Grape Picking Knife

This razor knife was used during the 2011 harvest of Norton grapes at Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia. The orange plastic head holds opposing razor edges, which can quickly sever even tough stems. The black handle can be bent to an angle preferred by a particular picker.
The Norton, a hybrid developed from native American grapes, thrived in Virginia in the 19th century, despite the region’s challenging, humid climate. The old vineyards were obliterated during Prohibition in the 1920s, but the varietal was still thriving in Missouri when Virginia vintner Dennis Horton brought back cuttings to plant in his vineyard near Gordonsville. His first vintage of Norton in 1992 inspired other Virginians to plant the hardy grape, including McCloud, who, by 2011, had 40 acres of Norton vines to tend.
McCloud trellises her Nortons so that the fruit lies on top of the leaves, rathering than hanging low where the grapes would be subject to mildew and rot during the humid growing season. Nestled above the leaves, the clusters not only receive the sunlight, but also the benefit of occasional breezes that waft through the Piedmont terrain. At harvest time, which is typically in October and November, workers strap on picking baskets, with the bucket at chest height. As they walk through the vineyard rows, they use razor knives to cut the clusters into the bucket, without having to bend or stoop down. Once the bucket is filed, the picker walks to a waiting tub or gondola, unties the drawstring, and lets the grapes fall into the container. During the 2011 harvest, pickers Efrain Rivera, Luis Fernando Nolazco Hedes, Fernando Nolazco Ortega, and Fredy Villalobos were among the workers picking grapes in this manner at Chrysalis.
Object Name
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (handle material)
overall: 8 in x 1 1/4 in x 1 in; 20.32 cm x 3.175 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
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Work and Industry: Food Technology
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Chrysalis Vineyards

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