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The History of Switchblades – From Glory Days to Controversy

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Knife enthusiasts, collectors and adventurers around the world are nowadays proud owners of automatic knives. These babies come in all sorts of shapes, forms and materials, and there are thousands of different models on the market.

But, have you ever wondered how switchblades came to be?

These powerful gadgets have a very fascinating and controversial history. In fact, they have existed since the 18th century, and since their origins, they have not only taken various forms but also been blacklisted as vicious and deadly weapons.

The first automatic blades were made by European smiths in the mid-18th century and they were used as folding spike bayonets on flintlock and coach guns. By the mid-19th century, the first actual examples of switchblade knives were created. And just like today, they varied in models and quality. While some were classic knives with wooden handles and iron blades, others were classier and more expensive, featuring silver alloy bolsters and stag handles.

During the 19thcentury, switchblade production became more widespread. French, Spanish and American craftsmen all started competing with their own unique adornments and new practical usages. Aside from being used as tools and weapons, French admiral d’Estaing used specially made knives on his ship that could also be used as food utensils.

After the American Civil War, the production of switchblades became industrialized. This resulted in a wide variety of different models and a lower cost, which made these knives even more popular.

By the 1950s, automatic knives were everywhere. Manufacturers around the world were selling their models, mostly advertising them as utilitarian pocketknives perfect for farmers, hunters and ranchers who needed a compact, quick and versatile outdoor tool.

While in America Schrade was the leading manufacturer of these practical automatic knives, soldiers coming from Europe brought an attractive Italian switchblade called stiletto. American buyers were dazzled by this Italian invention precisely because it wasn't as practical as the US models. Instead of having a sharp cutting blade, a stiletto was designed as an attack weapon – pointed and menacing.

But then in 1950, everything changed. In the popular American daily newspaper Women's Home Companion, an article came out titled The Toy That Kills. The problem with rising crime levels was getting out of control and switchblades were named as the main culprit. The author of the article Jack Harrison Pollack described the automatic knives as dangerous like revolvers and said that they were designed for violence and used by gang members.

It wasn't long until others jumped on the bandwagon and joined the propaganda against switchblades. During the 1950s, many other publications released articles condemning switchblade knives as evil, deadly weapons and calling for new laws that would prohibit their use.

By the end of the century, automatic knives were banned in most of the US and several places in Europe. However, in 2009, an amendment to the Federal Switchblade Act was made that excluded spring-assisted knives from the ban.

So, if you're considering buying a new folding knife for your outdoor adventures, make sure to check out if possessing one is legal in your state, and visit our store to find the perfect model for you.

 

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