Cattaraugus founder John Brown Francis Champlin first became associated with cutlery at the age of twenty-five, when he became a cutlery salesman for importers Friedmann and Lauterjung. Champlin left his employer in 1882 to join with his son, Tint, in starting his own business. The cutlery-jobbing firm was named J.B.E. Champlin & Son.
In 1886, four of the elder Champlin's brothers-in-law joined in the J.B.F. Champlin & Son business. The relatives were W.R. Jean, John and Andrew, sons of Job Russell Case and brothers of Champlin's wife, Theresa. When the Case brothers entered into the business, its name was changed to Cattaraugus Cutlery Company. Although the case brothers soon dropped out of the new business, it was the beginning of the longtime association of the Case family with cutlery.
In 1890, the Champlins purchased the knife-making equipment owned by Beaver Falls Cutlery Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. With the purchase of this equipment and the building of their factory in Little Valley, New York, Cattaraugus had changed from a jobbing operation to a cutlery manufacture.
Under the leadership of the Champlin family, Cattaraugus remained in business until 1963. During this time, the company name was a respected one within the industry as well as with consumers. Cattaraugus made knives for the U.S. Armed Forces and the Byrd Polar Expedition and, in promotional efforts, sponsored whittling competitions, offering up to $50,000 in prizes.
In the early 1970's, knife dealer A.G. Russell revived the Cattaraugus brand name and used it occasionally ever since. These knives should not be confused with knives made by the original company. The markings on these knives usually reference Russell␣s location in Springdale, Arkansas. The Knife Collector Club (KCC), for which many of these knives were manufactured. The Knife Collectors Club knives are of high quality and come in Limited Editions and Commemorative Knives.
The original company's knives were stamped “CCC Co. Little Valley, NY, or the number 3 and a C inside a circle and, most frequently, “Cattaraugus Cutlery Company, Little Valley, New York.
Many Cattaraugus knives were stamped with pattern numbers. The first digit indicates the number of blades (up to five blades were made by Cattaraugus), and the second digit indicates the type of bolsters as follows:
0 - No bolsters
1 - One bolster
2 - Two bolsters
3 - Tip bolsters
4 - Unknown
5 - Slant bolsters
The third and fourth digits are the factory handle frame pattern numbers. The last digit indicates the knife's handle material as follows:
0 - White Fiberloid
2 - Imitation Pearl
3 - Mother-of-Pearl
4 - Fiberloid
5 - Genuine Stag
6 - Ebony
7 - Cocobolo, Burnt Bone or Fancy Fiberloid
8 - White Bone
9 - Jigged Bone
G - Gambier Pearl (Sea Snail Shell)
OP - Opal Pearl (outer part of Abalone Shell)
OR - Oriental Pearl (dyed Opal Pearl)
PP - Peacock Pearl (Abalone Pearl)
B - Blue Celluloid or Burnt Bone
R - Red Celluloid
Y -Yellow Composition
Cattaraugus used a variety of handle material, but the natural handles predominate with ebony, mother-of-pearl, and jigged bone being the most common. Different styles of jigged bone can be found, but the most popular among collectors is the style with scattered long groves, called “Worm Grove” bone. The Little Valley firm also employed exotic varieties of pearl shell more than perhaps any other major manufacture.
Unlike Case and some other manufactures, the Cattaraugus numbers were not consistent to the point that they are a reliable reference. The 20224 pattern will be a different knife than a 22223 pattern, although both knives will be 22 patterns. The company made so many patterns, over 100, that few collectors, if any, have memorized them. I recommend that you learn the pattern number from the knife itself and for pricing reference, find a good knife price guide.