This knife could be described as the Mother of all Swiss Army knives. If you count the miniatures inside the tortoise shell handle covers, it has 100 “blades.” They include pocket knife blades of every style imaginable, a serrated blade, two dagger blades, several different types of shears and scissors, an auger, a corkscrew, two saws, a lancet, button hook, cigar cutter, tuning fork, pens and mechanical pencils, mirror, straight razor, and a functional .22-caliber five-shot pinfire revolver. The one modern convenience it doesn’t seem to have is a bottle opener, but the bottle cap as we know it wasn’t invented until 1892.
This knife wasn’t really meant to be carried. Knives like this were made exclusively for exhibition to highlight the cutlers’ art. They were so difficult to make they were only attempted by the most notable firms with the most talented artisans. They could be seen at various fairs and industrial expositions during the nineteenth century. This particular knife was made in Solingen, Germany about 1880 for J. S. Holler & Co.’s cutlery store in New York City. It was used it to display the fine craftsmanship available to their customers. At the time, German cutlery firms were attempting to establish themselves in the American market, which was dominated by the firms of Sheffield, England. The workmanship and complexity of this knife make it one of the finest examples of the cutlers’ art in America.
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