Tracing the Army Knife’s Swiss History

by Matt Forcey

Today, there are many all-in-one tools, but only one of them is a near-universal metaphor for versatility. And it isn’t Leatherman. In the imagination, Swiss Army Knives and their 126-year history stand alone. 

Steven Regengold, who blogs as The Gear Junkie, went to Ibach and Delemont, the two Swiss towns which still manufacture every Swiss Army tool for Victorinox and Wenger S.A., for an historical tour. It’s a great read; here are just a few highlights:

  • The first knife was indeed made for Swiss soldiers in 1884, who needed a foldable knife that could both open food cans and disassemble a rifle;
  • The descendents of Victorinox’s founder Karl Eisener own both Victorinox and Wenger S.A., which co-own the “Swiss Army Knife” copyright;
  • The two-company model might be explained by the fact that Victorinox is German-speaking and Wenger is French-speaking (this goes against all expectations one might have based on the spelling of the two company names, but is very Swiss);
  • “In 2006, Wenger introduced the Giant, a gargantuan, nine-inch-wide “pocket knife” with 85 implements that sells as a collector’s item for $1,400″;
  • The hidden springs that let each knife/screwdriver/tool gently come forward and snap back were an innovation of the original model over 100 years ago.

Full story at Outside Online

Highlights via Wired Gadget Lab 

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