NOTE FROM AAPK STAFF-
I first met Rich Langston about 6 years ago in another knife forum.
Our mutual interest and love for Schrade knives brought us together and we soon became good friends.
Rich has helped me in researching and studying Schrade knives ever since. He had been my mentor as well as my friend.
It is my pleasure to help him announce the first phase in opening of the Wawarsing Historical Society Knife Museum.
Rich began work on this project long before we met, but I am delighted he is finally seeing the first fruits of his labors.
The letter below, gives you some background and history to the projects as well as to the knife industry in the Hudson Valley.
There are a couple pictures and an application form should you like to join the Wawarsing Historical Society and Knife Museum.
I encourage you to join, even if you live across the country, as I do.
Your membership will help preserve this history so important to this hobby we all love.
Dale Vincent, a.k.a. orvet
Hello, I am Rich Langston
Some of you may remember me from my postings. I am a retired NYS Peace Officer who lives in the Hudson Valley in NYS. My abiding passion for the last 55 years or so has been the products and history of the cutlery industry in this country. I am particularly a student of the Northeastern knife firms, which were the first real producers of knives, excluding blacksmiths and private individuals who made knifes mainly for themselves and friends. These early firms began in the 1830s in the New England states due to the abundance of waterpower and the importation of skilled help from England and Germany. These craftsmen were fed up with the conditions of Europe and sought the freedom of the new country. They brought not only the burning desire for freedom, but ability, quality work ethic and the fire of the forge to produce some of the finest quality cutlery ever made. Due to a dispute at the Waterville Knife Company in CT a small group of disgruntled cutlers left this firm and began what was the first major firm in the Hudson Valley area. It was New York Knife Company at Matteawan in 1852, now called Beacon, (due to a consolidation of two smaller local areas Fishkill and Matteawan), on the eastern side of the Hudson River across the Newburgh Bay from Newburgh NY. In 1856 this company was moved by the local residents of Walden NY, (desirous of having this industry in their village), to the Western side of the Hudson to a property on the Wallkill River at High Falls in Walden. This firm began a segment of what was one of this country’s most fascinating histories. This little village of Walden produced what eventually became 3 major knife companies who produced as much as 80 percent of all the knives sold in this country. The Hudson Valley has been the home to some of the finest cutlery firms that have ever existed in this country. Names like Schrade, New York Knife, Walden Knife, Napanoch, Ulster and many others are quite familiar to anyone who appreciates the fine steel and amazing history of these companies. While the products of these firms are in themselves an amazing study of Americana, the most important part are the people and familys that comprised the story.
My interest began at the age of 8 when we had moved to Walden. I had to walk across High Bridge every day and stare down at the ruins of New York Knife at the bottom of the Wallkill Gorge. I would wonder about what stories and secrets those ruins held. When I retired from NYS I assisted at the Schrade Knife Company in Ellenville New York. They had moved from Walden to Ellenville about 20 miles away in 1956, (all part of the story but impossible to relate here and now). Nonetheless at Schrade I helped as Curator and Antiquarian and did some product shows on the East Coast. Schrade had a wonderful company knife collection. Unfortunately in 2004, upon the closing of Schrade, the Schrade collection was acquired by a private firm and since has been disseminated to the four corners of the world, lost forever. I was quite familiar with the Schrade collection. I will not go into some of the nefarious actions that caused Schrade’s demise or the loss of the history in that collection, however I will say that I found the loss of this history intolerable. Not only to myself but also as part of our American heritage. Luckily, as I will explain later, this will not happen.
Now all this being said, I must digress. About 10 years ago I wrote a book; The Collectors Guide to Switchblade Knives, published by Paladin Press. I did this since this type of cutlery has long been a favorite of mine partly due to two of the largest producers of them coming from this area; Pressbutton knife, (Walden Knife company), and Schrade cutlery. There had really not been reference material or price guide written in about 20 years, which was sorely out of date. My book is still being published and is available. I was able to produce the book because unlike most writers I own all the knives shown in the book. It should also be mentioned at this point that due to the nebulous nature of the automatic knife laws in NYS, there was no definitive legal procedure for the display of these artifacts, which are certainly a viable part of this cutlery history. To that end, and after 8 years of legislative nonsense, a bill which I helped engineer has now been passed into law. It should be noted that while the Schrade collection was sold and lost, my personal collection of these artifacts, (which is considered second to none), remains intact thus preserving the majority if this history, as I mentioned previously.
In order to preserve these artifacts and the memories of these people and their contributions, a group of us, (collectors and interested parties), took it upon ourselves to create a museum and historical society where all of this can be maintained for posterity. While this is a simple concept and a very easy statement to make, it is however quite a project. It has taken years and has gone against all odds. We are a fledgling group and quite limited in number, however we are now at the stage, which has prompted me to write this and explain what is going on.
Our name is the Wawarsing historical society and knife museum. We have been moving along for several years trying to establish our goal of a sanctuary for these artifacts and this history. Attached you will find a letter from our executive board which shows the progress we have made, the State charter, funding, ect. Believe me, it took a lot of legal and other legwork. However. that is not my end. I am the curator and Vice president. .
Presently we have most of the documentation and legal legwork completed. We also have a large building, which while having been refurbished still needs more work. We also have, between my collections and those of other well-known collectors, some of the finest and most complete collections of knives and other related artifacts available.
Recently the board approached me and suggested a membership drive. I explained that while we had accomplished a lot we really had no physical plant to show prospective participants and members. I explained that in this economy it was unreasonable to ask for donations (no matter how valid the cause) on simple good faith that down the road there will be a fully maintained functional museum. I then suggested that perhaps we should use the facilities at my personal residence as a temporary museum to allow prospective members, or anyone who had an interest, the opportunity to take a free-guided tour of this history and these artifacts. Especially since I had informally been offering such tours for some years having had many people from as far away as Australia and the UK. In fact some of whom who had visited are right from these very forums.
A while back I posted pictures on this site of the new facility for the history of Schrade at my home. It spans Schrades entire 100 years and is either the best or among the best collections of this subject in the world. There are many unique and one of a kind items as well as a plethora of other memorabilia relating to this history. I also have numerous other collections, including one of the finest automatic collections and NYK kitchen cutlery collections dating from pre Civil War, in the entire world. Therefore it was decided that not only would we offer these tours to prospective members but also to anyone who had an interest in this subject.
Therefore it is my pleasure to officially offer a chance to come see and hear about this segment of Americana and experience a chance for a better understanding of this history. Tours will be by individual escort and must be arranged in advance. Unfortunately this is a temporary facility and as such space is limited therefore it is necessary to contact myself to make specific reservations.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
- We are located in Wallkill NY, 12589, about three miles from Walden NY. There is no cost for a tour and anyone with an interest is invited upon making a reservation for time and date. There is no cost but I am obligated to say that donations are accepted and that we are always looking for new members who want to become part of our effort.
Thanks again for you time
Yours with regards
Wallkill NY 12589
A picture of the side of the temporary home of the museum with Schrade banners on the side-
A letter from the Board of Trustees of the Wawarsing Historical Society and Knife Museum-
Click to enlarge.
Application for Membership-
Click to enlarge. Print application and mail with check or money order in the amount of $25, to:
Wawarsing Historical Society and Knife Museum
PO Box 2
Napanoch, NY 12458
Graphics from some of the knife companies represented-