The Camillus Cutlery building, along 9 Mile Creek in Camillus, New York, was originally used as a grain mill from the first half of the 19th century. In 1876, Charles Sherwood bought one of these mills and converted it into a cutlery company. Sherwood sold his cutlery business to the German immigrant Adolph Kastor, who changed the name to Camillus Cutlery Co. in 1902. The company then had 20 cutlers who produced about 15 different knife patterns.
The 14-year old Adolph Kastor immigrated to New York in 1870 where he started to work for his uncle Aaron Kastor in his hardware supply business, Bodenheim, Meyer & Company. He was first put in charge of cow chains but gradually worked his way up to the firearms and cutlery department.
In 1873, Bodenheim, Meyer & Company lost one of its founders and restructured as Meyer & Kastor. Due to poor sales figures, Meyer & Kastor had to close doors in September 1876. Only a few weeks later, Adolph Kastor started his own company, Adolph Kastor & Bros. on Canal Street in New York City, where he imported and distributed German-made knives.
In 1897, when the Dingley Tariff was enacted, the knives became too expensive to import. The only solution Kastor saw was to manufacture knives domestically. Eventually, his search led him to Charles Sherwood and his small knife manufacturing business in Camillus.
With Kastor in the driver seat, the company started to expand. They bought new machinery, such as steam driven drop forge hammers and fly presses and they adopted new techniques, like using alumina grinding wheels. By 1910, the Camillus Cutlery Company was producing close to a million knives a year and had about 200 employees., many of them German immigrants. The company even built a dormitory to house their German workers.
1914 - 1945
During World War I, the company shifted production to support the American, British, Canadian and Dutch forces. The company produced such products as marlinspikes, surgical scalpels, and a folding knife/spoon combination for the Red Cross.
In the 1920s the company introduced stainless steel to their production, and started making collectible character knives, which honored such famous people as George Washington, Babe Ruth, and Buck Rogers. They also began producing products for private labels such as Sears, Craftsman, Woolworth and many others.
During World War II, Camillus shipped more than 13 million knives of various styles to the allied forces. These included large fixed-blade fighting knives, machetes, multi-blade camp style knives, electrician's knives, and sailor's marlin spikes.
1946 - 2005
More new products were introduced to the market, and in 1947, Camillus began to manufacture a full line of official folding knives for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
During the Vietnam War, Camillus again manufactured a large number of knives for the armed forces, for instance a pilot survival knife, a USMC combat knife and a four bladed utility knife. After the Vietnam War, the company continued its growth by adding more new pieces to their already wide product range. Also in the 1960s, Camillus was sold to the Baer family of New York City.
In 1991, Camillus acquired Western Cutlery Company. This Boulder, Colorado company had been making knives since 1896.
In 2001 Camillus collaborated with custom Knifemaker Jerry Fisk, the only Knifemaker to be declared a Living National Treasure, to produce a Bowie knife. That same year, Camillus also began a partnership with custom Knifemaker Darryl Ralph to produce a line of titanium framed tactical folding knives.
Since the turn of the century, Camillus Cutlery saw its revenues decline mainly due to stiff overseas competition. As a result, employees were put on a four-day workweek after the normal factory shutdown at Christmas 2005. A few months later, Camillus management proposed significant wage and benefit cuts. Workers didn agree and the company was subject to a months long strike. In November 2006, the striking employees ultimately accepted the original contract offer but the company only retained 15 of the 78 union members and laid off the rest.
The strike ultimately took its toll on Camillus as customers dried up and the company subsequently filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors on February 28, 2007. On September 18, 2007, the product brand names and intellectual property of the company were acquired by Acme United Corporation in a bankruptcy auction for $200,000.
Acme United re-launched Camillus Cutlery at the 2009 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.
^ "American Jewish Year Book". ajcarchives.org. http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/1946_1947_11_YRAppendices.pdf. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "Major U.S. Cutlery Wholesalers & Importers". cascity.com. http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php?topic=24720.0;wap2. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "History of Camillus Cutlery". capitalnews9.com. http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/26949/history-of-camillus-cutlery/. Retrieved on May 30, 2009.
^ "George Washington Commemorative Pen Knife". celebratelifegifts.com. http://www.celebratelifegifts.com/Store/Products/Item/-183/1/2988.html. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
^ "1935 Babe Ruth Quaker Oats Premium - Pocket Knife". americanmemorabilia.com. http://www.americanmemorabilia.com/Auction_Item.asp?Auction_ID=44095. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
^ "Camillus Cutlery Is Carving a Niche in Central New York". allbusiness.com. http://www.allbusiness.com/north-america/united-states-new-york/1053280-1.html. Retrieved on June 2, 2009.
^ "Camillus Knives: Boy Scout Knives, Official Knives of the Boy Scouts of America". knivesplus.com. http://www.knivesplus.com/camillus-boy-scout-knives.html. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
^ "Margery Baer Irish, is an owner of the Camillus (N.Y.) Cutlery Company". nytimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/27/style/elizabeth-a-schwartz-weds-jonathan-rucker.html?scp=15&sq=%22baer%22%20%22cutlery%22&st=cse. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "Early Western Knives businessman Platts joining Boulder County Business Hall of Fame". boulderreport.com. http://boulderreport.typepad.com/boulder_report/2008/03/one-of-the-new.html. Retrieved on June 2, 2009.
^ "Western Brand Knives". knifesupply.com. http://www.knifesupply.com/western_knives.html. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
^ a b Winter, Butch (2003), "Collaborations with Custom Knifemakers", Sporting Knives 2003: 154161, ISBN 0-87349-430-X
^ "Camillus Cutlery workers on strike". capitalnews9.com. http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/18682/camillus-cutlery-workers-on-strike/. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "Camillus Cutlery strike continues". capitalnews9.com. http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/19110/camillus-cutlery-strike-continues/. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "Camillus Cutlery workers approve contract". capitalnews9.com. http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/23873/camillus-cutlery-workers-approve-contract/. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "Camillus Cutlery to close its doors". capitalnews9.com. http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/26919/camillus-cutlery-to-close-its-doors/. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
^ "Acme United Corporation Acquires Camillus Cutlery Assets". allbusiness.com. http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/intellectual-property-law-trademark/5256724-1.html. Retrieved on May 30, 2009.
Camillus Cutlery Company Website
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