Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Queen Cutlery Company

John W. Schatt and Charles B. Morgan established the Schatt & Morgan Cutlery Company in 1895. Initially founded as the “New York Cutlery Company” (not to be confused with the well known New York Knife Company) the pair opened an office in New York City sometime in 1896. Some time in 1896 or early in 1897 they moved to Schatt’s hometown of Gowanda New York, and in July of 1897 they purchased the Platts’ cutlery plant there. (The Platts family then moved to Eldred Pennsylvania and on to various associations with the extended Case family.) The company was housed in Gowanda from 1897 until 1902 at which time they moved to the Titusville, Pennsylvania factory where they incorporated. Schatt & Morgan went bankrupt in the late 1920’s, and was sold to Queen City Cutlery in August of 1933 at a sheriff’s auction. The five supervisors who had been fired from Schatt & Morgan back in 1922 were able to return to the place where they had started. At that time C.B Morgan, former president of Schatt & Morgan ended up working for the very men he had previously dismissed. Since Queen Cutlery Company resides in that same Titusville factory to this day, so the story of Queen Cutlery Company really began with its predecessor, Schatt & Morgan.

This well-known company was started shortly after World War I as a “moonlighting operation” of five foremen of the Schatt & Morgan factory. The story is that each foreman made and appropriated a few extra knife pars before ending each day’s work. They then used the parts to assemble their own knives and sold them under the brand Queen City Cutlery Company. The operation of the five foremen was officially incorporated as Queen City Cutlery on February 7, 1922.

Schatt & Morgan’s sales were depressed and management recognized that part of their problem was that the competing sales of Queen City’s knives were made at their own expense. The disloyal foremen were fired, but the loss of experienced supervisors created other problems and when the American economy fell into depression, the company’s difficulties grew out of hand. Schatt & Morgan went out of business around 1931 and the five Queen City founders pooled their savings to buy the old factory. They moved into it in 1932 and Queen knives are still made in that same factory, which looks scarcely different when it did in the early 1900’s.

The five men who founded Queen City Cutlery were Frank Foresther (1883-1939), Geza Revitzky (1880-1979), E. Clarence Erickson (1897-1961), Jesse F. Barker (1895-1970) and Harry L Matthews (1897-1967). Harry Matthews married Geza Revitzky’s daughter and their two sons were active in the business until 1975. Frank Foresther’s son, Louis, was also active in the company from 1939 until his death in 1956. Clarence Erickson’s daughter Eleanor married Walter Bell who became president in 1961 when his father-in-law died. Bell was president of the company in 1969 when it passed out of family hands and was purchased by Servotronics Corporation. Bell retired in 1972. As of the beginning of 2005, president of Queen Cutlery Company was Bob Breton. Retired master cutler and cutlery designer, Fred Sampson, still lives in Titusville and remains helpful in resolving some of the questions collectors have regarding Queen’s products over the years.
As members of the original five died, those remaining bought out their interest. Eventually, only two of the original families were in the business, the Mathews and the Ericsons. In the 1940s, the company decided to buck the popular industry trend and make the majority of their knife blades of 440C stainless steel. The earliest of these knives were stamped Stainless on the tang, buy Queen soon discovered that consumers would not buy them because they considered stainless steel an inferior product for pocketknife blades. Consequently, the company-discontinued use of the stainless stamping about 1950 and adopted Queen Steel instead, the steel did not change.

In 1969, Queen City was sold to Servotronics, Inc., a manufacture of electronic components based in Elma, New York. Servotronics also owns Ontario Knife Company of Franklinville, New York, a company known primarily for fixed blade military and sporting knives and edged tools, and for its ubiquitous “Old Hickory” line of kitchen knives.

Queen Cutlery Company Stampings

Initially, the company’s knives were stamped Queen City. While some knives were produced with this marking as late as 1945, the company began to drop the “City” from their stamps in the early 1930s. At this time, Queen also started using logos of a “Q” or the word “Queen” surmounted by a regal crown, a trend that continues even today.

From about 1960 to 1971, the company discontinued stampings of blade tangs in favor of etching Queen Steel and the knife’s pattern number on the master blade. In 1972, the company again began stamping its knives on the tang and a new stamping was used: a crown and the word Queen (with the long pointed tail of the “Q” extending the length of the word). Various configurations of this stamp were used into the 1980’s. In 1984, the company’s primary tang stamp was changed to a crowned “Q’, with the tail of the Q in the form of a knife. This marking is still in use today, and has been accompanied with a date stamp since 1990.

Queen Cutlery also produces collector-grade knives under the famous Schatt & Morgan brand, as it has since 1991. Ironically, these knives are produced in the same factory as the original Schatt & Morgan, and probably using some of the same equipment. Robeson is another famous old brand occasionally used on Queen-made pocketknives since 1995. The Robeson name is owned by sister company Ontario Knife, which acquired Robeson Cutlery Company in 1971.

It would be hard to dispute that any current knife manufacture makes knives more like the way they were made in the “old days” than Queen Cutlery. Any knife enthusiast who finds himself or herself in western Pennsylvania will certainly want to take the opportunity to stop by the old factory on Chestnut Street, for a walk around the building and a look in the showroom. When you step through that front door, you’ll swear that time machines really do exist, in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

You should look for a good book on Queen Cutlery; there are more than twenty-five different stampings to date.

David Krauss is the author of American Pocketknives: The History of Schatt & Morgan and Queen Cutlery. His book is available online at: