The Swiss Army Knife was created by Swiss cutler Karl Elsner, who won a contract to produce an existing Swiss Soliders knife the Model 1890, produced by Wester & Co. Solingen, Germany. The Model 1890 was used by the Swiss Army, first as a knife but also for opening canned food and disassembling the Swiss service rifle, the Schmidt-Rubin M1889, which required a screwdriver for assembly/disassembly.
Karl Elnser’s company continued to produce the Model 1890 exclusively for the Swiss Army until 1893 when for mainly political reasons a decision was made that meant they had to share the contract. Elnser was aligned more to the German speaking Swiss population whilst a competitor Paul Boechat & Cie situated in Delémont in the French-speaking region of Jura, Switzerland was more aligned with the French speaking population of France. So two companies now produced the 1890 Swiss Army knife.
Swiss Army knife – improvements must be found
Not happy with the decision and feeling the original standard issue knife could be better Elnser started to work on some improvements. The problem Elnser found with the Model 1890 is that all the tools of the knife had to be opened on the same side. This meant in effect to add more tools required more width and more weight in individual springs for individual tools. In 1896 after years of hard work, he achieved what he had been looking for. What Elnser worked out was a way of using the same spring to operate tools that open on both sides of the handle. This invention changed the face of knife design to this day. The new knife was known as The Officer’s and Sports Knife. It was originally registered with the patent office in 1897, however it didn’t become part of the contract with the Swiss Army. Later models using this mechanism where used by the Swiss Army but is was some time before they adopted Elnsers innovation.
Karl Elsener used the cross and shield to identify his knives, the symbol still used today on Victorinox-branded versions. When his mother died in 1909, Elsener decided to name his company “Victoria” in her memory. In 1921 the company started using stainless steel to make the Swiss Army Knife. Stainless steel is also known as “inox”, short for the French term acier inoxydable. “Victoria” and “inox” were then combined to create the company name “Victorinox”.
So you don’t say Victorianox, you say VictorInox … every days a school day or so they say 🙂
Original or Genuine Swiss Army Knife?
Interestingly the other company Paul Boechat & Co also came up with a design for multi purpose knives however they where never called the ‘Original’ Swiss Army Knife. When the contracts where split and to avoid feuds the Swiss Government (and by mutual agreement) decided Elnser’s company where allowed to state they produced the ‘Original’ Swiss Army Knife. Boechat & Co, took the term ‘Genuine’ Swiss Army Knife. Boechat and Co later became Wenger. On April 26, 2005 Victorinox acquired Wenger, becoming once again the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Armed Forces.
The color red for multi-function knives, the cross-and-shield emblem, and the words SWISS ARMY are registered trademarks of Victorinox and its related companies. Although many second rate imitations exist on the market, the ‘Original’ Swiss Army life is still the icon we know and love today. Having been added to the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Munich’s State Museum of Applied Art for its design. The ‘Original’ Swiss Army Knife will for many years to come be the pocket tool of choice for many. As Victorinox have an amazing guarantee, it’s a sure fire bet your ‘Original’ Swiss Army Knife will become a life long friend too –
Victorinox guarantees all knives and tools to be of first class stainless steel and also gives a life time guarantee against any defects in material and workmanship
Did you know
Victoriknox of Swiss Army Knife fame also produced a stunning range of kitchen knives too.