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Washington Cutlery Co

 

Village Blacksmith

 

201 Frederick

 

Washington Cutlery Co

 

W. C. Co. stands for "Washington Cutlery Co.," which became Village Blacksmith, a firm that made cutlery, farm knives and tools from the early 1900s through the 1960s in Watertown. The firm went out of business and most of the manufacturing departments became what is today Fischer-Barton.

 

1906

   03 20 1906

 

Monday, representatives of the Washington Cutlery Company were here and a conference held with the executive committee of the advancement association consisting of Mayor Wertheimer, Fred Keck, Eugene Meyer, Henry Mulberger, W. H. Woodard, S. A. Hoffman and Ferd. Schmutzler.

 

The committee agreed that in case the company moved its factory from Milwaukee to this city to raise as a bonus the sum of $3000 which was satisfactory, and work will be begun at an early day. On Milwaukee street, will be erected a building, 50 x 150 feet, part of which will be one story high and part two stories high.

 

The company at the present time employs 30 men and will increase its force when its new building is ready for occupancy. Twenty of the employees are expert workmen who will move to this city with their families who will need homes in which to live and every available home will be taken.

 

   08 21 1906

 

Work is progressing rapidly on the construction of the plant for the Washington Cutlery company on South River Street.  Although work was started only a week ago on the superstructure, the frame work is well under way and the work is being pushed by Contractor L. J. Larson of Milwaukee, who is on the ground giving the work his personal supervision.  The plans for the new factory building were drawn up by O. C. Uehling of Milwaukee.  The building is to be 60x144 feet, the front end and main portion, 60x36 feet to be two stories.  Contractor Larson stated yesterday that according to the terms of his contracts the building is to be completed by Oct. 1st, but he assured a representative of the Leader that his labors would end before that time . . . The factory, it is expected, will begin operations at least by the 15th of October and will give steady employment at the start of about sixty employees, which number will be augmented from time to time, as the demands of the business will warrant.

 

1906

   05 23 1906

 

The news comes from Milwaukee that the gentlemen behind the Washington-Cutlery Company, which is soon to be removed to Watertown, are actively engaged in drawing plans for their new factory building on Water Street. The members of the firm are expected here in a few days to start building operations.

 

1906

   12 06 1906

 

The wheels of another industry in Watertown will begin their activity today and contribute to the industrial progress that has been the slogan in this city for the past few years.

 

Reference is made to the new plant of the Washington Cutlery company, the building for which was recently completed and which is now equipped with the necessary machinery for carrying on the manufacturing business.  A representative of the Leader paid a visit to the plant yesterday and was agreeably surprised as a result of his observations and believes that there is a great future in store for the concern ... a trial run of the machinery will be made today and the factory will start in a small way, increasing throughout the week and it is expected that by the first of [next] week, everything will be running full blast.  By tonight five of the ten grinding stones will be ready for action and . . . four trip-hammers ready to pound away . . .

 

1913

01 02       Last week Tuesday thirty-five employees of the Cutlery Co. enjoyed a smoker and luncheon in the new power building at the plant.  Speeches were made by J. B. Radford and Otto Steinagel, and quartette singing was rendered by Emil Rehbaum, Bert Hadley, Henry Lueck and Abe McKinney.   WG

 

1915

10 07       INJURED IN AUTO ACCIDENT

While driving a Ford car on the Plank Road about three miles west of this city last Thursday afternoon Hugo Volkmann, secretary and treasurer of the Washington Cutlery Co., had one of his legs badly torn by his machine turning turtle.  Edward Maldaner was in the machine with him at the time, but escaped injury.  The machine turned a complete somersault, the four wheels thereof pointing heavenward, as the two men crawled from under the machine.  They certainly had a miraculous escape.  Farmers who witnessed the accident rushed to the scene and were greatly surprised that a more serious accident was not the result of the tipover.  A passing autoist brought Messrs. Volkmann and Maldaner to the city, and employees of a local garage brought the Ford to the city.  It was not very badly damaged.   WG

 

1917

   Jefferson County WI and its People

 

Prominent among the industrial concerns of Watertown is the Washington Cutlery Company, which was incorporated in 1906 with a capital of thirteen thousand.

 

The company manufactures the "Village Blacksmith" brand of butcher knives, cleavers, tools, corn knives, sickles, cold chisels, screw drivers, punches, etc., and their products are sold principally in the United States.

 

They furnish employment to from fifty to sixty hands, fifty per cent of whom are skilled workmen. Their plant has a floor space of sixteen thousand square feet and is supplied with the latest equipment, being remodeled, enlarged and new machinery being installed in 1917.

 

The equipment now includes automatic grinding machines, forges burning fuel oil, oil tempering machines, punch presses and trip hammers, all of the latest design and the best to be found in the market.

 

The business has grown rapidly and the plant is now behind in its orders.

 

The officers of the company are Gustave H. Lehrkind, president and sales manager; Charles Richenbaum, vice president; and Hugo E. Volckmann, secretary, treasurer and manager. They are all men of long experience in metal manufacturing and their plant is one of Watertown's prized assets.

________________________________________________________

 

1921

   Watertown High School Orbit

 

Village Blacksmith

 

The Village Blacksmith Folks have been established over twenty-five years and up to twelve years ago were located at Milwaukee. The shops were removed to Watertown because of the superior advantages of this city, and the energetic solicitation of the Watertown Advancement Association.  From time to time additions have been built, and it is planned to develop the plant still farther, when normal and stabilized business conditions warrant it.

 

Since its establishment, no changes have taken place in the ownership or officers of this company, who are: G. H. Lehrkind, President; H. E. Volkmann, Secretary and Treasurer, and Charles Reichenbaum, Vice-President.

 

In the early years, only a limited line of Household Knives was made. The output at this time was only ten to fifteen dozen per day. The knives were sold to the retail stores in Wisconsin.

 

The product now consists of: Knives, Cleavers, Grass Hooks, Corn and Hedge Knives, Screw Drivers, Chisels, Punches, Draw Shaves, and other tools. All of these are high quality goods, and the production reaches some 700,000 pieces annually, which are sold in more than 3,000 hardware stores, as well as in Restaurant and Butcher Supply, Auto Supply, and in Seed and Implement Houses throughout the United States.

 

Jobbers take care of the major portion of the distribution under the trademark: “The Village Blacksmith Folks.”

 

The goods which are listed and illustrated in a large number of catalogues are estimated as follows:

 

120,000 in Hardware Lines.

  10,000 in Butcher and Restaurant Supply Lines.

  25,000 in Auto Supply Lines.

200,000 in Seed and Implement Supply Lines.

 

The company maintains a western selling and distributing branch at 731 Market Street, San Francisco, as well as a local agent at Chicago.

 

c.1940s

  

 

1952      FIRE RAKES PLANT

Village Blacksmith Co. To Rebuild

After Fire Rakes Plant on 07 25 1952

1952

WDT 07 26 1952

 

Officials of the Village Blacksmith Company, manufacturers of cutlery and garden tools, announced here today they plan to rebuild as soon as possible the forge unit of their plant which was swept by a $50,000 fire last night.  They said 90 men are employed at the plant.  They hope to be in full operation at the earliest possible time.

 

The fire, which broke out sometime before 9:30 p.m., was reported by telephone to the City Hall by Mrs. Joseph Stacy, 615 South Washington Street who told the Police Department that the building was on fire, that there was a lot of noise in the place and she could “hear” the fire.  The message was relayed to the Fire Department immediately and all available equipment was sent to the plant on Frederick Street, near the banks of Rock River.  Firemen fought the blaze until 2:30 a.m.  It was the worst fire in the city since the $50,000 Savoy theatre building blaze on June 6, 1950.

 

Blast Suspected

 

The fire is believed to have started in a minor heating unit of some of the equipment in the forge shop.  The blaze set off the automatic sprinkler system.  The forge shop is located in the newest part of the plant, erected some years ago directly to the rear of the company offices.  A blast of some kind is suspected.

 

Fire Chief Al Linde put in a call for help to Oconomowoc, Ixonia and Lebanon Fire Department, all of which responded with one truck each.

 

The fire reddened the sky and it could be seen for miles.  The smell of smoke filled the air over the city and it was noticeable as far as three miles away near the northeastern limits of the city.

 

The fire attracted one of the largest crowds at any here in years.  Not only did Watertown residents rush to the spot, but people from surrounding farm areas and nearby localities were attracted by the blaze.  There were many people from Oconomowoc in the crowds that milled about.

 

Chief Linde said he wanted to commend the Police Department for the way it handled the crowd.  The crowds were kept pretty well back on the whole so as not to interfere too much with the fire fighters.  All available police helpers were called out and all volunteer firemen also were on hand to augment the regular department members.

 

Fireman Injured

 

On fire fighter, Francis Pirkel, 38, was injured.  He suffered severe hand lacerations.  He lives at 602 Lafayette Street.

 

The estimate of damage was made by Chief Linde who said it was entirely unofficial.  Officers of the company would place no definite estimate on the possible loss, but said it will be heavy.  However, they announced that several large presses used in the forge department appeared undamaged and Fire Department officials said they believed the ovens also escaped major damage.

 

Damage to much of the plant is great.  There was much damage by water and smoke, in addition to the actual blaze damage.  Firemen said that the fire would have been a major disaster if the blaze had reached the paint and chemical supplies used in the plant.

 

No One on Duty

 

There was no one working in the place at the time of the fire.  It has no regular night watchman but is served by the Merchant Police.  Everything appeared in order when the last check was made. The fire -probably started suddenly, if it was a blast of any kind that set it off, as appears likely.

 

The company was founded in Milwaukee in the 1890’s and operated there for some 12 or 15 years before it relocated, moving to Watertown about 1908.  It was brought here largely through the efforts of the Watertown Advancement Association, which was then active in the city’s industrial development.

 

In its early years the company made a product known as Household Knives.  The output in the early years was only ten to 15 dozen per day.  The knives were sold to retail stores in Wisconsin.

 

The company, as it expanded, added knives of all kinds to its products.  Clevers, grass hooks, corn and hedge knives, screw drivers, chisels, punches, shaves and other tools were among products that were manufactured at various times.

 

In recent years the company has turned out a widely known line of fine cutlery and garden tools.

 

By 1921 the company was turning out between 700,000 and 1,000,000 individual pieces annually.  Its products were sold by more than 3,000 hardware stores as well as in restaurant and butcher supply stores throughout the United States.

 

In addition to its present products, the company also does some small contract order work and it has also been doing some work under defense contracts.

 

During its years in Watertown two of the men here who played a large part in developing the concern were the late G. H. Lehrkind, who was for many years its president, and the late H. E. Volk-mann, its secretary and treasurer. The late Charles Reichenbaum of Milwaukee was for many years its vice president.

 

Current officers of the company are R. M. Henry, president; Joseph Roti, vice president; Joseph Calderini, secretary.

 

For many years the concern was known as the Village Blacksmith Folk, but in recent years the name was changed to the Village Blacksmith Company.

 

DEMOLITION AT BLACKSMITH CO. TO START HERE

WDT 07 27 1952

 

Demolition and salvage work at the fire-swept plant of the Village Blacksmith Company will begin tomorrow or Wednesday, C. M. Towne of the company told the Times this morning.  He said an insurance check is still being made and when that is completed work on clearing away the debris and paving the way for rebuilding and repairs will be undertaken.  Mr. Towne said the plant carried full insurance.

 

1954

12 16          Officers and delegates were elected this week in Watertown by Machinists Local No. 1367 of the International Association of Machinists, AFL, it was announced today. The local represents the Parts Engineering Co., the Village Blacksmith Co., the Otto Biefeld Co., the Syncromatic Corp., the Kusel Dairy Equipment Co., and the Brandt Automatic Cashier Co., all of this city. The following officers were re-elected: Kurt Rex, president; Eric Loeffler, vice president; George Havlicek, treasurer; Fred Harder, financial secretary; Roland Schauer, recording secretary; and Melvin Gruenewald, sentinel.   WDT

 

1956

   Watertown Daily Times, 03 17 1956

 

The Village Blacksmith Company this year is observing the 50th anniversary of operation in Watertown, Henry Winogrond, head of the firm, told the Rotary Club at its noonday luncheon. The firm actually was established 62 years ago, he said. It was founded in Milwaukee as the Washington Cutlery Company. The plant moved its operations to Watertown 50 years ago. Mr. Winogrond commented on the changes in buying habits and living standards of the American people which has resulted in changes in items manufactured by the firm since World War II. Professional cutlery has become an important item at the plant. This line of knives and other cutting equipment is sold to meat packing houses, hotels and restaurants, and in recent years this phase of the business has become more and more important. More people eating out, he said, is to a large extent responsible for the growth of this phase of the business.

 

1958

09 26     Residential Mail Boxes

A Watertown merchant and a Watertown manufacturer have combined talents to provide the community with an example of products “Made in Watertown - Sold in Watertown.”  The result is currently on display at 220 South First Street, the Hutson-Braun Lumber Co.  It is here that the Hutson-Braun Lumber Co. has designed a complete display window for the showing of Village Blacksmith's new line of “Galaxy Letter Boxes.”  Local residents had a preview of these residential mail boxes last spring at the Jaycee Industrial Fair at the National Guard Armory.  Since that time they have been acclaimed as the most beautiful line of home mail boxes produced anywhere in the nation.   WDT

 

2013

05 15       Fire at Fisher-Barton, portion of building the former Village Blacksmith.

 

 

Cross-References:

Prior to the 1940s the Village Blacksmith name was incised or stamped directly into the blades of cleavers.  Afterwards it was stamped on the handles (WFJ)

 

 

 

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