A Knife, a Box, and a Wrapper, from Sheffield
While it’s always a treat to find a top condition vintage knife, it’s a wonderful bonus to find the original box and paperwork that went along with such a knife. From around the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, cardboard knife boxes were simply meant to hold a 1/4 dozen, 1/2 dozen, or an even dozen knives for shipment to a retailer. The knives were all individually wrapped in tissue paper which usually carried some instructions to be passed along to the new owner for use and care of the knife. The boxes and wrappers were usually tossed at the point of sale and were gone for good. Because of that routine disposal, very few original tissue papers or vintage knife boxes currently exist. Old empty boxes often sell for more than the current price of a knife that was shipped inside them. Those same boxes from the 19th and 20th centuries always displayed some form of advertising on the top, often including beautiful graphics as well. Some boxes had pictures of knives or even factories shown on the cover, but many were just descriptive while often displaying a company trademark.
Shown within is a knife, a box, and a wrapper from Taylor’s Eye Witness of Sheffield, England. While Taylor’s Eye Witness is prominently displayed on the front of the box, it is actually a trademark representing the cutlery company, Needham, Veall, & Tyzack, which is shown in smaller letters below. Sometimes a company trademark becomes better known that the company name itself, such as Ka-Bar, which was originally a trademark of the Union Cutlery Company before becoming the official company name. The Needham, Veall, & Tyzack company was originally established by John Taylor in 1828 in Sheffield, England. His legendary “Eye Witness” trademark was granted in 1838. John Taylor passed away in 1854 and his business was acquired by Thomas Brown Needham (John Taylor’s son-in-law). Needham passed away in 1870, and the business was taken over by another company man, James Veall. In 1879, Veall took on a partner by the name of Walter Tyzack, and the company name became, Needham, Veall, & Tyzack which remained until 1955. In 1956, the long standing official company name was changed to Taylor’s Eye Witness, which was then taken over by the Harrison Fisher & Company ten years later.
The knife seen within is a lovely 3-1/2 inch two-blade wharncliffe model with ivory colored celluloid handles. Both blades have the same tang stamp which is a picture of an eye above the words “Witness Sheffield England”. This knife dates to the 1950s (pre 1956 when the company name was changed) and is in as new condition. While it is a post WWII example, it still has the fit and finish of a well-made pre-war English knife.
The Taylor’s box shown is on the small side as knife boxes tend to go. It measures just shy of 2 inches wide, 3-1/2 inches long, and 5/8 of an inch deep. It is also a bit unusual in that the inner section slides out from the outer shell, while most boxes open like a lid type with a cover sitting over a bottom half. As it is smaller in size, a label on one end states 1/4 dozen knives are held with those having a model number 1112wh. What this smaller box may lack in size, it makes up for in stunning graphics and colors. The Taylor’s name and Eye Witness logo nearly jump off the front label. Also prominently displayed are the words “Made in England”, with the company name Needham, Veall & Tyzack following below. All in all, quite a visually appealing box with brilliant colors.
As was common with most English and American-made pocket knives, each knife was wrapped individually in its own tissue paper before being placed in a box. That tissue paper gave both a little protection for each knife along with printed instructions of care and maintenance. While printed in black ink, the tissue paper is still fairly striking. The words “Taylor’s Celebrated” sits just above their famous eye logo with “Pen & Pocket Knives” just below the eye. A guarantee of good product is offered with the disclaimer that no knives would be warranted from abuse. A recommendation of sharpening blades on an oil stone at a 25 to 30 degree angle follows. The final service recommendation is to oil the joints with a drop of oil on a regular basis. And of course, no paperwork is complete without a final bit of advertising which asks if you are using their range of Kleen-Kut kitchen and table cutlery. Always great to find a good vintage knife, but when the original box and paperwork follow along, the overall interest is more than doubled.
Taylor’s company information sourced through: Tweedale’s Directory of Sheffield Cutlery
Manufacturers 1740 – 2013.