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    The Legacy Of Case® | Winter 2012 Out Here Magazine

    Historic knifemaker is part of the American story

    a knife being sharpened (sparks flying)
    Case knives are a symbol of Americana that's hard to find anymore.
    Out Here

    By Carol Davis

    Photography courtesy of W.R. Case & Sons

    That Case knife that you probably carry in your pocket has a unique, enduring history that's hard to find in America anymore.

    But despite its instantly recognizable name, Case knives, which goes back more than 120 years, has faced its share of challenges through the decades:

    • One of the founders developed lung problems and went west for the fresh, dry air. He took his share of the factory equipment with him, which crippled the company.
    • The disastrous 1929 financial crash of Wall Street.
    • The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the late 1980s.

    But the strength of the brand and the rugged quality of the knife has carried it through those difficult times to become the American cultural icon that it is today, says Fred Feightner, Case's consumer marketing and communications manager.

    "People feel a connection to our brand unlike a lot of other brands out there," he says. "Our knives have been around for so long — 123+ years — and most of that time has been spent here in Bradford (Pa.)," Feightner says.

    Case has been made in America since the beginning, which is important to their customer, he says.

    "That's one of the things that has kept Case knives at the top of the list for consumers," he says. "It's harder to find these days across America, and we're especially proud to be employing such dedicated associates who still work with their hands to produce something near and dear to people's hearts; something they can carry with them wherever they go or something they wish to collect."

    Indeed, Case knives are both utilitarian and collectible, which is unusual in itself.

    "People buy Case knives because they are handy tools and because they make great gifts," he says.

    What makes Case knives particularly collectible is because the knives have historically been marked with a tang stamp, which is information, such as brand name, pattern number, and trademark, usually stamped in the flat section of the blade that's closest to the handle.

    What makes Case knives particularly collectible is because the knives have historically been marked with a tang stamp, which is information, such as brand name, pattern number, and trademark, usually stamped in the flat section of the blade that's closest to the handle.

    "We've been able to chronicle the different marks they used on the knives throughout the years, which gives us ability to date when a Case knife was made," Feightner says. "You can find one at an antique store and look at it to know it dates back to 1910."

    That's important to collectors, who are a large part of Case's customer base. Indeed, the Case Collectors Club, with 19,000 members, is the largest known knife collecting association in the world.

    "People have a collectors' gene," he says. "Back in early days, there were people who took a shine to knives and collected them at some level, maybe not as a leisure activity, but they were always being handed down as keepsakes."

    Cases' collectibility began with the advent of World War II, when Case curtailed normal production to build knives for the U.S. military. One wartime contribution was the CaseV-42 Stiletto, the first knife ordered for use by the U.S. Special Forces, also known as the Devil's Brigade.

    "World War II was where we gained a real foothold — tens of thousands of knives were unleashed into our military ranks," Feightner says. And, as for that V-42 Stiletto, well, that's definitely a collectible.

    "If you find one in pristine condition, it is quite a rare find and considered one of holy grails in knife collecting," he says.

    Case also made history when it built a survival knife, at the request of the U.S. government, that would travel with American astronauts on all of the manned Gemini and Apollo space missions. Case's knife was there on the Apollo 11 mission when Neil Armstrong took his first steps onto the moon.

    "Case knives are part of American history," Feightner says. "They're intertwined … part of the same historical cloth."

    Carol Davis is editor of Out Here.

     

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