The story of Tidioute, PA and the many cutlery companies who set up shop in this little town, including Union Razor Co., Union Cutlery Co., Baldwin Cutlery Co., Penn Cutlery Co., and of course both firms that operated under the name Tidioute Cutlery Company. A great little history, with illustrations of many rare knives.
Reviewed by Knife World Staff
“Tidioute” is a name sure to register with dyed-in-the-wool pocketknife buffs. This small town in western Pennsylvania owes its origins to the oil boom of the mid 1800s, much like its near neighbor Titusville, but like Titusville the area’s natural gas resources were put to good use by establishments founded for the making of cutlery – primarily pocketknives, but also razors, and a few hunting knives as well.
As a resident of western Pennsylvania, Mr. Anthony has long collected the products of the more obscure Pennsylvania cutlery manufacturers, and in undertaking this project he was able to devote extensive time to researching the various cutleries of Tidioute through interviews and historical records. His initial research first bore fruit in the January, 2006 Knife World article entitled “Little Town with a Big History”, but as the research continued it became clear that the only way to tell the complete story of Tidioute’s cutlery history was through the publication of a book such as this.
Anthony has done a fine job of relating the history of the various Tidioute related firms, together with the colorful related tales of the town and its past residents. Antique knife aficionados will recognize the names of the Tidioute Cutlery Company (of which there were two basically unrelated iterations), the Baldwin Cutlery Company, Penn Cutlery Company, and of course Union Razor Company, which became Union Cutlery Company in 1909 and in 1911 left Tidioute for Olean, New York, where it still exists today as Ka-Bar Cutlery Co. Among the others whose stories are interwoven with these firms are Brown Bros., A.C. Penn, American Hone Co., Pennsylvania Knife Co., John Brown Sons Co., Booth Brothers, Vern and Bill Atkins (the last Tidioute cutlers), and of course the Case family companies (the Cases and Browns were connected by both family and business ties.) Great Eastern Cutlery, the current Titusville-based manufacturer of “Tidioute” brand pocket cutlery, is also addressed.
Tidioute: A Town With an Edge is littered with interesting cutlery related tidbits, such as the complete start-up inventory of the initial Tidioute Cutlery Company in 1897 from the cocobolo and blade steel to every shield plate and grindstone horse and cutler’s steady; the initial linerlock patent of 1906 and Wallace Brown’s patent for a “Combination knife and fork”, more commonly known as Ka-Bar’s “hobo” knife (both were invented in Tidioute); and many photos of knives, razors, and cutlery boxes as well as historical photos. Those who like a good story will enjoy the true tales of French Kate and Ben Hogan, “The wickedest man in the world”; of how the bodies of two prominent Tidioute businessmen killed aboard a wrecked steamboat were identified by a Tidioute Cutlery knife; and of how cutler Vern Atkins put his daughter through college by cockfighting on the side!
Particularly useful to collectors is an explanation of how unfinished parts from a succession of firms starting with Booth Brothers and including (but not limited to) Tidioute Cutlery, Schatt & Morgan, Queen Cutlery, Coleman Cutlery, and Penn Cutlery were assembled into knives by Bill Atkins as late as 1970. Whether or not these knives are properly considered counterfeits, collectors need to be aware of their existence. There’s also a short price guide for the knives and other items illustrated in the book, and a reprint of a pre-1924 Union Cutlery Co. catalog, as well as a bibliography of sources used.
Whether you are interested in the products of America’s “golden age” of cutlery, or just enjoy reading about history, Tidioute: A Town With an Edge is well worth picking up -- especially in light of its reasonable price.
Tidioute: A Town With an Edge
by David L. Anthony
Softcover, 125 pp.