardner has always been able to do so, and that without reducing the wages of his workmen to any great extent. His motto has always been, "Good work and fair pay."

    End of article

    * I converted difficult to read images of pages in the book to text, word for word, and originally authored by L.H. Everts.

    History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts
    "Some of it's Prominet Men and Pioneers"
    Louis H. Everts






    Lamson and Goodnow Company is located in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Founded in 1834, the success of the business caused the partners to add buildings and to recruit cutlery workers from England and Germany by 1851. During the Civil War, the company was one of the largest U.S. cutlery manufacturers, employing more than 500 workers at times. This photograph was taken in the 1880s and shows Ebenezer G. Lamson, one of the partners, standing in front of the company's building.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
    Dr-Mabuse, VCM3 and bill2000 like this.
  2. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    Nice pair of Barlows, Rob! Well presented also!!:thumbup:

    I'm envious a heck!:rolleyes:
  3. Old & In The Way

    Old & In The Way Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 1, 2013
    That does it, I've got to get a 'rabbit hole' of my own. ;)

    Wonderful presentation and gorgeous photos as usual, but the knives are the real treasures, and they both appear to be just that - treasures. Beautiful and rare, that's a great combination. Congratulations on the new additions; they're incredible!

  4. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    Very well done. THANKS!
  5. pistonsandgears

    pistonsandgears Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 12, 2011
    Wow, :eek: that is a couple of beautiful old barlows. Really nice to have the history to go along with them. :thumbup:
  6. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    Great info!

    I only have four Southington knives, but they are among my favorites.
  7. Peregrin

    Peregrin Traditional Forum Moderator Moderator Gold Member

    Sep 2, 2004
    A very interesting read. Thanks for putting it together, Primble.
  8. paulhilborn

    paulhilborn Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Just FANTASTIC Primble:thumbup: Love the background info also:)
  9. dave308ek


    Apr 19, 2014
    Thanks so much for sharing your knives, history, and presentation of another great American knife company. As usual, your work, photography, writing, etc. is outstanding and commendable.
  10. tstaut

    tstaut Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 6, 2012
    Wonderful to see this thread, as I had just oiled up an old Southington ebony jack and it was sitting on my desk. The pen blade is down to a nub, and the main blade not much better. But the workmanship is still there.

    I read your post and thought, you know, this thing could still do anything I would possibly need it to do on an ordinary day. And it would do it while being a genuine piece of history.

    I won't sully this thread with pics of the old soldier, but you know what?

    I think I'll carry it tomorrow. :)
  11. mike Berkovitch

    mike Berkovitch Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 15, 2007
    Interesting read, thanks
    Very nice pair.

  12. Markesharp

    Markesharp KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 8, 2014
    Primble my friend - Outstanding knives and background on those two old Barlows! That is what I love about this forum, you learn something new everyday.

    I think you should make an old Barlow display case! :eek::D
  13. galvanic1882

    galvanic1882 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 13, 2007
    Great Barlow's and nice presentation and history. Love the marks on the bolsters.
  14. clutchcarter

    clutchcarter Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Dec 11, 2011
    Thanks for the education Primble, nicely done!:thumbup:
  15. Half/Stop

    Half/Stop Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 25, 2014
    Primble - A wonderful history lesson. This is great research work and the results show it! But to the knives, Sir, these are Most Excellent! Rob, I am now totally convinced that you my friend are a "Magnet" for some of the rarest and most beautiful pocket cutlery around! And your photography skills are not to bad shabby either.:D

    ~ Ron
  16. bdev


    Feb 8, 2013
    Posts like this are why I read this forum every day. Thanks Primble for all the info. :thumbup:
  17. Mike Robuck

    Mike Robuck

    Oct 11, 2001
    Nice knives and write up. I'm partial to Southington knives but they are hard to find.
  18. Primble

    Primble Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Mar 31, 2014
    Thank you everyone for the nice comments and as I said, I felt lucky to find such old knives in such good condition. :eek::eek::thumbup::thumbup::)

    The Southington Barlow has some of the hardest half stop snaps of any knives I own - a real bear trap ! :eek::D

    I would be interested in seeing other examples from the two companies. ;):)
  19. kootenay joe

    kootenay joe Banned BANNED

    Jan 30, 2015


  20. paulhilborn

    paulhilborn Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Nice kj!!!

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