Camillus Cutlery Company
IndustryKnife Manufacturer
Founded1876; 148 years ago (1876)
OwnerAcme United Corporation
WebsiteCamillus Home
Camillus Collectors Club 2003 Charter Member Trapper

The Camillus Cutlery Company is one of the oldest knife manufacturers in the United States. The Company was founded in 1876 and produced millions of knives until it filed for bankruptcy in 2007. Its brand name and intellectual property rights were purchased by Acme United Corporation, which re-launched the Camillus brand in May 2009 using modern materials.


Adolph Kastor

Adolph Kastor

The 14-year-old Adolph Kastor (1856–1946), son of a Jewish family from Wattenheim, Germany, immigrated to New York in 1870[1] where he started to work for his uncle Aaron Kastor in his hardware supply business, Bodenheim, Meyer & Company. He was first put in charge of cow chains but gradually worked his way up to the firearms and cutlery department.

In 1873, Bodenheim, Meyer & Company lost one of its founders and restructured as Meyer & Kastor. Due to poor sales figures, Meyer & Kastor had to close its doors in September 1876. Only a few weeks later, Adolph Kastor started his own company, Adolph Kastor & Bros. on Canal Street in New York City, where he imported and distributed German-made knives.[2]

In 1897, when the Dingley Tariff was enacted, the knives became too expensive to import. The only solution Kastor saw was to manufacture knives domestically. Eventually, his search led him to Charles Sherwood and his small knife manufacturing business in Camillus.


With Adolph Kastor in charge, the company started to expand. They bought new machinery, such as steam-driven drop forge hammers and fly presses and they adopted new techniques, like using alumina grinding wheels. By 1910, the Camillus Cutlery Company was producing close to a million knives a year and had about 200 employees,[3] many of them German immigrants. The company even built a dormitory to house its German workers.


During World War I, Camillus shifted production to support the Allied forces. The company also manufactured marlinspikes, surgical scalpels, and a folding knife/spoon combination for the Red Cross in those years.

In the 1920s, the knife manufacturer introduced stainless steel to its production, and started making collectible character knives, which honoured famous people such as George Washington,[4] Babe Ruth,[5] and Buck Rogers. It also began manufacturing private label products for Sears, Craftsman, Woolworth and many others.

USMC KA-BAR Fighting Utility Knife

During World War II, Camillus shipped more than 13 million knives of various styles to the Allied troops.[6] In 1942, U.S. Marine Corps officers Colonel John M. Davis and Major Howard E. America working in conjunction with cutlery technicians at Camillus developed the KA-BAR Fighting Utility Knife.[7] After extensive trials, the KA-BAR prototype was recommended for adoption, and Camillus was awarded the first contract to produce the KA-BAR for the Marine Corps.[7] Camillus made more KA-BARs than any other knife manufacturer producing the model during World War II.[7] During the war, Camillus also made the M3 fighting knives, the M4 bayonets and many other utility knives for U.S. forces, including machetes, multi-blade utility knives, TL-29 Signal Corps pocket knives for signalmen, electrician's mates, and linesmen, and combination knife/marlinspike pocket knives for use by the U.S. Navy in cutting and splicing lines.


Camillus pilot Survival Knife

After World War II, Camillus was quick to shift back to civilian production. It introduced many new products, and in 1947, Camillus began manufacturing a full line of official folding knives for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).[8]

During the Vietnam War, Camillus again manufactured a large number of knives for the armed forces, for instance a pilot survival knife, a USMC KA-BAR combat knife and a four bladed utility knife. After the Vietnam War (1975), the company continued its growth by adding more new pieces to their already wide product range.


In the 1960s, Camillus was sold to the Baer family of New York City.[9]

Camillus began using Delrin a synthetic bone from circa late 1960's through at least the 80's.

Camillus produced the Hand Made #89 Rancher Indian Delrin Stag Stockman 3 Triple Blade Pocket Knife with Sword Brand Blades in the 1970's. Highly collectible today. |Knife image provided by Darren Spitzenberger|

In 1991, Camillus acquired Western Cutlery Company.[10] This Boulder, Colorado company had been making knives since 1896.[11]

In 2001, Camillus collaborated with custom Knifemaker Jerry Fisk, the only Knifemaker to be declared a Living National Treasure, to produce a Bowie knife.[12] That same year, Camillus began a partnership with custom Knifemaker Darryl Ralph to produce a line of titanium framed tactical folding knives.[12]


The Camillus Cutlery factory in the village of Camillus, New York c.2006.
Camillus Yello-Jaket Muskrat
Camillus Collectors Club Member lockback

Since the turn of the century, Camillus Cutlery saw its revenue decline due to stiff overseas competition and allegedly poor management practices. As a result, employees implemented a four-day workweek after the normal factory shutdown at Christmas 2005. A few months later, Camillus’ management proposed large wage and benefit cuts. Workers didn’t agree and the company was subject to a months long strike. In response, management locked the workers out for several months.[13][14] In November 2006, the striking employees ultimately accepted the original contract offer[15] but the company only retained 15 of the 78 union members and laid off the rest.

The lock out ultimately took its toll on Camillus as customers dried up and the company subsequently filed for bankruptcy and closed on February 28, 2007.[16] On September 18, 2007, the product brand names and intellectual property of the company were acquired by Acme United Corporation in a bankruptcy auction for $200,000.[17]

After the bankruptcy, the original Camillus factory remained empty until it was partly destroyed by fire on February 11, 2013.[18] The former Camillus Cutlery headquarters have since been turned into apartments and retail space.[19]

Camillus as Acme United brand

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In May 2009, Acme United re-launched Camillus at the 2009 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.[20] The traditional Camillus knives were almost entirely replaced by new modern knives with durable handles and titanium carbonitride bonded blades.[21]

In December 2011, Acme United signed an agreement with Les Stroud to build and sell Camillus survival knives and tools, co-designed and promoted by the outdoor adventurer, known from the TV series Survivorman.[22] Next to Les Stroud, Camillus joined forces with several other so-called Pro Staffers.[23] The Pro Staff team consists of former Green Berets, expert hunters, Special Forces, adventurers, firemen and survival experts. Amongst them is Grady Powell, a former U.S. Army Green Beret who is now the host of Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival. Also part of the Pro Staff is Jared Ogden, a former Navy SEAL who was the star of the National Geographic Television program Ultimate Survival Alaska.[24]

In 2013, Camillus re-launched its knives in Europe. Today, Camillus is being distributed in twelve European countries, as well as in Australia, South Africa and the Philippines.

Since the relaunch, the brand annually introduces new knives. In 2017, for example, Camillus brought a new collection of hunting knives to the market, as well as a new tactical knife family, which was created in collaboration with Camillus Pro Staff members, Jared Ogden and Grady Powell.[25]


  1. ^ "American Jewish Year Book" (PDF). Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  2. ^ "Major U.S. Cutlery Wholesalers & Importers". Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  3. ^ "History of Camillus Cutlery". Retrieved on May 30, 2009.
  4. ^ "George Washington Commemorative Pen Knife". Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  5. ^ "1935 Babe Ruth Quaker Oats Premium - Pocket Knife". Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2009. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  6. ^ "Camillus Cutlery Is Carving a Niche in Central New York". Retrieved on June 2, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c Shackleford, Steve (ed.), Blade's Guide To Knives And Their Values (7th ed.), Iola, WI: Krause Publications, ISBN 978-1-4402-0387-9, p. 387
  8. ^ "Camillus Knives: Boy Scout Knives, Official Knives of the Boy Scouts of America". Archived from the original on September 22, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2009. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  9. ^ "Margery Baer Irish, is an owner of the Camillus (N.Y.) Cutlery Company". September 27, 1987. Retrieved April 28, 2010. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  10. ^ "Early Western Knives businessman Platts joining Boulder County Business Hall of Fame". Retrieved on June 2, 2009.
  11. ^ "Western Brand Knives". Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Winter, Butch (2003), "Collaborations with Custom Knifemakers", Sporting Knives 2003: 154–161, ISBN 0-87349-430-X
  13. ^ "Camillus Cutlery workers on strike". Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  14. ^ "Camillus Cutlery strike continues". Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  15. ^ "Camillus Cutlery workers approve contract". Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  16. ^ "Camillus Cutlery to close its doors". Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
  17. ^ "Acme United Corporation Acquires Camillus Cutlery Assets". September 18, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  18. ^ "Developer plans to move ahead after former Camillus Cutlery fire". November 2, 2013. Archived from the original on June 28, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  19. ^ "See photos of former CNY knife factory now apartments, retail; popular coffee shop coming soon". April 7, 2018. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  20. ^ "Camillus Knives". Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved on March 24, 2010
  21. ^ "10-K 2010". Retrieved on March 24, 2010.
  22. ^ "Acme United Corporation Announces Agreement with Les Stroud". Retrieved on March 12, 2012.
  23. ^ "Camillus Pro Staff". Retrieved on September 1, 2016.
  24. ^ "Meet the Military Team on Ultimate Survival Alaska". Retrieved on December 17, 2015.
  25. ^ "Camillus Enlists Former Elite Special Force Operatives to Launch Tactical Knife Collection" (PDF). Retrieved on September 5, 2017.