NUGGETS OF CAMILLUS HISTORY FOR CAMILLUS ENTHUSIASTS
It is a daunting task to chronicle the history of a company that spreads into three different centuries, especially when I am on the opposite side of the country from Camillus New York. I think perhaps a good way to share the bits and pieces of information that I get would be to start a topic dealing with the history of Camillus in the sort of piecemeal fashion (as it often comes to me) from a phone conversation here, an e-mail there and sometimes from printed documents. Later on I hope to organize this into a coherent body of information. But for now I will share the information piecemeal, as I get it.
Yesterday I spoke with Tom Williams briefly on the telephone. For those of you who are new to AAPK, Tom worked for Camillus for 30 years and was the Historian for Camillus Cutlery Company. You might say, Tom has Camillus in his blood. In addition to his 30 years with Camillus, his mother worked for Camillus for over 50 years and retired as a departmental vice president, (if memory serves me right). His uncle worked for Camillus for many years and his father also worked there for a few years. There are few people alive today who know Camillus better than Tom.Camillus #165 Stockman
The first piece of historical information I have to share has to do with the knife I recently purchased: a Camillus #165 Stockman. This knife is 3 1/4 inches with jigged Delrin handles; the blade is etched with crossed swords and the words RAZOR EDGED STAINLESS. Tom explained that this was one of their best knives and as such had the sword brand etch on the blade and crossed swords on the escutcheon. The liners are brass and the bolsters are nickel silver.
This knife came in a box with a pocket steel, 3-3/4 inches in length. The artwork on the box insert is red, white and blue. The box is cardboard, colored gold on the outside, with a plastic sleeve that slides over the length of the box holding the knife in place. The color scheme (red, white & blue) are like other Camillus boxes I had seen from the mid-to-late 1970s. Remember the U.S. Bicentennial was in 1976 and red, white & blue was often seen in various venues then.
One very interesting piece of information that Tom shared with me has to do with the guarantee that was printed on a piece of heavy paper that wrapped around the bottom and one side of the box and was held in place by the plastic sleeve. This piece of paper gave the new owner instructions on "How to Use Your Sword Brand Pocket Steel," and on the left side of the paper was the Camillus guarantee for Sword Brand Knives. It said Camillus would sharpen your knife and keep it in first class condition if you would send it with $1 to cover postage and handling.
You can see this piece of paper in the picture below.
Now, this is where things get interesting. When Tom started working at Camillus one of his jobs was in the Mail Room receiving the knives that came in for repair or sharpening. He said this guarantee and sharpening service was dropped in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The reason it was dropped? It was too expensive for Camillus to offer the service. Camillus figured it was more cost-effective to give the customer and a brand-new knife than it was to take the used knife down to the line and have one of the workers sharpen it and take it back to the mail room and mail it back to the customer. Someone figured it was cheaper in the long run to just give the customer a new knife each time. Well, like all good things there were a handful of people who abused it, so this practice was discontinued. But if you are fortunate enough to find a Camillus Sword Brand knife that is still in the box and has the guarantee with it, this information may help you date when your knife was made.
I will be posting tidbits of information in this thread as I come across them. Typically these tidbits do not come in any predictable pattern. I may have a lot of things to post in a short period of time and it may be weeks or months until I posted I. But I will try to share these nuggets of information as I get them.
I hope this is helpful to those of you who are a crazy about Camillus knives as I am.
Please feel free to add your questions and comments and we can all learn more about Camillus knives together.