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Very Rare Large Display Sized Coquanoc Works of Philadelphia Folding Knife For the Centennial Exposition

Very Rare Large Display Sized Coquanoc Works of Philadelphia Folding Knife For the Centennial Exposition

  • Product Code: EWSK-4C87
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $6,500.00

Offered here is a really impressively large example of cutlery display advertising knife that was almost certainly made for display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, to celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States. The knife was made by the Coquanoc Works Cutlery Company which any advanced collector of 19th century knives will tell you is a rarely encountered maker’s mark on American knives.


Little is known of the Coquanoc Works cutlery company run by Howard W. Shipley, probably because the firm appears to have been in business for a limited amount of time in Philadelphia during the last quarter of the 19th century. The first newspaper listing I found for Howard W. Shipley as a maker of "pocket knives" was on January 1, 1870, in the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph. This same paper also listed Shipley as "withdrawing" from the firm of A.B. Shipley & Sons, an importer and retailer of hardware. The March 24, 1877, issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that both Howard W. Shipley and A.B. Shipley & Sons, who were located at the same address of "Commerce Street above Fifth", had temporarily suspended business due to carrying the paper of another business that had failed. A settlement of 50-cents on the dollar was accepted by the creditors and both firms were allowed to continue their business. No mention of Shipley as a knife maker can be found in the Philadelphia papers or directories after 1877. Based upon census and directory information available for Shipley, it appears he went back to work for the family hardware business as both a clerk and salesmen over the next couple of decades. 


The massive folding knife includes three blades and when fully opened with opposing blades measure 28” tip to tip. Closed the knife still measures a substantial 12”. The primary blade is a single edged spear point design with a beveled spine that is 9" in length and 1.68" wide at the ricasso. The secondary blades are both single edged spear points as well, 6" in length and 1.09" wide at the ricassos. All three blades feature shallowed angled choils. The body of the knife is 2.18" wide at the wider end and 1.88" wide at the narrower end. The body of the knife is 1.07" thick and features German silver bolsters and pinned ivory scales that are most likely of prehistoric fossilized ivory rather than elephant ivory. All three blades are marked on their ricassos in two lines: COQUANOC WORKS/PHILAD'A. A blank 3.125" long by .3" wide slightly S-shaped German silver insert is present in the reverse scale, where a name or initials could be engraved.


As noted, it is assumed that this knife was produced for display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia as the impractical size of the knife make it more of display item than a functional one. It is known that Shipley did display at the Exposition and a knife of this size would certainly draw some attention and allow victors to his booth to easily see the quality of his work. However, due to the short period of time that the Coquanoc Works were in operation, knives by this maker are extremely rare. As a result, for the collector of unique 19th century American knives, this would certainly be an outstanding acquisition worthy of being the centerpiece of a truly advanced knife collection.


The knife remains in VERY GOOD condition overall. All of the blades were lightly cleaned long ago, and the blades all show the discolored residue of old dried oil or grease. The blades show scattered surface oxidation and discoloration, all of which would likely clean with some careful effort. The markings on the blades remain crisp on the two smaller ones and are weaker on the larger one, possibly from being folded and unfolded repeatedly and possibly from cleaning. The German silver mountings have a generally dull, lightly tarnished patina. The Ivory scales show numerous tiny striations, and some tiny spidery grain cracks at the pins. A 1" chip is repaired at the lower obverse end, behind the bolster.


Overall, this is a very attractive and extremely uncommon late-19th century American made folding knife from a rare maker and in a very rare size. This would be a wonderful addition to any advanced edged weapon and knife collection, particularly one that focuses on American-made knives, Philadelphia knives or salesman and advertising samples. You will certainly be proud to add this knife to your collection and it will no doubt start many conversations and be one of the most talked about pieces that you own.

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Tags: Very, Rare, Large, Display, Sized, Coquanoc, Works, of, Philadelphia, Folding, Knife, For, the, Centennial, Exposition