A look back at our early history, from an article published in the September 2002 KNIFE WORLD.
Photo: the KNIFE WORLD staff in 2002. Left to right: Mark Zalesky, Kim Knott, Houston Price, Doug Price, Dot McArthur, and Shirley Shults.
That’s right folks, KNIFE WORLD is 25 years old this month [September, 2002 – Ed.]. Or 27, depending on how you look at it. Either way, we’re celebrating!
Technically speaking, KNIFE WORLD was founded in 1975. But to find its true origins we have to go back even further than that, to an agricultural products salesman by the name of Houston Price, a fellow who just happened to like a good knife. By the late sixties, Price’s interest had resulted in a drawerful of knives accumulated over the years, mainly knives he’d carried for a while before replacing them with something different. Among the folks he bought knives from in his travels was a fellow who dealt mainly in sharpening stones. His name was A.G. Russell.
As is the case with so many other collectors, it was Russell who really sparked Price’s interest in knife collecting as a hobby. This interest led to more knives and a charter subscription to American Blade magazine, and finally proved contagious as Houston’s brother Doug was also bitten by the knife collecting bug.
Doug Price was the owner of a printing company based here in Knoxville, and it wasn’t long before the entrepreneurial wheels started turning. Why not combine his interest in knives with the printing business? The two brothers talked about the possibilities that a knife publication might offer, and though Houston was not in a position to leave his sales job at that time, they agreed to move forward with the idea of publishing a knife magazine. In August of 1977, the big step was taken, when Doug Price agreed to buy the rights to KNIFE WORLD from publisher James Giganti.
It’s true, there was a KNIFE WORLD before this KNIFE WORLD. Like a half dozen other knife publications that have fallen by the wayside, the initial version of KNIFE WORLD would probably have been a forgotten footnote of knifedom had it not been for the Prices’ timely interest in a knife publication. Founded by St. Louis dentist James Giganti and intended as the knife equivalent of the then hugely popular Shotgun News, KNIFE WORLD was essentially an advertising paper in a tabloid format, with the focus on knives. The very first issue was published in October of 1975, eight pages’ worth.
(Left to Right) Very first issue of KNIFE WORLD: October, 1975; first edition in present format (September 1977); unusual masthead used for only two issues (July & August 1978) ; first issue with classic masthead (June 1979).
The first KNIFE WORLD’s impact on the knife world was not massive and immediate. In fact, a prominent knife scribe of the time commented in 1976: “Something called ‘Knife World’ came along quickly last year, and just as quickly went. It was billed as the knife world’s answer to Shotgun News, but apparently things didn’t work out. The last copy we saw was October 1975, and we haven’t seen anything since.” (William L. Cassidy, from Knife Digest, Second Edition). In fact, Giganti’s run with KNIFE WORLD lasted nine issues, up through October of 1976. (An interesting footnote is that not much has been heard from Mr. Cassidy since those lines were published…)
In the summer of 1977, Doug Price bought the rights to the KNIFE WORLD name, logo, and mailing list, and launched the totally reworked publication with the September, 1977 issue. The new KNIFE WORLD was published in the same form it remains today. More than just a collection of classified and display ads, it also included an events calendar, a Club Corner, and most importantly, articles on antique, modern, and handmade knives, knife shows, and other aspects of the world of knives.
Doug, as KNIFE WORLD’s publisher, went through a series of editors early on: Hank Diggs (1977-78), Charlie Yates (1978), and Nancy Cross (1978-79), until Houston was able to fulfill his promise to come to Knoxville and head up KNIFE WORLD himself. The venture became a partnership between the brothers at that time, and Houston took over the publishers duties in February of 1979, before assuming the role of editor in September of that year. He would hold both roles until 1997, and continues as publisher today. Though not active in day-to-day operations, Doug Price still owns half the company, making KNIFE WORLD’s ownership easily the most stable of any knife publication.
Although for many people Houston Price always has been “Mr. Knife World,” he hasn’t done it alone. Aside from the support of our loyal writers and advertisers, KNIFE WORLD has also been blessed with a loyal and reliable staff. Houston’s late wife Betty Price took care of circulation and accounting for nearly as long as Houston served as editor, and Kim Knott continues to design and lay out each issue of KNIFE WORLD just as she has since 1980. More recently, Dot McArthur joined the staff in 1995, and now manages both accounting and circulation. Mark Zalesky replaced Houston Price as editor in 1997, and Shirley Shults joined us in 2000 to help manage the ever-increasing responsibilities of handling our orders.
Through the course of publishing 300 monthly issues, many aspects of the knife world have changed, but many things here have not. From day one, even going back to 1975, KNIFE WORLD has always thrown its full support behind knife collecting, in the form of knife shows and also in the form of knife clubs and related organizations, regardless of whether or not the clubs were national or local in nature. In particular, the NKCA has enjoyed our constant support, from show coverage to the many other ways a publication and its employees can assist an organization, even supplying its members with KNIFE WORLDs when their financial situation dictated that they could not do it themselves.
While other knife publications have come and gone, most focusing on a particular aspect of knives, KNIFE WORLD has succeeded by addressing the world of knives in all its forms. While we can’t cover every subject every month, we’ve always striven to provide the reader with a range of material that can’t be found anywhere else. Though not a custom knife publication, we’ve devoted a lot of space to up and coming makers over the years, many of whom have on to great things. Whether or not manufacturers support our publication, we’ve tried to direct coverage where coverage is due. And though there’s little advertiser support for articles on military knives or defunct old companies, we’ve managed to publish hundreds of these articles anyway.
All of the above may sound like a lot of hornblowing; but gosh darn it, after a quarter century and 300 issues, I think we’re entitled to a little celebration. Most importantly: THANK YOU to our loyal advertisers; THANK YOU to our dedicated writers; and THANK YOU to our many subscribers. Without all of you, there would be no KNIFE WORLD.
We’ll see you in 2027!
(Left to Right) First color issue of KNIFE WORLD, June 2007; 458th and last issue of KNIFE WORLD, October 2015; first issue of KNIFE Magazine, November 2015.
FOOTNOTE: We added color to selected pages of KNIFE WORLD starting with the June 2007 edition. In mid-2015 the business was purchased by longtime editor Mark Zalesky, and the month after the October 2015 edition was published KNIFE WORLD was seamlessly replaced with the thicker, full color, glossy KNIFE Magazine.
A Few Items of Interest [from 2002]
“Whut Izzit” by Bernard Levine
Most popular regular feature
First installment: January 1978
Total number of installments: 297 [as of Sept. 2002 – Ed.]
“April Fool” installments: 1981, 2000
“The Military Edge”
First installment: November 1994
1994-1996: Mike Silvey
1997-present: Frank Trzaska
Guest Contributors: Ron Flook, Don Lawrence, and William Windrum
B.R. Hughes (with us since the very first issue)
A Few of Our All-time Favorite Articles:
Official Scout Knives: Dennis Ellingsen (July ’88)
Stanhopes: World in Miniature: Howard Melnick (Nov. ’90)
Variations of the Plier Knife: C.H. Price (Nov. ’81)
The Porch People: Ann Renkoski (Oct. ’94)
Candy Cane Christmas: Joe Seale (Dec. ’85)
Knife Knut: J.B. Morgan (May ’80)
Case 1970 10 Dot Pocketknives: Tony Foster (Nov. ’97)
That Feminine Touch (Lora Sue Bethke): B.R. Hughes (Mar. ’99)
Age of the Bowie Hunters: Jack Edmondson (Nov. ’93)
Legacy of an Old Knife: Tom Schifani (June ’96)
Pilot’s Survival Knife: Frank Trzaska (Dec. ’98)
The Randall Story: Jim Williamson (Apr. ’99)
Busch Knives by Wester: Bernard Levine (July ’89)
Endorsed by Zane Grey: Richard White (Oct. ’91)
Knives of John Ek: Mike Silvey (Nov. ’96)
Geo. Wostenholm & Sons: Kurt Moe (Nov. ’84)
Walden Knife Company: Phillip Krumholz (Dec. ’88)
How to Make a Folding Knife by Blackie Collins (Feb-Sept ’78)
Most Controversial Articles:
Custom Knives: Who’s the Best by B.R. Hughes (July ’78)
The Carrigan Knife by William Worthen (Dec. ’92)
The Brass Backed Bowie by Jack Edmondson (Jan/Feb ’93)
Published Collections of Knife World Articles:
The Best of Knife World Vol. I (1980)
The Best of Knife World Vol. II (1983)
The Best of Knife World Vol. III (1993)
The Razor Anthology (1995)
Military Knives: A Reference Book (2001)
The Knife Identification And Value Guide (1981) [a collection of Whut Izzit’s first 3 years]
Some Books Originally Based on Knife World Articles:
The Randall Saga (Beaucant)
Sharpening Made Easy (Bottorff)
Mr. Bowie With a Knife (Edmondson)
Silver Folding Fruit Knives (Karsten)
Tale of the Tomahawk (McEvoy)
Scagel: The Man and His Knives (McEvoy)
Knife & Tomahawk Throwing (McEvoy)
The Case Knife Story (Swain)
Contents of the First Knoxville Edition of Knife World (September 1977):
“Lawell Best at Chattanooga” – Report on NKCA show
“Old vs. New – What’s Missing?” by Wendell Carson
“Little Rock Show ‘Surprising'”
“From Small to LARGE: Relic Room ‘Moves Up'” (The Relic Room eventually became SMKW!)
“Kansas City Guild Show a ‘Head Turner'” by Sid Latham
“‘Handmade by…’ A Look at Custom Cutlery” by B.R. Hughes
“Browning to Mark 100th Anniversary”
“Holifield, Well-Known Collector, Dead at 54”
“The ‘Case’ of the Broken Zipper” by Skip Bryan
Club Corner, Show Calendar, Classifieds
KNIFE WORLD would like to thank these longtime advertisers for their support:
25 YEAR ADVERTISERS:
Star Sales Company
A.G. Russell Knives
Randall Made Knives
Sheffield Knifemakers Supply
James F. Parker
Other Longtime Supporters:
J. Bruce Voyles
N.Y. Custom Knife Show
Fight’n Rooster Cutlery
K&G Finishing Supplies
Lile Handmade Knives
Masecraft Supply Co.
W.R. Case & Sons
E. Christopher Mfg.
Frost Cutlery Co.
Smoky Mountain Knife Works
Lansky Knife Sharpeners
Blue Grass Cutlery
Blue Ridge Knives
American Bladesmith Society
Northeast Cutlery Collectors
Oregon Knife Collectors
Flint River Knife Collectors
American Edge Collectors Assn.
Central Kentucky Knife Club
Eastern Pennsylvania Knife Collectors
Florida Knife Collectors Assn.
Southern California Blade Collectors
Shenandoah Valley Collectors
Western Reserve Cutlery Assn.
Wolverine Knife Collectors