Grape-picking Knife

This grape-picking knife was owned and used by Nathan Fay of Napa, Calif. Its short, curved blade and lightweight handle are typical of knives used during the annual harvest of wine grapes in the area. Although grape-picking machines are used in the large vineyards of California's Central Valley, hand tools like this are preferred on the estate vineyards in Napa. Fay personalized this knife, as do most workers who regularly pick grapes, by carving his name ("NAT") in the wooden handle and by filing the blade to sharpen its edge.
Fay bought land in Napa Valley in 1953 and is credited with planting the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Stag's Leap District. From the 1950s until 1986, he grew wine grapes for some of Napa's best wineries. In an oral history interview conducted by Museum staff in 1997, Fay described harvest time: "Maybe the most satisfying thing was I always would get out as soon as we got the crews ready in the morning, get out and start picking grapes with the crew. And two or three . . . would come pick near me and make me look pretty slow. [After] about two hours of this I was getting pretty exhausted and pretty tired, but by then a gondola would be full of grapes so I'd have to take them up to the winery. And that took an hour and a half to go up and get them unloaded and come back again. 'Course there'd be another gondola waiting as soon as I got back, so I'd pick only about an hour and a half or two hours every morning. But I enjoyed it—all the work and different things."
Object Name
knife, grape-picking
Fay, Nathan F.
overall: 6 1/8 in; 15.5001 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Food Technology
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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