W.R. Case and Sons has been around for a long time in the knife business, and have done so by knowing when to adapt and when to stick to their guns. But they weren’t always the only big dogs in the neighborhood. There was a time when they were competing with several other related companies within a small area, and it was a high stakes game on which company would innovate itself and stand tall at the end.
This area, nicknamed by those ‘in the know’ was called the One Hundred Mile Magic Circle, and within it was competition. Though this isn’t a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination, I thought it might interest some people to get at least a little information on the competition and evolution the different companies went through during these formative years.
Case Brothers Cutlery Co: Starting around 1896, Jean, John D and Andrew Case splintered from Cattaraugus Knife Company where they had worked as jobbers to form their own knife company. It lasted until 1912, where a fire destroyed the plant in Little Valley. Disputes over commissions further complicated things and lead to an abandonment of the company and a splintering of the family’s production. Jean’s sons, Dean and Elliot Case left to form Standard Knife Company, Nephew Russ Case left to form W.R Case and Sons Cutlery Co., John D went to form Kane cutlery in Kane PA, and Andrew left to form what would become KA-BAR. It was from this company that W.R. Case would purchase the “Tested XX” Trademark.
Crandall: An independent knife company, Crandall began in the late 1800’s and eventually joined under Herbert Crandall at about 1903. Eventually it fell under W.R. Case and Sons banner through marriage, becoming fully absorbed in 1911.
C. Platts & Sons: Founded in 1896 this company was founded by an illustrious craftsman from England by the name of Charles Platts. When Charlies died from a heart attack in 1900, his son eventually joined up with W.R Case.
Little Valley Knife Association: In 1898 contract work for the large quanity of knives that needed to be created by skilled jobbers went to Little Valley Knife Association, where they did contract work for Platts and Sons, filling orders for straight razors, scissors and sheers. When W.R. Case and Crandall left, Little Valley left too, becoming defunct in 1905.
Standard Knife Company: Founded in 1901 by Elliot and Dean Case, this company was known for its quality, and for the brief period it was around, sales were brisk and profitable. However, tragedy struck when Elliot Case died of Typhoid Fever. With debt piling high, Dean was forced to return to Case Brothers, who bought the entire remaining stock of the Standard Knife Company in 1903.
Kane Cutlery Co: In operation from 1906 to 1914, this company was located in Kane PA, and joined Case’s family brands shortly thereafter.
Kinfolks: Perhaps the youngest of the Family Brands, Kinfolks had its start in 1926 and lasted for several years before mismanagement by J. Elliot Case caused the plant to stop being independent in 1957.
And that concludes a bit of the history lesson. Naturally that was only the briefest of the brief of rundowns on some of the companies within the magic circle, but it alone should showcase why innovation was a necessity in the cutthroat world of early knife making. If any of this intrigued you, you should look at the auction currently ongoing on our webpage, where the Family Brands 100 Mile Magic Circle mint set has been disassembled and the individual knives from this set is now available to the highest bidder. It can be found here.