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Why is it Called a Twine Knife Anyway?

By Brian Caldwell, President/Owner

That’s a good question!  The Handy Twine Knife Company was founded in the late 1890’s by a young man who was a Railway Postal Clerk on the Pittsburgh & Chicago Railroad.  This 490-mile route ran daily between the two cities and was part of a longer New York to Chicago run.

The job of the Postal Clerk, who worked on a Railway Postal Car, (which closely resembled the sorting rooms of brick and mortar Post Offices today), was to first collect the incoming mail at each stop, next the clerks would sort the mail into bundles and tie the bundles tightly with twine.  Then, the bundles were put into mailbags and were finally ready to be dropped at the next stop along the route.

The process would then began again, with the incoming mail collected at the stop where they had just dropped the bundled mail off…and all of this took place on a moving rail car!

Since the train didn’t actually stop at all of the little towns on the route, there often wasn’t a lot of time to get the mail ready for the next ‘stop’, so they had to work fast and they had to be accurate.  A mistakenly-delivered letter or package meant a full day delay in getting the parcel back on the train and to its correct town.

That young man who started The Handy Twine Knife Company was my great Grandfather, James R Caldwell.  He used his newly invented ring knife to cut the twine because it was much faster than finding the shared scissors all the time.  It wasn’t long before his co-workers began asking for their own ‘Twine Knives’ and the company had its start!   James worked for the US Post Office beginning in 1897 as a clerk and rose through the ranks to the office of Superintendent by his retirement in 1935.

The Handy Twine Knife Company is still going strong today, some 120 years later and some of our older knives are on rotating display at the Smithsonian’s Railway museum in Washington D.C.

If you are one of our customers, old or new, you now know the reason our ring knives are called a Twine Knife.  I suspect there isn’t a lot of twine being used in today’s markets, but our knives have adapted with the change and 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.

Visit our web site for more information, and thank you for supporting American manufacturing!


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