Kinfolks Knives

Case Men



Job Russell Case (1821-1915) Married: Deborah Waite Milks
Companies Associated: Case Brothers and W.R. Case & Sons

Job Russell Case. Patriarch of the Case family, was born on July 5, 1821. This timeless image of W.R. Case and Sons cutlery never made a knife. He did however instill in his offspring a work ethic that he taught by example. His parents William and Sophia settled in Cattaraugus County, New York in 1825. In this unsettled area and with no neighbors for miles, they built a log cabin and established trade with the Iroquois of the Seneca Indian nation.
Job Case
Job left home in 1836 at the age of 15 to find his fortune, logging and clearing land as his father had done. Job was smitten by Deborah Waite Milks, an educated and refined young lady who became his bride. Moving from Cattaraugus County to Wisconsin in 1843 he followed the work of a lumberman, clearing and logging to keep his family from want. Their first child, a daughter, Anna Virginia, was born in 1844 and soon a second sister Mary Theresa arrived in 1845.

Job returned to Napoli in 1846 and built a log cabin which stands to this day. He received a federal contract to clear land for a road from Little Valley to Randolph, New York. He cleared 50 acres of this heavily wooded and hilly 10 mile stretch in the first year. Hauling the cleared timber to saw mills, making shingles with a broad ax and burning the limbs and stumps to render potash for later sale. Job was frugal and bought land and livestock with his earnings. In 1847 Job's third child, his first son, William Russell was born.

He bought 100 acres and with seeds from Wisconsin, planted Apple orchards and wheat. In 1850 a son Eugene was born, but was in poor health and passed on before his first birthday. Job was deeply depressed and threw himself into his work, logging, farming, and raising live stock. His wife Deborah gave birth to their fifth child, my great-grandfather, Jean in 1853. Emma was born in 1855 and Jesse in 1856. John Deborah Case was born in 1858 and their last child Andrew Jackson was born in 1863 .Deborah, mother of nine, died in late 1868 from influenza, still in her 40s.

Marriages of convenience were common for widowers and Job later married a widow, Maria Dolbeare. She and her daughter Edith joined the Case clan in Napoli. The next year a son Edwin arrived and in 1880 Job's last child Mable was born. Job never drank or smoked and was a staunch supporter of the suffrage movement, always investing in others with labor or funding. In his lifetime he cleared hundreds of acres of land, hand built over 30 buildings, fathered and raised 11 children, and wrote over 100 poems and essays. In 1896 John D., Jean, and Andrew used Job's home and three-story barn on Fair Oaks street to start and operate Case Brothers cutlery. His influence is still present in our family to this day.

Job Russell Case died at his home in Little Valley, New York on July 4, 1915. Case Brothers cutlery closed its doors in May of that same year. Before his death, Job gave Edwin his home on Case Hill and his farm. He forgave, Jean, John, and Andrew debts owed him from Case Brothers cutlery. His tomb stone reads "Jobe" Case, preferring to enter the afterlife without the travails of the biblical Job. I can vividly remember the lessons to always "respect your elders" from my youth, and he was often quoted as saying "a Case's word is as good as his bond".

These lessons from a man I only know from family lore, remain part of my cloth to this day.

Respectfully submitted by Dean Elliott Case [top]
 
William Russell (1847-1931)

Married: Addie Mary Fox

Children: Debbie, Maude, Mary Theresa, and John "Russ" Russell

Companies Associated: Case Brothers, C. Platts & Sons, C. Platts' Sons, Cattaraugus Cutlery, Case Shears, Case-Smiley Company, Crandall Cutlery, Kinfolks, Rock City Hone, Little Valley Knife Association, Platts Brothers, Western States, Western Cutlery, Alcas [top]

Job Case
Eugene (1850-1851) [top]
Jean Case (1853-1935) Married: Ida May Ainsworth

Children: Elliott, Dean, Lina and Addie
Companies Associated: Cattaraugus Cutlery, C. Platts & Sons, Case Bros., North American Cutlery Co., W.R. Case & Sons, Standard Knife, Kinfolks, Jean Case Knives, Kane Cutlery, Robeson Cutlery, Burrell Cutlery

Job Case

Jean Case, president of Case Brothers cutlery, was born on August 10, 1853 in Napoli, New York. That same year the first electric telegraph was used to send a message. Jean was the most colorful of the Case brothers, and legendary for his wrestling abilities. The most famous being his Carabao wrestling match so well documented in cousin Brad's book.( Brad Lockwood, The Case Cutlery Dynasty, Tested XX) Jean's mother, Deborah Milks Case, died in 1868 when Jean was 16, that same year the "type-writer" was patented. His father Job soon remarried; W. R. and Jean left Cattaraugus County in search of adventure. They eventually settled in Spring Green, Nebraska, each buying 160 acres of land. They quickly built a sod "dugout type" house and began planting in anticipation of the coming winter. Game was plentiful and once again the family would be provided for. Soon after, Job arrived with his family, W.R.'s wife, Mary and three-year-old Debbie. Jean married Ida Mae Ainsworth in the spring of 1875. The brothers both built larger wooden homes and Jean had a windmill installed. Elliott, Jean's first son, was born in March of 1876. A three story barn was erected, and in June of that same year General Custer led his last charge. The brothers found the livestock business to be too unpredictable, but a well-trained horse would always fetch a good price. A half-mile racetrack was cut out of the prairie and used to demonstrate their steeds' abilities. John Russell "Russ" Case, W. R.'s first son was born in 1878, but sadly, Addie Mary Fox Case died from complications of childbirth. Having lost enough to the plains, W.R. returned to Napoli.


Job Case

Jean, John, and Andrew left Nebraska in 1885 and returned to Little Valley. A second son, my Grandfather Dean J. was born in 1883 and later was joined by sisters Lina and Addie. Case Brothers cutlery was established in November, 1896 and jobbed cutlery produced by C. Platt and sons. Now in his early 40s Jean was beginning to be plagued by rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and knees, and he would often return to Spring Green, Nebraska where the climate would yield some relief from his constant pain. Case Brothers cutlery was officially incorporated in February of 1900. Jean was elected president, Andrew Vice President, and Jean's son Dean J. was appointed treasurer. During the first full season of selling, Jean and son Dean J. (16) covered the West Coast as their sales area. In 1902 Russ Case left Case Brothers cutlery after an argument over sales commissions and with his father formed W. R. Case and Son cutlery. Jean's sons, Elliott and Dean J, had established Standard Knife Company in 1901, and as jobbers enjoyed brisk sales. Jean's oldest son, Elliott, died on September 8, 1903 at 28 from typhoid fever, apparently contracted from bad water while on-the-road during a very successful sales trip. After only two years of operation, Standard Knife Company was closed. Jean and Ida, brought their daughter-in-law Maud and children Emerson and Teresa to live with them on their farm in Napoli, New York.

Production concerns at Case Brothers cutlery led to an interesting method of tracking the heating and tempering of the knife blades. The hand forged blades were first heat treated and the trays marked with an X, then the blades were tempered and the second X was added. This tracking method "XX"was stamped on the blades as well as "hand forged". Business was good and in 1904 Jean bought one of the first model T. Fords. But by 1907 sales had slowed and there was infighting among the brothers. In 1908 the brothers split, John forming Case Cutlery and Andrew forming Case Manufacturing company in Kaine, Pennsylvania. Jean legally registered the "XX" trademark on September 7th of that year for Case Brothers cutlery.


Case brothers cutlery had been producing their wares in Jobs three story barn on Fair Oaks street in Little Valley. A fire in February of 1912 leveled the building and resulted in a loss of about $70,000. Case Brothers cutlery was moved to Springville, New York, and a three story brick building was erected in March of 1912. This rapid expansion and debts from the fire proved to be a financial albatros. On October 3rd of 1914, Jean, in an effort to procure funds, sold the "XX" trademark to Russ for $1500. November of that year saw the temporary layoff of employees and Case Brothers cutlery was forced into bankrupcy. Jean's father, mentor, and constant supporter died on April 4, 1915. Jean, at 63, was forced to start over again. Family disagreements were forgotten and Jean began selling for his nephew Russ at W.R. Case and Sons cutlery. Jean's amazing talent became evident when during his first two weeks of employment he sold 600 dozen $2 hunting knives. Jean mentored the young salesmen and as he slowed with age, began spending more and more time on the farm with Ida. Dean J's only son, J Elliott was born in September of 1918 and again a wife, Pearl Glover Case, was lost to complications of child birth. Jean and Ida once again opened their home to the fledgling. Dean J. assumed all of Jean's debts from Case Brothers cutlery, having them legally transfered to him in 1920 and diligently satisfied them all.


Job Case

Three cousins, Tint Champlin, Russ Case and Dean J, formed Kinfolks Inc. in November of 1926 to help Russ and Tint's cutlerys keep up with the demand for razors and fixed blade knifes. Jean was now 73, spending time with the grandchildren, working the farm with the aid of Bill Austin, his friend and hired hand, and still enjoyed going on the road. Dean J. would often have batches of seconds or overruns stamped Jean Case Cutlery Company for sale by Jean. Selling on the road, visiting old friends and clients were a much needed balm.


Jean died on August 19, 1935 at the age of 83. His wife Ida and her cousin Stella Beardsley, mother of his daughter Litigen, held hands at his funeral. Ida, ever faithful and tolerant, died on January 7, 1940. This leader of the Case Brothers cutlery, originator of the "XX" trademark,loving father and mentor to all, left an estate of less than $10,000. A small pittance indeed for his efforts and contributions to the Case family and the cutlery industry. It is odd, that this inventive,hard working, gegearious and kind man would be most remembered for a wrestling match of his youth. Jean's legacy to me has been the tenacity to never quit, and to strive to overcome whatever challenges that may arise, because losing is not an option.


Respectfully submitted by Dean Elliott Case [top]

 
John D. Case (1858-1929)

Married: Addie Lois Wyatt

Children: Emma, Margaret, Wyatt, Clifton, Arnold Davis, Mimie and Gertrude

Companies Associated: Cattaraugus Cutlery, C. Platts & Sons, Case Bros, Kane Cutlery, John D. Case & Sons, Case Cutlery, Union Cutlery [top]

Job Case
Andrew Case (1863-1940)

Married: Sara Jane Wyatt

Children: Jaxon, Andrew James, Lela and Allen

Companies Associated: Cattaraugus Cutlery, C. Platts & Sons, Case Bros, W.R. Case & Sons, Case Manufacturing, Union Cutlery, Kinfolks [top]

Job Case
John Brown Francis "Tint" Champlin (1863-1940) married Theresa Case

Nicknamed "Tint" by his uncles for his jaundiced color as a newborn, J.B.F. Champlin Jr. was the first byproduct from the union of the Champlin and Case clans, when J.B.F. Champlin married Theresa Case. Tint would also become the youngest owner of a cutlery, on paper at least at the age of seven, as partner in his father's firm, J.B.F. Champlin & Son. J.B.F. had built an impressive jobbing concern since the Civil War, and Tint would carry it forward while also focusing on the education and development of Little Valley. J.B.F. Champlin & Son would become Cattaraugus Cutlery in 1886, with Tint's uncles and parents all involved in the concern. The Cases would last hardly four years, leaving for the Nebraska then starting their own jobbing company by selling the Platts family's knives and straight razors, then ultimately, creating Case Brothers.

Tint Champlin

From his offices in the Little Valley Opera House, Tint would oversee the growth of a cutlery empire spreading across America, operating two factories and employing hundreds. The opposite of Russ Case, Tint kept his holdings close, and focused on Cattaraugus Cutlery; instead of starting and buying other companies, Tint grew the business in Little Valley. Maybe more importantly, Tint avoided the many family spats that emerged as Russ Case split from Case Brothers and started W.R. Case & Son as a competitor, then seemingly each and every Case relative had a cutlery or jobber of their own. Regarding Case Brothers' "Tested XX" stamp, Tint called it "the Case double-cross" - And it was he who mediated the settlement between W.R. Case & Sons and Case Brothers, with lawsuits plaguing the family from 1910-1915.


But business forced the family back together by the mid-1920s, when Russ Case and Tint Champlin both needed additional capacity for their companies. Russ was deeply invested in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and Tint devoted to Little Valley, so Tint's influence in the family is obvious as the location for Kinfolks Incorporated was chosen. Employing generations and serving as president of the school board for Little Valley for decades, Tint wanted to ensure that the skilled craftsmen of town would remain - Thus, Kinfolks would be based in Little Valley. [top]

John Russell "Russ" Case (1878-1953)

The modern-day embodiment of the Case cutlery clan, Russ Case founded the only remaining company still bearing the famous family surname: W.R. Case & Sons. A man of both competition and compassion - known to wrestle and box as well as give free knives to local kids who behaved - Russ had no children of his own but instead created a legacy of companies and eager collectors. Hanging around Cattaraugus Cutlery's first plant on Mill Street in Little Valley, New York, Russ learned the industry early. Having lost his mother by the age of one, Russ was raised by his sister Debbie Case, who soon married H.N. Platts, of the renowned Platts family that started C. Platts & Sons (and other derivations over time) then moved west, to Boulder, Colorado, to start Western Knives.

Russ Case

At least eight cutlery companies were formed or operated with Russ' involvement - W.R. Case & Son, W.R. Case & Sons, W.R. Case & Sons Ltd. of Canada, Alcas, Case Shears, Case-Smiley Company, Rock City Hone, and of course, Kinfolks. Moreover, Russ was critical in the creation of Case Brothers of Little Valley, serving as a salesman with his uncles - Jean, Andrew and John - building one the most prominent names in the business. And then disputes over pay and ownership forced Russ to leave Case Brothers and head out on his own in 1901. His father, W.R. Case, would be essential in this endeavor: Offering his name for W.R. Case & Son, the timeless image of Job Case for marketing, funding the startup, and providing guidance over the years.


Yet Russ was a self-made man. Having built W.R. Case & Sons - the "s" in Sons coming from the participation of Debbie Case's husband, H.N. Platts, for over a decade - Russ was struggling to meet demand in Bradford, Pennsylvania, at the company's Bank Street factory by the mid-1920s. So Russ would turn to his cousins - Kin - to establish a new cutlery concern in Little Valley, New York, where he'd started.

Reports show that Russ and his cousin Tint Champlin shared in the expenses of land and equipment, for an entity they called Kinfolks Incorporated. This company would aid both Russ and Tint in meeting their respective companies' needs, and add to the long legacy of Case cutlery companies in the family, and Little Valley. Only adding to the mythology of Russ Case are stories that several workers wanting employment at Kinfolks had to box Russ - And many leaving bruised and battered, but hired. [top]

Dean J. Case (1883-1951)

Young Grandpa Dean
Dean J Case was born on September 15, 1883, the second son of Jean and Ida. With his brother Elliott and younger sisters Lina and Addie he led an adventuresome childhood. There was never a lack of excitement with his brother Elliott and cousins Tint Champlin and Russ Case; whether riding their ponies circus style, pulling pranks on the schoolmarm or collecting wood, Quartz, shin bones and horn for knife handles while on the trail traveling between Spring Green, Nebraska and Little Valley, New York, it was an active life.. Dean's family traveled back and forth between Spring Green and Cattaraugus County at first by horse and wagon, then later by train, doing business in both locations and along the trails. Eventually they settled in Cattaraugus County where Dean's father Jean and his uncles John and Andrew formed Case Brothers cutlery in 1886 and officially incorporated in 1900.


Dean went on the road with his father Jean selling cutlery when in his early teens. In 1900 he traveled to the west coast and sold not only all his wares but his wagon and team of ponies to boot. His profits were invested in a perfect diamond for his true love Pearl Glover whom he would eventually marry once her father approved. In 1901 Dean and his brother Elliott formed Standard Knife Company. Elliott at 25 and Dean at 17 chose to give the cutlery business a try on their own. They jobbed cutlery for C. Platts and were quite successful in their sales. By 1902 their cousin Russ also left Case Brothers cutlery and formed W. R. Case and son cutlery. Elliott, returning from a very successful selling season in 1903, contracted typhoid fever from drinking bad water in his travels and died at 28 years of age. Standard Knife Company was dissolved with the assets going to Elliott's wife Maude and their two fatherless children Emerson and Teresa. Dean returned to Case Brothers working alongside the artisans during the winter and selling on the road during the warm summer seasons. He spent as much time as he could with Emerson and little Teresa on the farm. Emerson admired Dean, and this mentorship served him well not only in the cutlery business but as a friend and leader of others. While Emerson worked at Kinfolks, Uncle Dean encouraged his inquisitive nature in the production process, laying the foundation for the inventiveness that would later give the cutlery industry tungsten carbide coated blades, flame hardening and the frozen heat process now an industry standard. After Dean's death, Emerson as president of Robeson cutlery, would acquire ownership of Kinfolks and successfully market a full line of Kinfolks cutlery until his retirement in 1965.


Grandpa DeanDean married Pearl and in 1906 their daughter Wilma was born. By 1908 Dean and both his sisters Lina and Addie were employed by Case Brothers cutlery. That same year Jean had the foresight to acquire the sole ownership of the XX trademark. Unfortunately on February 10, 1912 during a record cold spell reaching 25 degrees below zero a fire broke out and leveled the three story factory behind Job's house. Originally a 3-story barn, it had been refurbished for the production of cutlery. In March of 1912 construction began on a new factory in Springville New York. With a dozen forges and drop hammers, the new cutlery was a major investment. With John's son Clifton as manager and Dean in charge of sales, sisters Lina and Addie were bookkeepers and ran the office. By October of the next year, mounting debt from the fire and new construction forced Jean to sell the XX trademark to his cousin Russ at W. R. Case and Sons cutlery in Bradford Pennsylvania for $1500. It was a last-ditch effort to financially save the business, but Case Brothers cutlery had acquired unsurmountable debts and declared bankruptcy on February 20, 1915. Two months later on April 4, 1915, Job the family patriarch died at 93 years of age.


Jean, Dean and Harold Burrell all went to work selling for Russ at W. R. Case and Sons. With the advent of World War I cutlery was in high demand for the war effort. Dean oversaw and directed the production of over 81,000 jackknives for the troops and was able to make a profit while bidding them for less than $.40 apiece. Pearl, Dean's first love, wife and soul mate, died on October 22, 1918 after giving birth to their first son J Elliott. Wilma, 12 and infant J went to live with Jean and Ida on the farm in the Napoli. Dean was devastated and unconsolable, fervently throwing himself into his work for consolace. He had Jean and his Uncle John's depts legally transferred from Case Brother's cutlery to himself and began satisfying their creditors.


In 1920 Dean met and a year later married his second wife, a widow, Clothilde Harper Shannon Case on July 17, 1921and welcomed her 3 year old daughter Rose Shannon into their family. A daughter Clorice was born on April 15 1923. Both of Dean's cousins, Tint at Cattaraugus cutlery and Russ at W. R. Case were heavily involved in pocketknife production and having difficulties keeping up with orders for straight razors and fixed blade knives. Neither wanted the commitment of building a new facility so they teamed up to form Kinfolks cutlery. On November 4, 1926 Kinfolks was incorporated and a building raised near the location of the former Standard Cutlery. Dean at 43 years of age was chosen to lead Kinfolks. He had often been paid by Russ in stock and used this and product to eventually purchase full ownership of Kinfolks by the late 1930s.


Grandpa DeanFaced with the Great Depression and economic hardships Dean worked grueling hours and traveled extensively to keep the fledgling cutlery afloat. One of the most famous knives of this era was the $1.50 Outers style hunting knife. Kinfolks had started to become a very profitable endeavor by the mid-30s. This respite would not last as Dean was devastated by the loss of his father Jean in 1935 and his daughter Wilma the next year. On January 13, 1941, a fire broke out in the factory and once again the survival of a Case cutlery was endangered. Dean's sister Lina had the foresight to throw all of her bookkeeping records and billing statements in a huge rolltop desk which the workers dragged from the burning plant thus saving the cutlery's records. Oddly enough after the building was refurbished the same workers could not get the desk back upstairs and into the office.


Dean had a unique array of talents. Raised in the cutlery industry, tutored in sales by his father Jean and in manufacturing by his uncle John, he was able to monitor all phases of production and, once on the road, successfully market his wares. He could masterfully operate, adjust, and repair all the machinery required to make a knife. He was a Master Cutler and his outgoing personality allowed him to school others in the operations of knife making. He could tell by the sounds of an operation if a machine was being taxed or blade handled roughly. This tutelage of the artisans would often times prove to his disadvantage. Many an artisan mentored by Dean would be sought by other cutleries. He once commented that he must be running a "cutlery college". Harold Burrell and Emerson Case were two of the more famous graduates of that school. When it came to sales, the lessons he had learned on the road with Jean while still in his teens served him well. When Dean walked into a hardware store or other distributor of Kinfolks knives, the proprietors would smile and welcome this man armed with rolls of samples, a good joke, and a lively discussion of current topics. Dean enjoyed delighting others and basked in their laughter. His sister Addie was one of his most adoring fans. Thanksgivings and other holidays were witness to the famed pie baking contests: Dean with his lattis topped mince meat pie and Addie's pumpkin pie with fluted crust. Feigning indignation upon Addie's win, Dean would vehemently and with great flair declare a disqualification of Addie's victory for the use of whipped cream.

Grandpa Dean

The infamous infighting of the Case family witnessed by Dean since his youth dealt him the constant task of intermediator and arbitrator. In a boulsterious and flamboyant manner he could often turn wrath into laughter. Wrestling was the Case's ultimate judge in irreconcilable differences. Cousin vs. cousin, uncle vs. nephew and often with father vs. son, frustrations were vented. Much to Clothilde's dismay Dean once tore the shirt from J Elliott's back in one such altercation. During the second world war Kinfolks received two Army Navy excellence awards for its production of the M- 3 and M-4 bayonet. J Elliott enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific theater. Dean and Cloty's daughter Clorice graduated from the University of Michigan in February of 1944 and became the first Case to receive a four year degree. Clorice met her soul mate Maury Otis in that year and they soon wed. It was not long before the grandchildren began to appear. J's son Dean Elliott named after Dean and his brother Elliott was born in July of 1944 and was soon joined by Clorice's son Fitz- Edward Otis born in February of 1945. He was eventually graced with seven grandchildren, granting each 60 shares of stock in Kinfolks upon their birth. Dean began preparing his son, J Elliott to be his successor. He taught his son every operation of the cutlery beginning with the forge and finishing in the packing and shipping department. Mastery of each area was required. Dean's outgoing personality, the ability to make people laugh, and the camaraderie in the cutlery, however could not be taught. It was not uncommon for Dean to drive up to the plant with his Packard's trunk loaded with turkeys for Thanksgiving, hams for Christmas, or boxes of candy for Valentine's Day.


Grandpa DeanBeing a Case, Dean, like the others before him, had a love for horses and the thrill of competition that they provided. In his youth he was known to show off for the young ladies by standing astride a team of galloping horses. An accomplished rider he could swing from the saddle going under the horse and back to the saddle while at full gallop to the delight of the spectators and the chagrin of Ida. Dean had several brood mares and Patricia D. was his favorite. One of her folds Pat's Girl raced with prominence as did another fold Rio D, raced by J. Elliott and groomed by his grandson Dean Elliott. Dean's health began to fail and in 1950 he had a severe heart attack requiring him to stay at home in a hospital bed equipped with an oxygen tent. The doctors made him give up his beloved Pall Mall cigarettes and required a less strenuous involvement in the cutlery. With his son J. Elliot managing the cutlery, he spent more time with his beloved Clothilde and his horses. In the spring of 1951, on March 31, while overseeing the winter training of his horses in Ocean City, Maryland he suffered a fatal heart attack. The number of mourners at his funeral was a tribute to his influence, artistry and generous spirit. Never again would such a master of the blade and sales grace this earth.


Respectfully submitted by Dean Elliott Case

Grandpa Dean

Below, please find a biography written by cousin Brad Lockwood.


Grandpa Dean

Of all the Cases, Dean was the one to bridge the gap between the many family feuds and competing concerns. Seemingly touching all of the related businesses, Dean left a mark that is still recalled: Most notably his willingness to teach others the trade, and set aside personal spats for the betterment of all. The son of Jean Case, and cousin to Russ and Tint Champlin, there was no other choice than Dean to lead Kinfolks.


Hardly in his teens, it was Dean Case who took a wagon full of the Platts family's products to the west coast, selling all he could - even the horses and wagon - to buy a diamond for his bride-to-be. Then, as Case Brothers emerged, it was Dean and his older brother Elliott who first set out on their own to start Standard Knife in Little Valley, a thriving concern that only failed because Elliott died suddenly of Typhoid fever. Back to Case Brothers, Dean holding his tongue, awaiting opportunity, later serving as plant manager for his cousin and former-competitor, W.R. Case & Sons. Russ trusted Dean, as did the family - Dean Case was known as a master cutler and fine manager, but more importantly, as a kind, generous father and employer.


In 1925, when Tint and Russ were starting Kinfolks, they offered Dean the chance of a lifetime - a cutlery company to run on his own, as he deemed fit. Though financed by Tint and Russ, every aspect of Kinfolks was overseen by Dean. Full ownership became reality as Dean eventually traded product and work to fully own Kinfolks by the late 1930s.


In 1925, when Tint and Russ were starting Kinfolks, they offered Dean the chance of a lifetime - a cutlery company to run on his own, as he deemed fit. Though financed by Tint and Russ, every aspect of Kinfolks was overseen by Dean. Full ownership became reality as Dean eventually traded product and work to fully own Kinfolks by the late 1930s. [top]

J. Elliott Case (1918-1991)
J Elliott Case

The last president of independent Kinfolks Inc. was J. Elliott Case, only son of Dean J., born on September 19, 1918.  His mother, Pearl Glover Case, died from complications of childbirth on October 22, 1918.  Pearl was a Scientologist relying on her faith rather than the medical profession for healing.  Upon her death, Jean and Ida Case (Dean's parents) took J. and his 13-year-old sister, Wilma, to live with them on the farm in Napoli, New York.  Being premature and with no hospital available J. was kept warm in the oven.

J Elliott Case

Dean J. married Clothilde Harper Shannon, a widow, on July 17, 1921 and welcomed her three-year-old daughter Rose into the fold.  Wilma and J. returned to live with them in Bradford, PA.  J. was a lonely, overactive child who had trouble making friends and paying attention in school.  One of J's favorite pranks as a youth was to talk the younger children into sticking their tongues on metal objects such as flagpoles and sleds during the dead of winter.  Young J. preferred the outdoor lifestyle of the farm and his constant companions were the horses and other farm animals.  His relationship with his stepmother was a constant thunderstorm of resentment and disobedience.  In 1926 Dean J. moved the family to Little Valley and began the arduous process of starting Kinfolks cutlery.  As a result J. repeated the third grade, only exacerbating his dislike of school.  In high school J. excelled in sports, playing both six man football and especially basketball coached by his cousin Emerson Case.  Upon graduation, he briefly attended Bryant and Stratton Business Institute in Buffalo, New York, and played there briefly on a semipro basketball team.


J. returned to Little Valley and worked at Kinfolks for his father.  Dean had taught J. Elliott every operation of the cutlery, beginning with the forge and finishing in the packing and shipping department.  Mastery of each area was required.  Dean's outgoing personality, the ability to make people laugh, and the camaraderie in the cutlery could not be taught.  J. had problems with interpersonal relationships, possessed a fiery temper, and was troubled with a flawed decision-making process.

J Elliott Case

He married Sarah Jane Nolph on September 15, 1941 and began their tumultuous relationship.  Although he had a deferment due to the cutlery, he decided to enlist in the Navy, in search of adventure, leaving his pregnant wife behind.  His father, Dean J, told him that he was the first Case since the war of 1812 to be damn fool enough to volunteer.  J. served in the Pacific theater.  It was a traumatic experience that he rarely discussed.  He was aboard a ship that encountered a typhoon.  The captain was swept overboard, but J. was saved when a shard of the storm torn deck pierced his back keeping him on board.  The vessel floated, unpowered, for two weeks.  The remaining sailor’s only sustenance was raisins and peanuts.  The ships PA system only had one record to play, "A Sentimental Journey", very appropriate for all.  J was a seaman first class and worked setting up communications as the islands of the Marianas were won back.  The communications team was often under sniper fire.  He was forced to eliminate an enemy sniper that dropped on his back from a tree, bringing home his watch and currency.  He was discharged on January 10, 1946 and quickly returned home.


J. and Jane's first child was 18 months old when he returned.  Dean Elliott was named after his grandfather Dean and his deceased uncle Elliott.  A daughter, Lina Jane, named after Dean J.'s sister was born in 1947.  A second daughter Iva Katherine was born the following year.  J. returned to sales, and traveled extensively selling Kinfolks products.  His nervous and narcissistic characteristics were well masked in public.  He preferred to vent his anxieties in the privacy of his home much to the dismay of his family.  His discussions with his father were often loud and animated, more like a shouting match than a conversation.


J was devastated by the untimely death of his father.  He and his cousin Emerson flew to Ocean City, Maryland to drive Clothilde back to Little Valley after Dean's death on April 1, 1951.  Jay was 32 years old when he became president of Kinfolks.  His personality was very different from his father's.  Social interactions were particularly stressful, and such stress caused him to adopt a southern accent.  He had many nervous traits including frantically wagging his foot when his legs were crossed, or bouncing a leg up and down while seated.  J. lacked the drive and determination of his father.  He often returned home for lunch and an afternoon nap.  Within a short time several factors collided in a perfect storm.  In 1955 his volatile temper was misdiagnosed.  He was treated for an overactive thyroid gland with radioactive iodine, but to no avail.  1956 was also a trying year for J. Elliott.  Bedridden with abdominal cramps, he refused medical attention until his appendix burst and peritonitis set in.  Foreign imports were increasing, profit margins were shrinking, and union demands were increasing.  Dean J. thought of the workers as an extended family and was able to quell their demands to join the union.  J. did not have his father's business acumen, and in 1957 the workers voted to join the United Steelworkers union, an affiliate of the Dunkirk, New York CIO.  J. gave them the ultimatum to drop the union or he would close the cutlery.  Upon voting in the union, the workers were greeted with a handwritten note on the door reading," Plant closed gone horse racing".  Kinfolks closed in November of 1957.  Emerson Case, president of Robeson cutlery, and Dean J.'s nephew and prodigy, purchased Kinfolks.  J. was 39 years old when his cousin Emerson helped to facilitate the deal and liquidate Kinfolks assets.  Some might call this the ultimate form of midlife crisis.J Elliott Case


1958 saw J. closing out the business, preparing inventory and equipment for transfer to Robeson, and paying off Kinfolks stockholders. He then turned to his avocation, racing standard bred horses. He raced primarily on tracks in western New York State, venturing occasionally into Canada and the New York City area. He winter trained the horses in Maryland and the Carolinas because of the milder climate. J. was known for taking difficult horses, some considered untrainable, to train and race. One of these was Blue Jeans, a sour mare that would not cross shadows and broke pace from loud noises. The mare would plant her feet in the ground while pacing full speed, refusing to cross the shadow, tumbling, and sending the sulky driver catapulting through the air. J's solution for this was a shadow roll on her nose, blinders for her peripheral vision and packing her ears with cotton dipped in ether. Emerson Case was also a horse fancier and breeder. Guy Oakie, a foal of Emerson's beloved broodmare June Oakie, was raced by J. and earned several wins in the New York State Breeders stake races. Racing preoccupied J. from 1958 until 1963 when he was forced to quit racing from injuries received in a racing accident.

J Elliott Case

J. and Sarah Jane's marriage was wrought with numerous separations and reconciliations. In 1964 J. moved to Jamestown and worked for Crescent Tools. It is ironic that one of his conditions for employment was to join Crescent's labor union. In 1967 J. moved to Connecticut to work for Bridgeport Tool and Die and reconciled once again with Sarah Jane. They were finally divorced in 1972. Sarah Jane died on October 6, 1974 and the last word she spoke was J. He moved to Boynton Beach, Florida in hopes of selling real estate but ended up working at a hardware store until his retirement at age 62 in 1980. He met Taimi Kruse while sitting on the beach in Boynton Beach, Florida. Taimi would later recount the story of walking up to J. and asking him the time as an icebreaker, knowing full well that there was a clock on the wall of the building in back of him. She was his constant companion until his death on September 10, 1991. He died of an abdominal aneurysm, once again shunning medical attention until it was too late. Yet another Case man succumbed to heart problems. His quest for solitude achieved, there were only seven people in attendance at his funeral. His estate was virtually penniless and his funeral was put on his son's Visa card. His lonely, troubled, and misunderstood life finished, it is truly hoped that he found happiness on the other side. [top]

Emerson Case (1901-1975)
Emerson Case

Pictured Above: CW Job, Jean, Elliott, and Baby Emerson. Circa 1902.

Emerson was one of the most inventive and creative men of the Case family of cutlers. His father, Elliott, and his Uncle Dean J. formed Standard Knife Company in 1900, choosing to leave Case Brothers cutlery to try their skills on their own. Acting as jobbers for C. Platts’ & Sons, sales were brisk and growing each year for the energetic brothers. Unfortunately, Elliott, upon his return from a sales trip, fell ill and succumbed on September 8, 1903 to typhoid fever from drinking contaminated water during his travels. Standard Knife Company was dissolved and the receipts were given to Elliott’s wife, Maude, to care for herself and her children. She returned to Jean and Ida’s farm in Napoli with her fatherless children. Dean was devastated by the loss of his older brother, and went back to work for his father Jean, and his uncles at Case Brothers Cutlery. Emerson was his nephew and he took special time with him. Whether playing basketball, tagging along on a sales trip, or learning the intricacies of daily production, Emerson excelled at all. Emerson CaseHe was an especially curious and inventive young man, and was constantly experimenting. Whether in ways to revolutionize Ida’s hen house, or harden blades, he was ever the inventor. Encouraged by Uncle Dean, his talents flourished. While working at Kinfolks, he worked closely with the Kinfolks circle K Chrome blade.


Emerson met and married his first wife, Helen, while working at Kinfolks and they soon had a daughter, Nancy. With his Uncle Dean’s blessings, he accepted the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to run a cutlery on his own as he saw fit. In 1940 Saul Frankel appointed Emerson general manager of Robeson Cutlery in Perry, N.Y. Emerson threw his heart and soul into this endeavor, spending countless hours at the factory and on the road. Helen was very active in social, civic and church activities. They soon grew apart with their respective activities consuming their time and interests in divergent directions and were divorced in 1941. Emerson’s drive, dedication and love of his craft soon put him on a meteoric rise as a major player in the cutlery community.


Emerson Case

He often worked well after closing time, and ate on the run at a local dinner in Perry, N.Y. As fate would intervene, Bessie Sheppard was a waitress at the dinner, and often voiced her concern that Emerson looked tired and needed a break from his work. The loss of a vital billing secretary at Robeson led Emerson to hire Bessie to fill the void. Spending more time together at Robeson, and sharing a common goal brought them even closer together. In time Emerson and Bessie were married and the two soul mates were united for life. Emerson and Bessie had two children. A son Elliott, was his “POPs” constant companion and source of pride. A daughter, Effie, was born two years later.


Emerson’s inventiveness, curiosity, and creativeness flowered at Robeson. With the necessary materials and resources he began to redefine the way cutlery was made. The ShurEdge logo of Robeson was soon joined in 1948 by a “strawberry bone” handle material. Often called the prettiest bone handle material ever made, the process was never successfully duplicated by others. This fresh strawberry color was replaced in 1959 with an even more durable strawberry colored Delrin imitation bone. !948 also saw the introduction of the PocketEze style pocket knife, designed to reduce pocket wear, and PermaLube bronze bearings for folding knives. Emerson CaseIn 1950 Emerson introduced a revolutionary process for hardening stainless steel. Dubbed “Frozen Heat”, this innovative chill quenching process produced a consistent hardness in stainless steel and continues to be the standard practice of the industry to this day. 1955 saw the development of the “FlameEdge” Tungsten Carbide blade. An often misunderstood blade, coated on one side with tungsten carbide, it would remain sharp as the secondary edge of softer steel wore away. Sharpening was only done on the non-coated edge, and is still misunderstood by many today.


Kinfolks closed its doors in Little Valley, N.Y. in November of 1957 and Emerson was instrumental in Robeson purchasing the business and inventory. In honor of his Uncle Dean, three knives with the Kinfolks brand name were introduced with the innovative tungsten carbide coated FlameEdge: the 568TC stag handled hunter, a leather handled 330TC hunter, and a 213TC Pakkawood handled Filet knife. Examples in their original boxes command a premium price in today’s collector market.


Robeson was sold to Cutler Federal Corporation in 1964 with the stipulation that Emerson postpone his retirement for a year to facilitate a smooth transition. Emerson, true to his word, retired in 1965. Freed of the pressures of the cutlery business, he devoted his time to his family and his hobbies. Standard bred horses and billiards replaced board meetings and production woes. Emerson’s favorite horse, June Oakie retired also and became a brood mare. Her fold, Guy Oakie was raced as a 3 year old, in the New York State Breeder’s stakes by his nephew J. Elliott, trotting to a win in the Batavia Downs leg of the series.


Emerson and Elliott, father and son, were an inseparable team. Riding the streets of Perry, you would rarely see one without the other. In 1975, while driving home alone from a friendly afternoon billiards game with his friends, Emerson suffered a fatal heart attack, crashed, and died. No greater loss was ever felt by family, friends or the cutlery industry. Innovator, inventor, father and friend, yet another Case man was lost to heart problems. [top]


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