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Interview with Knife World Magazine Editor, Mark Zalesky

October 2009

 

By David L. Anthony

Photo by Mike Larsen at the 2009 Oregon Knife Show (that's Mike's Joseph Elliott gravity knife, a super rare piece!)

 

Just about every knife collecting related book or magazine that you put your hands on these days has some mention of Mark Zalesky in it. Either as a valuable resource for information or a portion written and/or edited by this incredibly knowledgeable historian/collector.   Anyone of any notoriety in the hobby of vintage knife collecting knows of Mark.

 

The following is just a short list of publications that Mark has been involved with and the list could be much longer if he wasn’t so humble. He has been writing freelance for Knife World since 1990 and full time since 1997. He has also written pieces for the National Knife Magazine, The (Automatic Knife) Newsletter, The Antique Bowie Journal, The American Bladesmith, and several local and regional club publications, as well as the books, Knives Digest I and The Razor Anthology -- probably in the ballpark of three hundred articles in total.  Currently he is the co-author of The Official Price Guide to Collector Knives, 15th Edition and hopes to continue with that series in the future. I am sure many of us support that notion for sure.

 

I met Mark some years ago when I was turned onto Knife World Magazine by Bernard Levine. I had sent Bernard some pictures and questions about a Pennsylvania made pocketknife and he decided to use the material for his "Whut Izzit" column in Knife World. Of course I had to have a copy and received my complimentary issue and instantly felt I had found my home. Finally, I had people who truly understood my passion for vintage knives and where they came from in the first place. Each issue is devoured instantly as I walk from the mailbox to the front door. My wife knows to let me alone for at least an hour as carefully read each and every word and study the photos closely. I make comments to her about various aspects of the issue and she politely says “oh yes dear I can see why you think that” and really has no idea what I am saying. She is wonderful about placating my almost fanatical obsession for vintage cutlery.

 

Mark has been very kind to me personally and helped me by publishing some of my own articles on knives in Knife World Magazine. My favorite experience with Mark involved his innate ability to guide me through learning how to take better photos of knives. My first attempts were awful now that I see them and Mark so patiently told me how to fix them. I would take a few pictures and then email them to Mark. Always starting out with a positive statement like “looking good but that dark shadow kinda takes away from it” or “gee I can not make out the tang stamp”“, try making a light box or changing the settings on your camera. Heck, he even looked up the information on my personal camera and mailed me the instruction on how to change the light settings. He must have realized that most of us are poor photographers, so this prompted him to re-release an in-depth article on how to photograph cutlery. If you like great pictures of old knives, talk to Mark. I think he could create a coffee table book of vintage knives that most of us would have a hard time putting down.

 

Of course he was instrumental in helping me fulfill my desire to publish a book as well. “Tidioute: A Town With an Edge” was born out of Mark’s encouragement and recognition of my desire to learn more about this portion of cutlery history. I spent endless hours bugging him for info and asking for research work that he had from John Goins. It started when he published my first knife article in Knife World Magazine entitled, “Tidioute, a Small Town With a Big History”.

 

I met Mark for the first time in person at an NKCA show that was held in Ohio at that time. Not knowing even what he looked like, I ask a fella at a table if he knew him. “Everyone knows Mark,” he said. Hunkered over a table with his camera in hand, was this guy talking to small crowd about a particular pocketknife. When I introduced myself he acted as if we had been friends for years. That’s just the way Mark is. I now consider him a good friend, mentor and a valuable resource.

 

 

I sent Mark a series of questions that I felt would be of interest to all of us in the hobby. So sit back with me and let’s learn a little more about one of our own.

 

 

1. Tell us the beginnings of your interest in knives.

 

I like to tell this story, so it's a long one...

My Grandfather, who passed away in February, was a gun nut all his life (primarily single shot rifles). My father grew up with this interest, but by the time he got out of the Navy in the late '60s the Federal gun laws had been ramped up and the gun business was changing. So instead of trading guns, Dad got interested in knives. He started out with U.S. & British military knives, but when I was born (so I'm told) my mother refused to have her boy grow up with all those "killing knives" around! Dad switched to pocketknives for a few years, then moved to bowies and ultimately to English folding bowie knives which he still collects today. He also made quite a lot of custom knives over about a 10-year stretch.

The first really good knife I ever owned, I bought this Marble's safety hunter in an antique shop on the way home from a gun show at age 9 or 10 (had to beg my Dad to stop, but it was a good payoff!) It has some spotting but has never seen a stone. This  piece started me on collecting Marble's knives, which I chased for 20 years.

 

2. Your focus or primary collecting interest.

 

My main collecting focus is American made bowie and dirk knives from the Civil War and pre-Civil War era. I just put together a list of other cutlery things I collect or have collected for my iKC profile (www.iknifecollector.com), and there are so many little niches I've pursued that it looks like I'm all over the place. But I've always had a main collecting interest, with two or three "side projects" going at the same time. When you get to the point at which it's unusual to go to a show and come home with even one item for your collection, I think it's time to pick up a new interest -- and the knife world offers a nearly endless variety of them.

One of my side-collections is pre-1870 American-made lockbacks / folding dirks. This one is by New England Cutlery Co., Wallingford, Connecticut; in business from 1852 to 1854 (possibly as late as 1860). It's the same knife pictured in "Goins' Encyclopedia of Cutlery Markings."

 

3. Person or persons who most influenced you in the cutlery world.

 

Well, my Father is the main one -- basically, I grew up with a knife collecting and knife making tutor in the house. Though his interests shifted somewhat over the years, he never got rid of any of his knife books or magazines. I have always loved to read, especially about knives, and when I got out of college and had a little money I started buying every knife related book I didn't have, and I'm still doing it today. The authors of all those great books have had a big impact on me – John Goins, Dewey Ferguson, Bernard Levine, and dozens of others. And Houston Price of course, I owe Houston absolutely everything when it comes to the publishing end of things, and he's the best boss in the world.

 

Proof that my ancestors knew the value of a good knife, this Crandall premium stockman belonged to a great uncle I never met. It's seen quite a lot of use but has never needed more cleaning than a wipe with some good oil.

 

4. I recall you saying you left a lucrative position to work for

Knife world as it "was a dream job" for you. Expound on that.

 

That is a bit of an exaggeration, but there's an ounce of truth in it. I was working as an Environmental Chemist fresh out of college and making what was (to me anyway) pretty darned good money, but I had inherited a pretty bad political situation and when the contract came up for renewal, I'd had enough and just walked away. Meanwhile, I had heard that Houston Price was thinking of retiring as Editor of Knife World and that my name had been mentioned (I had been writing for KW on a freelance basis for five years or so). Houston and I talked a few times, and I wrote some more freelance pieces, dealing in antique knives for a living while we both sorted out what we wanted to do. I have to admit that the economic realities were a little shocking... but only a fool would turn down the opportunity to do what one loves to do for a living. I will admit that there are difficult days too, but I honestly cannot imagine any job, anywhere, that I would rather have than this one.

 

Not long ago, my wife Chris asked me what I would do if I won the lottery. Easy: I would hire a couple more people to handle all the daily hassles at Knife World, and keep the more enjoyable responsibilities for myself!

 

5. Your thoughts on where the hobby is going in the future.

 

Knife collecting has always been in a state of flux, probably now more than ever. The internet's relationship with knife collecting is not yet done evolving, and I don't think that anyone knows where that will go – but it will have a huge impact on the hobby.

 

For as long as I can remember, I've heard people say that the "old collectors" are dying off and that there aren't enough young collectors coming in to replace them. I just don't agree with that. First off, there never have been a large number of collectors with disposable income under the age of 40 or so; if anything, there are more now than ever before. But it's evident that most of the younger collectors are starting out in less traditional fields of knives. And let's face it, it's a lot easier to build a collection of current handmade or factory knives than it is to jump into the world of antiques; it requires less education and involves less initial risk. The complexities of collecting antique pocketknives, bowies, military knives, Randalls, or whatever are a byproduct of the highly evolved state we've reached in these fields; they're mature, the prices are stable and the knowledge base is large. Another byproduct of this is that there are also counterfeits to be dealt with, so you really have to do your homework before diving in with your hard-earned money. 

 

The risk with collecting new items is that interest in them will wane (i.e. many of the limited edition knives of the 1970s craze). The risk of collecting long established fields is that you have to protect yourself from there are counterfeits and overpriced knives.

 

6. An area you feel will be "hot" in the next few years. Maybe a pattern, or brand, or just an unexplored area of interest.

 

I think we can expect even more interest in traditionally styled custom folders (and please don't make me call them "slip-joints," that term makes my skin crawl!) 

7. So what is your most prized piece in your collection? 

  

Do I have to pick just one? I could choose a dozen...I'm going to say that it's a Samuel Bell dirk knife which cost me a good bunch of money and a whole lot of knives from my collection in trade. Samuel Bell was a silversmith who made dirk knives in Knoxville, TN (1819-1852) and San Antonio, TX (1852-1882), and I've spent a lot of the last 12 years researching his life, work, and family (hopefully, one of these days I'll be able to pull everything together and publish it.) It's no longer in perfect condition, but it's the work of a maker at the very top of his game and I'm not sure that any one knife maker today could pull this knife off start-to-finish – and I have the utmost respect for today's craftsmen.

This is the Samuel Bell dirk knife described as my most prized piece. Ivory handle, coin silver mounts, engraved and with silver pique work on the opposite side. I'm not sure whether this is a late Knoxville-made knife (1840s-1851) or an early San Antonio example (1852-1860s). I own a few knives that are "better," but this one is near and dear to my heart.

8. Disappointments in the hobby and be specific. (I want to interject here that Mark reluctantly answered this question. Being true to his character he likes to keep things positive and to dwell on negative events in his life is just not his make up)

It took me a while to think up an answer to this question, as the rewards vs. disappointments balance of my knife collecting experience has been staggeringly one-sided. And really, this event reflects a disappointment in people rather than in collecting. Back in the mid-1980s, when I was still very much a kid at this, my Father and I were at a gun show when a collector friend came to our table showing off an extremely rare M.S.A. Co. (Marble's) pocketknife, which he had just bought from a dealer in the room. At that point, I had been collecting Marble's knives for several years, and while I had not seen one before I knew exactly what one should look like -- and this wasn't it. Everything about the knife was wrong, it was a fake, and I was 100% certain of it. The owner saw my initial reaction, asked me what was wrong, and I told him the truth.

 

Now I can't honestly tell you whether it was ignorance or if they were just sticking up for the fellow who sold the knife, but my friend went around the room consulting several dealers about it, and all of them backed up the seller and said that I was nuts.  It was years before my friend learned the truth, and I guess that knife was part of the reason he dropped out of knife collecting. 

The moral of the story is that knife people are just like every other kind of people; there are good ones and bad ones, and there are mostly good ones who will let themselves slide when put in a bad position or if tempted by the almighty dollar. In any case, it was a good life lesson for me, and  I have not forgotten it.

A favorite quote of mine comes from an old book on art fakery, in which an experienced dealer stated, "I trust to my own eyes, I view each piece with the recollected vision of forty years' experience [in the art field.]" If you are going to collect anything expensive, my advice is to take the time to educate yourself so that you can "trust your own eyes,” and not be forced to rely on anyone else. If you can't do this, how will you know when the person you're relying on is wrong?

 

9. If you could have just one more knife what would it be?

 

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to land a lot of the knives I never thought I would get to own, so I'm going to go out on the crazy limb and say a Daniel Searles bowie, like the one on display at the Alamo... there aren't more than 5 or 6 known and I think that only one is in collector hands. Winning the lottery is not enough to get you one of these; you basically have to be born into the right family!

A side-collection I've pursued for years consists of American-made folders with exotic pearl handles, and over time I've mostly narrowed it down to those with "smoked" (dyed) handles. Here are a few favorites; left to right: Keen Kutter, Cattaraugus, Remington, W.R. Case (pre-1920), and Robeson. All but the Remington are handled in what Cattaraugus called "oriental pearl", which is the outer portion of an abalone shell, dyed. The Remington is dyed oyster shell.

 

10. Tell us about Knife World Magazine.

 

KNIFE WORLD is different from the other knife publications -- and if you don't believe that, just ask any subscriber. We've been around since 1977, always a monthly, and always on newsprint. We've improved the paper quality and printing over the years, and added some full color pages a few years ago, but the basic concept is still the same. Each issue contains articles on a variety of subjects from antique knives to handmade knives, factory knives, military knives, knife history, use, testing, book reviews, etc. etc. Along with all that, there's Bernard Levine's "Whut Izzit" question-and-answer column, Knife News, Knife Club listings, Classified ads, the most comprehensive Knife Show calendar anywhere, and a couple of other features.

 

KNIFE WORLD is a publication created for the subscribers, rather than the advertisers. It's not sold on the newsstand -- subscription only -- but anyone interested can discover what we're all about by signing up for a FREE no-obligation trial subscription (U.S. addresses only, and just one trial per household) -- you can sign up at: http://www.knifeworld.com/thremonfretr.html

 

Knife World Publications, PO Box 3395, Knoxville TN 37927 USA

http://www.knifeworld.com, email knifepub@knifeworld.com, phone 1-800-828-7751

 

In closing, I want to thank Mark for taking the time to answer my questions. It only took about six months to convince him to do it. I kind of liked being on the other side of the desk in this instance and Mark being who he is, took it all is stride. Thank you Mark, and please keep up the great work that you are doing for all of us collectors out there. You will not find a knife person more generous and knowledgeable then Mark Zalesky.

 

 

Reply by David L. Anthony on April 30, 2009

I would like to show this story to my friends here at this wonderful site. Check it out and tell me what you think about it.


THE CHINESE EXPERIMENT
by Charles Reeves May
Milestones vol 1 no 4--Fall 1975

Sidney Kane, Beaver Falls historian, presented a paper entitled "The Chinese Workers in Beaver Falls at the 2nd Annual History Symposium on November 1, 1975. In the course of his research, Mr. Kane discovered the following account, issued as a bulletin of The Chinese Historical Society of America [San Francisco, April 19751. This is a roundabout route, since it was written by another Beaver Falls historian of an earlier day. Mr. Kane's paper, being prepared for publication, supplements and enriches the story of this interesting chapter of Beaver County history. ft will be presented in a future issue of Milestones.--Denver Walton

As their industries extended, the (Harmony) society had to hire many outside people. In 1872, 440 Englishmen from celebrated cutleries in Sheff ield were working in the Economy-owned cutlery. Things were going very well-this was the time to strike for higher wages, so labor troubles arose. Acting as the society's agent, John Reeves brought Chinaman from California and New Orleans to break the strike. When the newcomers arrived, great crowds, many of whom had never seen a Chinaman, appeared at the station. The Chinese seemed a threat, not only to the workers, but also to the saloon keepers, who knew Chinese do not drink.
The arrival of the Chinese posed a problem in the community. A town meeting was held and a delegation went to the society with grievances. The reply came-all cutlery workers were paid each month with the privilege of leaving if dissatisfied. If they would leave the Chinamen unmolested, and permit them to remain peaceful, the strikers would be reinstated with pay, and all profits from the cutlery would be used for the community for seven years. Since the society was satisfied with the management, it would close the plant if this proposal was not accepted. The workers settled.
They were quite a curiosity in the town and (train) excursions were run from Ohio cities and Pittsburgh to see the Chinaman at work, and to visit their living quarters. To convey some idea of the number of visitors in one day about $600.00 worth of goods were sold from the factory sample room. In those days that was a lot of money.
Such was Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; a town of 2,000 persons into which John Reeves was bringing a party of seventy Chinamen and whose arrival Henry T. Reeves had announced to his son and their pastor, Rev. J. E. Dyer of the Methodist Protestant Church on that Sunday evening in July, 1872.
Among the industries which had sprung up in the growing town after the Harmony Society had revised the plan was the cutlery works of Binns and Mason to manufacture pocket knives which had been first established in 1866 at Rochester, Pennsylvania, but moved to Beaver Falls in 1867. Later in 1867 it became known as the Beaver Falls Cutlery Company and a change in the ownership occurred which made the Harmony Society the principal owner. Henry T. Reeves became the President and Superintendent John Reeves Secretary and Treasurer.
The Cutlery occupied a tract of land bounded on the North by Third Street; on the East by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company's right of way; on the South by Second Street and on the West by Seventh Avenue. The buildings enclosed under roof more than one hundred thousand square feet of available flooring and covered between one and two acres of ground. Six of these buildings were brick and for the most part three stories in height. At times as many as three hundred men were employed. Many of these at first were workmen from the celebrated cutlery factories of Sheffield, England.
Early in 1872 everything seemed most promising for orders were coming in rapidly and every person connected with the factory was sanguine when the men struck for more wages. Concessions were made and the wheels of the factory were set in motion again but only a short time elapsed until there was another shutdown. Strikes and readjustments became frequent and a great deal of trouble and loss of time by the workmen was occasioned by their addiction to drink.
Someone suggested that Chinese workmen be substituted for the white hands who were striking. It was said that the suggestion was made by a minister of the Methodist Protestant Church in Beaver Falls at that time and it may have been the Rev. Dyer. The one making the suggestion had been actively interested in Chinese mission work for years and being familiar with the general characteristics and adaptability of the Chinamen believed that better results would be accomplished toward their Christianization by giving them employment in this country and religious instruction at the same time than were being obtained by our missionaries in their own land. Mr. Joseph W. Knott, who was employed in the office of the cutlery as accountant and bookkeeper during the entire period of the employment of the Chinese and to whom the writer is indebted for much of the information concerning these workmen, is of the opinion that both John Henrici and Henry T. Reeves were imbued with this same idea.
Chinese workmen had been employed successfully in a show factory at North Adams, Massachusetts, it had been learned, so after deliberation it was decided to try the experiment of foreign labor, now a commonplace thing but then an innovation, in Beaver County.
John Reeves set out for California in quest of the yellow men. Such a trip fifty-three years ago was not the pleasure jaunt it is today and required fifteen days. On reaching San Francisco, Mr. Reeves sought a man prominent in Chinese mission work to whom he had been referred. The missionary, a former Pittsburgher whose name was Williams, gave him much assistance in gathering information about the Chinaman as a factory hand and took him to several places where coolie labor had passed beyond the experimental stage. Among these were a large woolen factory and a file works where none but Chinese were employed.
An effort was made to secure a sufficient number of these Chinese workmen to man the factory at Beaver Falls, but they were well contented with conditions in California and were loathe to leave their countrymen and journey so far into the interior of a strange land. It was learned finally that a gang of Chinese laborers, who had been working on the construction of a railroad in Louisiana, had completed the grading at a point some sixty miles above New Orleans and might be induced to travel on toward the East and take up the new industry.
Securing the services of an interpreter, Mr. Reeves went to New Orleans and engaged one hundred of the gang. He was soon homeward bound with seventy of them, having arranged for the coming of the remainder and on Sunday evening, July 1, 1872, they arrived in Beaver Falls and it was to witness this arrival that Henry T. Reeves with his son and Rev. Dyer left the home of Mr. Reeves, now part of the Providence Hospital buildings.
Knowledge that Chinese workmen were to be employed in the cutlery had spread through the community and had greatly incensed the striking workmen who had agitated the workmen in the other shops and mills in the town and all were prepared to oppose the innovation. This feeling of resentment against the Chinese was intensified by the saloon men and liquor dealers who foresaw a decline of patronage in their particular line because the drinking of liquor was not a custom among the Chinese.
Scarcely any one in the town had ever seen a Chinaman so our little party of three were not alone in wending their way toward the station to see the curious specimens of humanity about whom there had been so much talk and agitation and the streets leading from the station to the cutlery were full of workmen vowing vengeance and of others there merely to see.
While the crowd waited its attitude became menacing and caused some anxiety to the local authorities as the whole police force of the town was one constable, James C. Crane. However, the threats to demolish the Chinese in his tracks the moment he set foot in town were like the puffing and blowing of the locomotive bringing them to town and were silenced when the wheels of the train stopped.
As the party of workmen descended from the train and were marched to the factory four blocks away with John Reeves at the head of the column, the throng fell back without a word. The feeling of indignation, however, did not abate and it required the vigilance of the members of the firm to keep some of the strikers and their sympathizers from harming the new workmen and it was necessary to Messrs. Reeves and Judge Henry Hice, counsel for the Harmony Society, to remain at the factory for several weeks. Many of the foremen in the factory left upon the arrival of the Chinaman, among them was Irvin Campbell, foreman of the forge shop, afterwards one of the Commissioners of Allegheny County. Later Mr. Reeves went again and brought more Chinamen and one party of them was brought from Cincinnati, Ohio, by John R. Eaking, father of Mrs. Emma R. Davidson. He was in Cincinnati and received a telegram from John Reeves asking him to bring this party which was on its way north to Beaver Falls. Later, when a candidate for School Director of Beaver Falls, this act was held against him by the opposition. Mr. Knott says there were at one time between two hundred and two hundred twenty-five workmen (400 Chineseby E. M. Wallover records).
The men were taken to the "Mansion House," an old plastercovered stone structure fronting on what is now Seventh Avenue and north of Third Street on land now occupied by Union Drawn Steel Company. It was the first dwelling of any pretensions in Beaver Falls. This had been prepared for their coming as a cook house and dining rooms with sleeping apartments. There had been built in the rear a wooden structure for sleeping quarters. Bedsteads were provided at first but the Chinaman would not use them so stationary berths or bunks were provided in the sleeping apartments on which was a mattress. The pillows were blocks of wood.
The contract to furnish the Chinese labor was made with one Ah Chuck, a San Francisco merchant, and provided that the men were to be paid one dollar per day in gold and that the company was to keep them supplied with rice and provide living quarters.
The Chinese were not employed in the pocket cutlery department, but in the table knife department. From the coolie class as they were, they could learn but one process but that one after a long time they learned to do well. No time was lost because of drunkenness for they never drank anything but tea. Their addiction to opium, however, caused some loss of time, but not so much as the use of liquor occasioned among the white workmen.
While at work they were neatly clad in the costume of their country, wearing stockings the whiteness of which might put many a belle to unconsciously contrasting them with her own-such a newspaper account of the time expresses it-and the satin slippers or shoes which were common to the Chinese and the carefully braided pigtail twisted around the head. This, Mr. Knott says, is hardly accurate as to the stockings. A few did wear the fine white stockings but most of them wore coarse ones.
During the five-year stay of the Chinaman they were peaceable, industrious and order-loving, never known to insult a woman on the streets and courteous to all. Any trouble was caused by the rowdies of the community annoying them, They were afraid of the boys but would sometimes chase them if teased too much, though they were unable to catch them. A favorite form of annoying the Chinese was to push them from the planks that formed the street crossings into the mud when they would walk around the town which they did occasionally, though for the most part they stayed to their quarters and in seclusion.
Ah Chuck was here only at intervals but left an interpreter with the men who was responsible to the company for the conduct of his men as also to his government for the safe return of their bones to their native country should they die while away from home. A tea store across Seventh Avenue from the Mansion House was maintained which was run by the interpreter at which was sold their articles of clothing, opium, tea and other Chinese delicacies and trinkets. Here also the pay was distributed to the workmen by the interpreter. Lee Ten Poy, commonly known as Ah Poy, a nephew of Ah Chuck, was the first of these interpreters. He spoke English with ease. Later another, Chew On or as sometimes written Chow Hung, came and he brought with him his wife who was the only Chinese woman who came to Beaver Falls. She lived in apartments above the tea store and was rarely, if ever, seen in public. Some of the women of the town called upon her and found her affable and courteous. She appeared to be immaculately clean as to person and apparel and her costume was rich silk heavily embroidered. She wore much jewelry, including rings of stone on her ankles that were adjusted by hinges.
The Chinaman ate in two large rooms, about one hundred in each. Their sleeping quarters were neatly kept and decorated with pots and baskets of growing plants, with pictures and other ornaments.
They adhered closely to their own habits and manner of living. The vessels in which they cooked their food were brought from China. They were large shallow pots of iron probably four feet in diameter and not thicker than a knife blade. A kind of oven was built and into them the immense vessels were set. The dishes were simply brass basins and ladles scoured until they shone. Chopsticks, of course, were used. They did not use bread but made rice a substitute. The rice, Mr. Knott says was purchased by the company two to four barrels at a time.
They were fond of chicken and young pigs and were constant purchasers of these from the merchants and people in the community. Their rice and meat was placed on the table in a large pot from which each helped himself. The meat was served cut into small pieces. The pig was roasted whole. A hole was dug in the ground deep enough so the pig could be hung by his hind legs. A fire was built and when a sufficient amount of hot ashes accumulated, the pig was hung in position and a cover placed over the hole and there the pig remained until roasted. Those who have partaken of the pork roasted in this way say it was a very savory morsel.
At one holiday period, H. T. Reeves and Mr. Knott while at their accustomed duties in the office, hearing a commotion, looked up and saw a party of the Chinese coming in with Crane, the constable, at their head. On two planks borne by two men each were two pigs about one hundred fifty pounds each which had been roasted in the manner just described. The party came into the office and presented these pigs to Mr. Reeves with the compliments of the Chinese cook department, Mr. Reeves was nonplussed for the moment, but told them to take the roast pigs into a room back of the office. After the delegation left, he sent word to the foremen and some of the other men to come in and the pigs were cut up and distributed among them.
The Chinaman were great tea-drinkers, rarely drinking any water. When they went to the factory they took with them baskets in which were earthen pots of the beverage packed in wool which kept it hot for hours. Tea was a favorite gift from these Chinese to their white acquaintances and on their New Year's day, which was observed the first week in February, generally, and on other holidays celebrated in their mother country these quaint and kindly folks would fill baskets of tea and other delicacies from China and go around town visiting the homes of their friends and teachers in the Sunday School and would leave a supply of tea that would last until another holiday came. Many families did not buy a pound of tea while the Chinaman stayed in town.
On their New Year's day, according to their custom, everyone starts with a clean sheet. On one occasion as a result of dissatisfaction among some of the men toward Ah Poy, who they thought was not giving them all of their pay, three of these men, most of whom were strong fellows, attacked him near the foot of the stairs leading from the office. Mr. Reeves and Mr. Knott heard the scuffle and, opening the door to see what it was, saw these men with Ah Poy on the floor on his back. They had him by his long queue, which he always allowed to hang down and wore carefully braided with silk ribbon, and were apparently trying to jerk it out of his head. Crane, the constable, was called and with a crow bar knocked them down. They were carried to their quarters, doped with opium and finally recovered. About two weeks later, Mr. Knott saw Ah Poy with these same men and later mentioned to him that this seemed strange. Ah Poy told him that at New Years it was customary to start a clean sheet and that what had occurred in the past was forgotten.
They were a frugal folk, though they purchased liberally from the merchants who extended them credit the meat delicacies for their table. The majority of them carried silver or gold watches and many possessed diamond rings purchased from local merchants. They laid aside from their earnings a sufficient sum to cover the expense of sending their bones back to China and with the next of their savings as a rule they bought a watch.
Many of them took a lively interest in the entertainments, strawberry festivals and oyster suppers that were important events in the life of the Presbyterian Church at that time. They were also regular patrons of the principal confectionery of the town where ice cream was served, of which they became quite fond and going for "ice cream" became one of their dissipations.
the better people of the town, finding these foreigners to be a harmless and very courteous set of men put forth efforts to establish missions for them in the various Churches. Several pastors and their congregations feared to take a step that was antagonistic to the working men of the community. The Presbyterian Church and its pastor, Dr. Moorhead, despite the prevailing sentiment, decided to open its doors to any of the Chinese who desired to attend an afternoon Sunday school. This was at first held in the main auditorium of the Church.
This first attempt at social settlement work, by reason of the numbers of Chinese who came and the number of instructors required to teach them, soon grew to such an extent that there was not adequate room to give instruction to all who applied for admission....
"At the Centennial in Philadelphia in 1876 was exhibited the largest knife and fork in the world, manufactured by the Beaver Falls Cutlery Company," was the announcement made by that company on a small folder printed for distribution and which went on to say: "This knife is one-third larger than one made in Sheffield last year on the occasion of the Prince of Wales' visit to that place, which was the largest knife made up to that time. (The entire knife was nine feet, seven inches long, and width of the blade ten inches.)
The handles of the knife and fork were of solid ivory, each using an entire elephant's tusks. These handles, far from being plain were beautifully carved with flowers and vines .... The knife and fork were made while the Chinese were at the Cutlery.
There was not much sickness among them and only a few of these Chinaman, about ten, died in Beaver Falls. These were buried in what was known as Bernard Cemetery. The funeral customs were those peculiar to the Chinese and were observed carefully. As soon as a man died, a circle of probably eight feet in diameter was made of soft clay in which Chinese candles were placed at intervals of about two or three feet and kept burning while a species of incense (smoke) constantly ascended. When the body was ready to be removed to the burial ground the friends stationed themselves in front, rear and on either side of the hearse and scattered little bits of red and yellow paper all along the route of the procession, the idea being that an evil spirit was endeavoring to capture the disembodied spirit of the departed and these colored slips of paper were supposed to be money which the evil spirits would stop to pick up, thus preventing their design until the body was interred. Rice and meats were placed in the grave where the body rests for one year and a day and then goes home, meaning to their native country. At the expiration of that time, the remains are disinterred and sent to China, without which there could be no rest hereafter for the dead man.
When the first death occurred the men of the Presbyterian Church who had been active in the work with the Chinese and some others thought he should be given a Christian burial and took up a subscription for a coffin. When Mr. Henrici was approached by the solicitors, he asked them what the coffin would cost and when told about forty dollars replied, "Mr. Rapp's coffin cost eight dollars and mine won't cost any more."
The bones of these Chinaman were later removed and sent back to their native land, carried away from the cemetery in sacks.
Among the colony was a dapper chap know as "Pretty Joe," a "dandy" or "swell" (in the speech of the day) in the matter of clothes. He was superior in intellect and bearing to most of his fellows and was much taken with American women. It was soon apparent that Pretty Joe had a preference for a young girl about seventeen, a niece of one of the leading residents of the town, who did not seem averse to his attentions. Fearing that the affair might become serious, friends of the girl with her family arranged to send her to friends in a remote section of another county, but like other well-laid plans that "gang aft agley" this failed for the Celestial lover appeared there at dawn the day after her arrival. Later, however, a visit of indefinite length to relatives in a western state put an end to the attachment. Pretty Joe left not long after for Philadelphia where he became a merchant.
One known as William drifted in some way to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he shot a man who had offered him some insult. A number of men from Beaver Falls, including Mr. Knott went to Meadville to testify as character witnesses. William was committed to jail for thirty days. When he left Beaver Falls he was indebted to the store of Forbes and Patterson, then on lower Seventh Avenue. Sometime after his return he came into the store to pay his bill and gave as his reason for not paying sooner:
"No money. Pay all money to big man talk in Church," referring to his attorney.
While here a minister, who had spent some years in China being on a visit to his parents near Erie, was secured by Dr. Moorhead to preach to them in their own tongue. On his arrival, which had been unannounced, he was taken by the pastor to the tea store where three or four of them were sitting about. To their amazement, the stranger addressed them in their own tongue. They dashed out of the place and over to the works to spread the tidings which was so wonderful that the men left their work and rushed over to have speech with the "Melican man talkee allee samee Chinaman." They were at the Church doors awaiting admittance long before the hours of service. They appropriated him for their very own during his stay and on his departure sorrowfully attended him to his train, expressing the while their gratitude and appreciation.
During the employment of the Chinese they and the Cutlery became an object of interest not only to people of the immediate vicinity, but throughout western Pennsylvania and Ohio. These sightseeing bodies apparently did not disturb them for they continued their labors under these curious eyes with the most perfect self-possession.
In 1877, the last of the Chinaman left. About half of them had left from time to time, but the remainder left in a body. Their fare back to San Francisco was paid by the Cutlery company, it being a part of the agreement of hire that their fare be paid to Beaver Falls and back to San Francisco.
So ends the first and only experiment with Mongolian labor in Beaver County. Since then many groups of aliens have come to Beaver Falls, but none have excited as much interest and curiosity and engendered so much hostility as the "heathen Chinee" whom the lad mentioned at the beginning of this sketch went to see detrain that Sunday evening in July, 1872.

Reply by Rick Hooper on June 18, 2013

Hi, I am posting a link to a 1920's Winchester prototype knife and design book. It is hand drqwn with 110 pages,and on ebay now.  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Important-Orig-Winchester-Knife-1922-Experi... , For a advanced Winchester or Simmons Hardware collector, this is a must have item.

Reply by Scott King on August 23, 2009

Reference List-Here is the list of books I have found to be helpful. They aren’t listed in a particular order.


The Case Cutlery Dynasty, by Brad Lockwood

Knife World- the classic knife publication with searchable online index

Images of America- W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company, by Shirley Boser and John Sullivan

Levine’s Guide To Knives And Their Values, 4th Edition, by Bernard Levine

Goins’ Encyclopedia of Cutlery Markings, by John and Charlotte Goins

Cattaraugus Cutlery Co. Identification and Values, by Roy Ritchie and Ron Stewart

The IBCA Price Guide to Antique Knives, by J. Bruce Voyles

Counterfeiting Antique Cutlery, by Gerald Witcher

Big Book of Pocket Knives- Identification & Values, by Ron Stewart and Roy Ritchie

Cultural Resources Site Examination of New York State Museum Site 109035- New York Knife Company, prepared by Joseph Sopko

Antique Sunfish Pocketknives- A History & Price Guide, by Russ Altamore

Case- The First 100 Years, A Pictorial and Historical Review of W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery, by James Giles

American Pocketknives, by David Krause

American Premium Guide to Knives & Razors- Identification and Value Guide, 6th Edition, by Jim Sargent

The Knife Makers Who Went West, by Harvey Platts

Pocket Knives- The Collector’s Guide to Identifying, Buying, And Enjoying Vintage Pocketknives, by Bernard Levine

Knives of the World, by Jean-Noel Mouret

A Guide To American Trade Catalogs 1744- 1900, by Lawrence Romaine

The Standard Knife Collector’s Guide, by Ron Stewart and Roy Ritchie

Pocket Knife Trader’s Price Guide, by Jim Parker

Official Price Guide to Collector Knives, by Houston Price

Price Guide To Romance of Knife Collecting, by Dewey Ferguson

Napanoch- A “White Man’s” Knife with A “Red Man’s” Name, by Rhett Stidham

Case Brothers Little Valley, NY Catalog 1904

American Knives- Their First History And Collector’s Guide, by Harold Peterson

Tidioute- A Town with an Edge, by David Anthony

The Cutlery Trades, by G. I. H. Lloyd

The Sample Case Magaine

Paine’s Cutlery Journal Magazine

The American Cutler Magazine

Hardware Age Magazine

Forty Years of Hardware, by Saunders Novell

The Cutlery Story- From Stone Age to Steel Age, by Lewis Bement

A Pocket of Peace- The History of Bradford, Pa., 1878- 1979, by Mary Ann Johnston

Sunday Knives, by John Roberts

Knives Can Talk!, Second Edition, by Tom Kalcevic

Price Guide To Pocket Knives 1890- 1970, by Jacob Jarrett

Knife Album, by Col. Robert Mayes

Knife Digest, Edited by William Cassidy

The Best of Knife World, Volumes I, II & III

Encyclopedia of Old Pocket Knives Book I & II, by Roy Ehrhardt

The Knife Guide by Bernard Levine- “Whut Izzit” Series

New England Cutlery, by Philip Pankiewicz

Bernard Levine’s List of Old Knife Books

Where do you find these books?

There are some good sites for acquiring old knife books, including Knife World, and AbeBooks, and don’t forget to search eBay for Knife Book, Knife Catalog and Hardware Catalog.

Reply by David L. Anthony on August 24, 2009

A most outstanding list of research and information materails. I would say you hit on all the big titles. I have enjoyed a number of them and hope to finish the remaining sometime soon. I haven't been able to locate a copy of the New England book yet, but hope to soon. I tried to contact this gentlemen when doing my book but got no answer.

Thank you for the kind on words on my latest article in KNIFE WORLD Magazine. The Tariff story was particularly fun to research and I learned a great deal my self.

Reply by Mark Zalesky on August 24, 2009

New England Cutlery, by Philip Pankiewicz

David, I have one on our out of print book list right now and will hold it for you until you let me know if you want it -- gotta take care of our contributors!!

Mark Z
Knife World

(P.S. "Knife World- the classic knife publication with searchable online index"... aw, shucks!!) :)

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