A detailed history of Northfield Knife Co., Tidioute Cutlery Co., and modern upstart Great Eastern Cutlery, the current holder of both trademarks. With much new research, stories from those who made the knives, countless historical and knife photos, and a reprint of an 1869 Northfield catalog.
Illustrated in B&W and color. Also includes many Great Eastern Cutlery factory photos and a complete list of the company’s production numbers through 2009.
Reviewed by Knife World Staff
By now, every pocketknife enthusiast should be aware of Titusville, Pennsylvania’s Great Eastern Cutlery Co., the creation of lifelong knife collector/dealer Ken Daniels and former Queen Cutlery production manager Bill Howard.
Founded in 2006, this little-company-that-could has made some waves in the world of traditionally-made modern knives, inspiring loads of collectors and proving that even a new startup manufacturer can survive in a difficult market, if they’re well managed.
Even though “Great Eastern Cutlery” is itself a pretty catchy name, when the company was founded Daniels felt that they should also revive a historical name or two – both for promotional purposes and to pay homage to America’s cutlery heritage. The two brands they chose were Northfield UN-X-LD, one of this country’s oldest and most revered brand names (and one that Ken’s father had collected); and Tidioute Cutlery Co., which has an interesting history all its own. This new book by David Anthony details the history of these two venerable old American cutlery manufacturers, as well as the brief history of Great Eastern Cutlery.
The first 55 pages are devoted to “UN-X-LD, The Northfield Story”. Founded in 1858 by a group of cutlers who had lost their jobs after striking for higher wages, the Northfield Knife Co. of Northfield, Connecticut survived a series of takeovers, moves, strikes, and other events to persist until 1926 – and even then, former employee Henry Gill would keep the Northfield name alive for four more decades with a trickle of “production” from a one or two-man operation. This book explores Northfield’s history in detail never before seen, and also takes time to investigate various branches to Northfield’s family tree: the Catlins, Samuel Mason, Charles Platts, Ray Platts, Beaver Falls Cutlery Co., Excelsior Knife Co., and of course Henry Gill. In fact, Mr. Anthony provides us with what may be the best look we’ve ever had at any American pocketknife manufacturer during the mid-19th century. One of the most fascinating discoveries included in the book is a fully illustrated 26-page Northfield catalog from 1869, possibly the oldest known illustrated American cutlery catalog. To dedicated collectors of early American pocketknives, this catalog reprint alone is worth the price of admission.
Following the Northfield section is a short chapter on the cutlery tariff implemented in the late 19th century, which gave domestic manufacturers a decided advantage over foreign competition, particularly the English and German cutlery firms. This section serves to put into perspective the largest issue facing all of the cutlery manufacturers of that time, and is a welcome inclusion.
“Tidioute Cutlery, Good as Gold” is the next subject dealt with, a history of this western Pennsylvania manufacturer along with some bits and pieces on related brands like Baldwin Cutlery, Penn Cutlery and Booth Brothers, and Vern and Bill Atkins who carried on the Tidioute tradition much as Henry Gill did for Northfield. Those who own a copy of the author’s previous book Tidioute: A Town With an Edge will find most of the material familiar, but the author has added a some additional tidbits discovered since that book’s publication. Readers who enjoy this chapter will definitely want to investigate the other book for an even more detailed look at the little cutlery town of Tidioute, Pennsylvania.
After a brief, insightful chapter putting the present state of American pocketknife manufacturing into perspective, the author finally addresses the subject of Great Eastern Cutlery. The brief history of this four-year-old firm, the individuals behind it, and how knives are made there will be of interest to a great many knife enthusiasts, as will the numerous photographs taken inside the GEC factory. Finally, the book concludes with 23 pages of photographs and information on Great Eastern’s knife production, with several pages of full color photos as well as tables listing the company’s complete production numbers through the end of 2009. Certainly, this is information that no Great Eastern collector would want to be without.
Great Eastern Cutlery, An American Tradition is of interest not only to collectors of that company’s product, but also to those who appreciate the American pocket cutlery of 100 or 150 years ago, and the $19.95 price is plenty reasonable for this nicely done book that’s printed in the good old U.S. of A.
Softcover, 180 pp.