09 May 2009

EDC Knives: A Presidential Folder

And so we reach the official end of EDC knife month. The sixteen dense posts that I've written for it were honestly a bit too much work to be entirely fun, but I've enjoyed the exercise and learned from it. I learned first of all, again, that single-topic blogging can turn into a chore, however much I like the topic. So enough of that. I conclude with an interesting historical note.

Items from the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana are now on display at the Library of Congress. I was interested to see that the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets when he was assassinated included a beautiful white-handled, (apparently) four-blade "swell back congress" pocket knife (make unknown). I've observed previously that, until most recently, a pocketknife was the one tool most every man carried and was a fundamental male accessory. In fact, a Lincoln scholar, Joshua Shenk, remarked that "back then a pocket knife was like a cell phone."

Lincoln's personal effects on the night of his assassination

That is why one early colleague of Lincoln, Robert Wilson, noted the exceptional fact that, not only did Lincoln confess to him that he suffered from melancholy, but "he told me that he was so overcome with mental depression, that he never did dare carry a knife in his pocket. And as long as I was intimately acquainted with him . . . he never carried a pocket knife" (Shenk, Lincoln's Melancholy, 23). As president, however, and at other times, he apparently did. In fact, it is claimed that one other of Lincoln's folding knives is not only known, but recently was displayed. That knife is in poor shape, perhaps because Lincoln was reported to be "inordinately fond of whittling." But the knife with him at Ford's Theater is in excellent condition, and quite beautiful.

Lincoln's knife

I've blogged on the great variety of classic folding knives now coming out of China. Designers of these knives are drawing much inspiration from classic patterns, or copying them outright. The knives produced under the brand U. S. Classics are said to be patterned on classic knives of the 1920s, 30s and 40s (the "Golden Age"), from the collection of C. A. Shelley of Salt River, KY. And they are very inexpensive. I have one on me today that looks quite a lot like Lincoln's, though there is another pattern currently available that even carries the exact shield. As an enthusiast, I'm intrigued that this pattern is, after almost 150 years, still being produced and that I could own a near-replica of that presidential folder for myself. Tempting . . .

U. S. Classic four-blade congress with second-cut bone stag handles (curse that annoying blade logo)

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