1910's Jaeger Brothers Company Stag Horn Switchblade Knife
Vintage 1916 Aerial Cutlery Company Stag Horn Automatic Switchblade Knife
Stag Handles with Nickel Silver Bolsters and Brass Liners.
Sabre-ground blade is stamped "JAEGER BROTHERS" over "Marinette, WIS"
The back is stamped "PAT Oct 23rd, 1916"
Knife is on page 29 of the book "Antique American Switchblades" by Mark Erickson
- Closed Length: 4 5/8"
- Overall Length: 8 1/8"
This is an Olsen Knife Co. made knife which was assembled using some authentic original parts, including the blade from Aerial Cutlery Mfg Co. Model #K112.
Shortly after the turn of the 19th century, a gentleman by the name of Fred Jaeger, Sr., started selling cutlery products from a 'drummers' sample case. He sold knives, razors, scissors, and barber supplies and his sales took him to the back country mines, mills and lumber camps of Duluth, Minnesota. Fred developed a reputation as an honest and reliable supplier and his business really grew. So mush that soon he was joined by his two brothers, Chris and Richard, and in 1912 Aerial was officially founded, the inception of Aerial Cutlery Manufacturing Company. That company was to become a major factor in the production of knives for the next four decades and its knives are today considered among the better collectibles.
The name Aerial originated from a large suspension bridge that spanned the St. Louis Bay connecting Duluth and Superior. The bridge came to symbolize the 'high ideals, lofty aspirations, and quality products' that are the cornerstone of the Aerial Company.
In 1913 the entire company was moved to Marinette, WI. Located at 116 Hosmer Street, the entire company's buildings would undergo many changes as additions marked the growth of the business. In 1990 ground was broken on Aerial's current residence at 2300 Aerial Drive. Throughout the years, Aerial has remained a family business. The company has seen and experienced many changes but the philosophy of business has always stayed the same. Make the customer strong and profitable so they can become better customers and achieve greater business success. Fred Jaeger Sr., said it best years ago 'Always remember, a distributor can't make a nickel until his customer makes it first. Help your customer succeed'.
While working as a paper mill employee, Jaeger began selling cutlery products to fellow employees. His sales success motivated him to quit his job and take to the road with his cutlery satchel containing knives, razors, scissors, and barber supplies. His "territory" was wherever he recognized sales potentials and his travels took him into the back-country mines, mills, and lumber camps. His background as a "mill hand" offered Jaeger something in common with plant guards and managers so that he was often able to get onto a plant's grounds while other salesmen would be left outside the gates. His reputation as an honest and reliable supplier grew as did his fame for good salesmanship.
Jaeger used his ingenuity and hard work so successfully, in fact, that the cutlery manufacturer in Morris, Illinois was unable to fill the demand created by his sales efforts. In order to be able to supply the increased demand, the Morris plant was purchased by another enterprising individual- J. D. Phillips.
Super salesman, ''Fritz'' Jaeger's business continued to grow. It grew so much that, in 1910, Fred Jaeger was joined by his brothers, Chris and Richard, and by Thomas Madden in forming a company to buy out Phillips. The purchased company was re-organized in Duluth, Minnesota and was given the new name - Aerial Cutlery Manufacturing Company.
Perhaps the name was unusual but it had a great deal of significance for the new owners. The Aerial Bridge, located in Duluth, was the first suspension bridge of its kind in the United States. In addition to sharing its name with the new company, the bridge became the company trademark because it was a symbol of stamina, hard work, sacrifice, and determination against all odds.
The name ''Aerial'' would remain even though, in 1912, it was shortened to Aerial Cutlery Company. The name change was current with a major move of the company's manufacturing facilities to Marinette, Wisconsin. According to Jaeger family accounts, the factory was moved "lock, stock, and barrel". Equipment and tools, whether large or small, was, loaded on a train load of flat cars for the journey from Duluth to Marinette. Seventy yeas later, in 1982, some of that original factory equipment was still in use at Olsen Knife Company.
In addition to the name Aerial being consistent through the years, another name has been consistently associated with the company's management and leadership. That name is Fred Jaeger. It was Fred ''Fritz'' Jaeger Sr. whose sales success provided the impetus for starting the company in 1909. Fred Jaeger Jr. assumed command of the company in 1966. He has since been joined by two other ''Fritz'' Jaegers - III and IV. But, let's go back to knives and to the approximate 40 year era during which Aerial was once of the major factor in the U. S. knife industry.
During the early part of this century one of the popular types of pocket knives were those that featured pictures within transparent handles. Most collectors have seen these knives and several collections are based upon these unusual pieces. Picture knives or transparent handled knives were made by several companies including Canton Cutlery Co., Morris Cutlery Co., Novelty Cutlery Co., Lackawanna Cutlery, Golden Rule, and Aerial Cutlery Co. Of these companies, Aerial was undoubtedly the most prominent and certainly the one with the longest history.
As evidenced by some of the photographs included here, picture knives by Aerial covered an extensive range of subjects. And, they came in practically all sizes and patterns from small pen knives to folding hunters and on to sheath knives. Among the more popular picture knives were those with natural and wild life scenes and, of course, the ''naughty lady'' patterns. But the unique designs go on and on--from farm livestock to Cars, trains, and ships; from cartoon characters such as ''Maggie and Jiggs'' to Presidents of our country; from commercial advertising logos to fraternal order emblems; and, if you want you could have knives made with a picture of your choosing. One Aerial catalog quotes a charge of ten cents for the use of a personal photograph on a knife handle. How's that for a ''customized'' knife?
One should not, however develop the opinion that knives made by Aerial were cheap advertising knives. The company had reputation for quality and a commitment to live up to that reputation. They had an excellent guarantee to back their product line and a written guarantee accompanied each knife sold. Whether the knife was for hard use or for a souvenir, it was made from quality materials and to rigid specifications it took well over 200 different operations to make most of their knives. Of special interest is the handle materials. The company claimed that their knife handles were practically indestructible especially when compared to other commonly used materials such as ivory, stag horn, or wood.
In addition to picture knives, Aerial made quite a few other patterns some using other brand names of their own such as ''Jaeger Bros.'' Or ''A. C. Mfg. Co.''; others were made for mail order firms such as SearsRoebuck, Belknap Hdwe., and Butler Brothers. In addition, Aerial's sales were large enough so they would contract with other manufacturers to have knives made with the Aerial stamping.
One of Aerial's major undertakings was the manufacture of the military trench knife and M-1 bayonets during World War II. Company histories indicate that a plant superintendent, Fred Faubel Sr. designed the trench knife and presented it to ordinance personnel in Chicago where it was adopted (with a slight change to the handle guard) as a standard pattern. Many thousands of these military knives were made by Aerial for the Armed Forces during the war. For its outstanding contribution the company was awarded the ArmyNavy E Award.
The last Aerial cutlery catalog that I am aware dates to the later half of the 1940's. Unfortunately I have only photocopies of a portion of the catalog but I find no listing of picture handled knives. It appears that the extensive line of knives had been reduced to a few pocketknife patterns with Pyralin and to leather washer handled fixed blade knives. Noteworthy among the nonfolders were four military types, ''Commando'' or bayonet knives; no doubt a carryover from the company's wartime production activities. Just as the war had changed much of our way of life, it had changed major industries; and, it had changed Aerial. Before the war, most of the company's knife sales had been in their picture knife line. The war effort had diverted their machinery and talents to military type knives. Also of major significance was the fact that the materials which the company had used in producing their primary knife line were no longer available or feasible to use.
Since the 1920's, Aerial had been actively involved in barber supplies and, in the 1930's added beauty supplies to its line; not an unusual complement to the cutlery business in those days. In 1965, Fred Jaeger decided to direct his company's business exclusively to that industry where they were already leaders. Under the guidance of a Fred Jaeger and operating under the founder's ideals of quality and service, that leadership continues today.
There are conflicting dates for Aerial's ceasing cutlery production. In his book, Pocketknives Markings of Manufactures and Dealers, John Goins dates the company's tang stampings until 1944. He states, however, that the company's knives ''were still in production as late as 1944''. The catalog mentioned above is not dated but there is good justification for the assumption that it was current during the last half of the 1940's. From one statement within the catalog ''Our knives have enjoyed a reputation for excellent quality and workmanship since the beginning of their manufacture over thirty years ago,'' we know that the catalog would date no earlier than 1940. Another statement ''During the recent World War…'' tells us that the catalog dates to after 1945. One article, author and publication unknown, credits Aerial with the manufacture of knives for 50 years; thus until the late 1950's. Bernard Levine, in Knife World's July 1979 WhutIzzit column states that the company ceased regular cutlery production in the early 1950's. Based upon the above reference as well as other information made available to me by collectors Jack McAllister and Bob Cargill, I have concluded that the early 1950's is correct.
Regardless of which date is correct for the company's termination of cutlery manufacturing, collectors can be assured that Aerial knives have something to offer. Their quality is very good, they are quite unique, and their prices aren't ''out of sight'' all the makings for an interesting collection.
- Item #: JAEGER BROTHERS-STAG HORN