Article by Derek Smith,
In the first half of his career as a traveling salesman, J.B.F. Champlin spent more than a dozen years selling razors, knives, shears and strops marked with the “Electric Cutlery” trademark. Since J.B.F. was always successful in his work, one could easily assume that he cheerfully touted the quality and value of Electric Cutlery products to potential clients on a daily basis as he peddled his wares from town to town.
(It is of interest to note that both of these bill heads state that the company manufactured as well as imported cutlery. Current research has failed to reveal any F&L manufacturing facilities prior to their move to New Jersey in 1890).
German importer George W. Korn told the Senate Sub Committee on Tariff in 1888 that Friedman & Lauterjung dealt in high grade cutlery while many others imported inexpensive goods of lesser quality. He also went on to explain that US merchants wanted names on their goods that were familiar sounding and easy to pronounce. Merchants did not care for foreign names that were difficult to spell and remember.
With this understanding of their US market, Christopher Friedmann and Charles Lauterjung could not have picked a better name than the trademark they selected.
“The Electric Cutlery Company” was certainly a name easy for the American people to remember and pronounce. Plus, the terms “electric” and “electricity” were no doubt very modern sounding buzzwords of that day and age that carried their own level of interest and implied quality.
In 1890 the company set up manufacturing in earnest when they moved from New York City to Newark, New Jersey. The company letterhead of that period displays an impressive illustration of the factory along with the bold claim “The Best Equipped Cutlery Works in the World”.Viewing Note: If you click on an image, you will see an option to view that image at it’s full resolution. The line will say “1440 x 960″ or something similar. It’s a little hard to find, but it’s worth the trouble when you’re reviewing the details of the old invoices.
According to Goins, James E. Fuller (President of the Newark company) along with his brother Clifford (Treasurer) purchased the “New York Knife Company” of Walden, New York in 1903. They operated both firms until 1910 when the Newark operation was closed.
Electric knives marked “Walden” were produced in the New York Knife Company plant as a second line to their now famous “Hammer Brand” Knives. The Electric trademark was used until about 1920.
J.B.F. Champlin & Sons Cutlery, LLC is very pleased to announce the issue of a new knife bearing the Electric Cutlery brand and has chosen the historic and very capable Queen Cutlery Company of Titusville, PA to manufacture our next offering in the J.B.F. Champlin line of quality pocketknives.
This will be a “Plumbers Whittler” with a Sheepsfoot main blade, fashioned after an antique pattern made by the Cattaraugus factory in Little Valley, NY.
Here is the label that we are using on the new box.
More Historical Notes and questions.
This 1881 Friedmann & Lauterjung invoice pictured below presents us with a bit of a puzzle. It lists a Mr. “A. J. Jordan” as the “Sole Agent” for the company. What about J.B.F.?
Had J.B.F left the company prior this time? Did he work under A.J. Jordan? Was Mr. Jordan the “inside sales” agent working the New York office and J.B.F. responsible for “outside sales” on the road?
The theory that makes the most sense is that since this invoice is marked “St. Louis, Mo.” and was made out to a customer in Red Bud, Illinois, perhaps A.J. Jordan was the salesman for the St. Louis office and J.B.F. the salesman for the New York office. It would certainly be nice to have some evidence to support that idea.
On March 27, 1883 The Olean Democrat, of Olean, NY, makes a short mention of J.B.F. and F&L in the “Little Valley” section of the newspaper, this gives us a little more information, and I quote:
“J.B.F. Champlin of this village, formerly traveling salesman for Friedmann & Lauterjung, of New York, has recently gone into business for himself. He is having manufactured under a brand of his own design, a very fine line of cutlery goods, etc, which he is introducing among his old customers,… “
We also know that J.B.F. started construction on his “Opera House” in 1879. Cattaraugus Bill heads from that period state that he established his business in Little Valley in 1880. Perhaps he left F&L when he started on the Opera house, or when it was completed.
Other authors have suggested that J.B.F. left F&L in 1882, at the same time he made his pocketknives marked “Galvanic 1882″. This would have been about the same time that his 15 year old son Tint Champlin came to work full time and the name of the family jobbing firm was expanded to “J.B.F Champlin & Son”. This certainly would have been a year of many changes.
In summary, this author’s research is still uncertain regarding the exact dates and the sequence of events regarding J.B.F’s association with Friedmann & Lauterjung. There remain a number of unanswered questions.
In closing we offer this desperate plea to collectors,… If you or anyone you know has Friedmann & Lauterjung paper with JBF Champlin’s name on it, we would really love to see it!! This also applies to any old paper marked JBF Champlin or JBF Champlin & Son.
Thanks for stopping by, more details to come in the next week or so.