The Schrade Cutlery Company of Walden, New York, produced pocketknives from 1904 until the factory closed in 2004. In 1947, Schrade was bought by the Ulster Knife Company of Ellenville, New York, and the factory, known as Schrade-Walden, moved to Ellenville. In 1984, it merged with the Imperial Knife Company and was known as Imperial Schrade. Knowing the dates of these name changes will help you begin to date your vintage Schrade pocketknife. You will be able to date a Schrade knife even more accurately by examining and understanding its markings and characteristics.
Identifying A Schrade Knife By Year
Check online forums and websites about vintage knives in general and Schrade history in particular to get an idea about the vintage of your knife. Locate books and, if possible, old Schrade catalogs to further enable you to pinpoint the knife within a certain time period.
Examine your Schrade knife under a good strong light, using a magnifying glass to note all markings and design details. The name marked on the knife will give you the first visual clue to its age. Schrade knives dating from 1904 to the World War I period are marked "Schrade Cut Co." and "Walden, N.Y." in arched letters. Knives marked "Schrade Cut Co." in a straight line were made between World War I and 1947. From 1947 to 1973, Schrade knives were marked "Schrade Walden." Knives marked "Schrade N.Y. USA" or "Schrade USA" were manufactured between 1973 and 2004.
Look for the markings "OT" or "UH" on the knife. "OT" denotes an Old Timer knife, which had a carbon steel blade and was made between 1958 until about 2002. The Uncle Henry knife, marked "UH," was a stainless steel knife made between 1965 and 2004.
Check the four-digit serial number on the knife blade for more information. The first digit indicates the number of blades on the knife; the second and third refer to the handle pattern; and the fourth refers to the handle material. Letters that follow the serial number refer to the handle material color or type. You can look up the serial number in an antique cutlery book or Schrade catalog, which will often tell you the name of the particular knife; this will help you pinpoint a time frame for when it was made.
Examine the knife handle to determine its material. Bone handles were made between about 1920 and 1965; the bone was known as "peach seed bone" due to its tannish brown color, similar to that of a peach pit. After 1965, the majority of Schrade knives had handles of man-made materials. However, in the mid-1970s some knives were made with handles of colored bone (red, green or brown).
Finally, look for any images on the knife handle that could indicate a commemorative knife. Commemoratives were made only in certain years and can be dated with certainty. Schrade made several of these, commemorating their 75th and 125th anniversaries (in 1979 and 1994, respectively) and famous people such as Teddy Roosevelt and Paul Revere.
You can sometimes date a Schrade knife by comparing the detailing in the handle with catalog images. However, patterns used in a certain era often disappear from the catalogs and then reappear some years later.