History of Folding Pocket Knives

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Pocket knives have been an essential appliance for countless uses, over numerous generations. It is simply mind boggling at how long this utility tool has been a viable choice as the “go to” gadget for a myriad of people over the years. Civilization after civilization have made use of the pocketknife, creating diverse varieties of modifications along the way, all the while, still maintaining the same basic function. The popularity of the pocket knife has led to the enormous success of the most popular brands in circulation today.


Archaeologists have traced the origin of the oldest known pocket knife to the remote village of Hallstatt, Austria. Researchers are unsure who the original creator of this knife was, but believe it dates all the way back to the early Bronze Ages, approximately 500-600 BC. This knife boasted a bone handle which was common among tools at this time. Hallstatt was a Celtic village that was predominantly known for the world’s oldest known salt mine that dates all the way back to time before written history. It is highly likely that this first bone handle pocket knife was used by one of the mine workers for the numerous tasks that would be encountered on the job.

Oldest known folding pocket knife

Oldest known pocket knife found in Hallstatt, Austria. Image Source: Wikipedia

Thousands of miles away from Austria, folding knives have been found in various burial sites on the Iberian Peninsula of Spain, that pre dates the Roman Empire. As the Roman Empire rose to greatness, Iberian men were routinely recruited to fight for the Roman Legion as foot soldiers due to their ferocious demeanor in combat. It is believed that these folding knives were actually used as weapons to be carried by Iberian soldiers in times of war. Though the Romans used spears and the gladius hispaniensis (a stabbing sword) as their primary fighting weapons, pocket knives are easily carried and concealed so it conceivable that it could have made a valuable third weapon in the incidence that the other two were damaged or dropped. Later in Roman history, the popularity of pocket knives grew. The Romans were skilled in metallurgy and would routinely craft pocket knives with elaborate designs depicting scenes of victorious gladiators and gruesome combat on the handles. The average Roman pocket knife had an iron blade of approximately 3 inches in length that could be closed without a spring.

1476 marked the year that the mighty Roman Empire finally fell, thus sparking the beginning of the Middle Ages. Although generations had passed and great empires came and went, the use of the pocket knife was still prevalent among men. However, unlike the Romans, people of this time primarily used folding knives as tools instead of a piece of weaponry. Often times as people traveled, they would need to carry the necessary tools that would be needed for the duration of a long journey. Pocket knives would also make easily accessible, and compact, cutlery for slicing into food. At this time, pocket knives still folded without the use of a spring or locking mechanism, allowing the blade to move freely.

Evolution Into Modern Pocket Knife

The city of Sheffield, England is known for its profoundly rich iron ore and the plush oak forests that surround it. With the use of the teeming water of the rivers that flow through the city itself, Sheffield quickly became the epicenter for grandiose metal work throughout the Middle Ages. In the early 17th century, workers began manufacturing the first slip joint pocket knives that used a spring mechanism to keep the blade extended. Though there are numerous companies, Sheffield is home to some of the world’s most renowned pocket knife producers.

Ruthless thieves from the Iberian Peninsula began using the newly manufactured slip joint knives in the early 1800’s. King Ferdinand VII, outlawed the possession of firearms and long blades as he perceived the populace as a potential threat to his throne. By disarming the citizens, Ferdinand ensured that only his troops and police officials could possess armaments. However, this law overlooked the use of the pocket knife. Thieves known as Banderos, would routinely rob unsuspecting travelers with the use of their pocket knives.

Birth of a Legend

Finally, the infamous multi tool, the Swiss Army knife, was created in 1891 by a manufacturing company named Victoronix. The Swiss government contracted Victoronix to create a knife for their military that would allow personnel to open canned food. Inventor Karl Elsener, owner of Victoronix, decided to go above and beyond what was asked, and created a knife with a pivot point mechanism that allowed for the addition of numerous tools, such as a knife blade, can opener, screwdriver, nail file, and many others. The Swiss Army knife has become a staple within the cutlery industry.

Pocket knives have a long standing history that spans thousands of years. People from all corners of the world have found this tool to be useful for tasks ranging from opening cans to fighting enemies of the Roman Legion. As time passes, the popularity of the pocket knife is ever increasing. Ensure that you are part of this history; read our reviews and choose a pocket knife of your own.