The Handy Twine Knife Company was founded in the late 1890’s, by a young man who was a Railway Postal Clerk. He traveled on the Pittsburgh & Chicago Railroad. This 490-mile route ran daily and was part of a longer New York to Chicago run.
The jobs on the a Railway Postal Car was to collect the incoming mail, then sort the mail into bundles and tie the bundles tightly with twine. The bundles were put into mailbags ready to be dropped at the next stop along the route. This process would repeat all a long the route and all of this took place on a moving rail car!
There often wasn’t a lot of time in between stops, so they had to work fast and accurately. A mistakenly-delivered letter or package meant a full day delay in getting the parcel to its correct town.
The man who started The Handy Twine Knife Company was my great Grandfather, James R Caldwell. His newly invented ring knife was much faster than trying to find the shared scissors. It wasn’t long before his co-workers began asking for their own ‘Twine Knives’. James worked for the US Post Office beginning in 1897 as a clerk. He rose through the ranks to the office of Superintendent by his retirement in 1935.
The HTK Company is still going strong today, some 120 years later. Some of our older knives are on rotating display at the Smithsonian’s Railway museum in Washington D.C.
Our knives have adapted with the change of the times. They are now used daily in: nursery & agriculture, food service, newspaper and magazine delivery, textile, laundry and linen operations as well as a lot of manufacturing processes.
By Brian Caldwell, President/Owner