Everyone must know the KaBar story already, since it’s only one of the most famous knives ever made in America, but here it is again: in the late 1800’s a customer of the Tidioute Cutlery Company of Pennsylvania wrote a letter of appreciation in regards to the Bowie knife he had recently purchased. Although the man’s handwriting was barely legible and the letter had seen hard times, company employees were able to make out that the happy trapper had used the knife to k*** a b*ar that had tried to kill him. The trademark name Kabar saw first use in the 1920’s, but became truly famous when the parent company won the contract for the standard issue Marine Corps military knife of WWII. Today Kabar still produces tactical knives, but sporting and work knives make up a large part of the product line.
Thirty eight immigrant cutlers who had learned their trade in the industrial center of Sheffield, England, settled together in one area of what is now New York and Pennsylvania, late in the 1800’s. The limited partnership they formed took the official name Tidioute Cutlery Company. By 1900 the company failed, but Wallace Brown bought the company’s physical assets and went into business as the Union Razor Company. As the company’s products increased in variety, the name changed to Union Cutlery. Union Cutlery’s tactical knife design developed for the U.S. military included the trademark stamp, Ka-bar, on the blade. Servicemen during WWII quickly associated the brand with quality and reliability, and by 1952 Union Cutlery submitted to public opinion and changed its name to Ka-Bar. Ka-Bar’s history hasn’t been all success, including a bankruptcy which forced a sale to Robinson Knife Company and then to Cole National Corporation. When Cole also failed, Ka-bar sold to Alcas Corporation of Olean, N.Y., the company’s current home.
Ka-Bar’s produces its most famous knife, the Ka-Bar USMC Fighting/Utility knife, in exactly the same style as the WWII knife, plus several other variations using the same basic pattern but newer materials like molded Kraton handles. The knife’s “do-anything” pattern makes it popular as a sporting or survival knife as well as military sidearm, strong enough to cut through a steel drum or hammer nails, and still able to neatly field dress a deer. Ka-Bar also makes fixed blade and folding hunting and fishing knives with a much less military look, as well as modern tactical folders featuring rugged lockbacks and one-handed opening. Ka-Bar acquired the assets and designs of Becker Knife & Tool and produces many popular Becker designs like the Becker Necker and the Becker Tac-tool.