Friday, January 9

americana -hobo knife

Caveat. I am no expert on these, just a big fan. And might be timely... During the Great Depression these knives were carried by men on the move looking for work. The men were labelled 'hobos'. The knife consists of either a knife and fork or knife/fork/spoon that attach together, usually by slots and pins in the liners, but can easily be taken apart. (Cheap versions have the utensils all on a the F are you supposed to use fork and knife with that?)

Above, the Case Hobo. The fork includes a bottle opener, nice touch.

Due to this particularly American history, all the producers of hobo knives were and still are American held companies. Colonial from Providence R.I., Case, A.G. Russell, and Ka-Bar.

There are a lot of theories on the etymology of the word hobo. Bill Bryson suggests it came from a contraction of "homeward bound". Or from “ho, boy”, a workers' call on late 19C western U.S. railroads. Does the term come from the Manhattan intersection of Houston and Bowery, where itinerant people used to congregate? Or can we blame Hoboken, New Jersey; a terminus for many railroad lines in the 19C. Try shortening "hopping boxcars", or the words "homeless boy"...

In any event, it was in use by 1906. Here quoting Upton Sinclair in The Jungle.
"Then he explained how he had spent the last summer, ‘hoboing it’, as the men phrased it."

I love the 50's/60's jackknives. The bakelite faux-wood handles. The whole culture of carrying a pocket knife has disappeared though. Went the way of smoking a pipe i guess... And children certainly can't expect to be given one now, though i can't wait to get something like this for the boy... Love the classic display below.