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Why is it Called a Twine Knife Anyway?

Great 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, 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. This process would repeat 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!

There often wasn’t a lot of time to get the mail ready for the next ‘stop’, so they had to work fast and 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 HTK 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.

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.

By Brian Caldwell, President/Owner

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