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What is a Barlow Knife?

The term “Barlow” has two meanings when it comes to pocketknives.  First, it is a style of pocket knife.  Second, there was the Barlow company in the USA that made and imported pocket knives, key tags, money clips, and other quality gift products, and put your logo on them.  If you are looking for either of these two “Barlow” destinations, you have come to the right place.
1.  What is a “Barlow” style pocket knife?
A barlow style knife has one or two blades, a huge metal bolster, and a comfortable tear-drop shaped handle. The blade or blades are attached at the small end of the handle.  Even though the first barlow knife was made in Sheffield England in the 1600’s, it was made by several American shops soon after, and has become just as American as “apple pie”.  George Washington was known to have a barlow knife. Mark Twain referred to a “real Barlow” in his Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in 1876.  Barlows have long been gifts, treasured by young American boys.  At least one song was written about the barlow knife.Mark Twain wrote about the barlow knife in Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer…

“Mary gave him a bran-new “Barlow” knife worth twelve and a half cents; and the convulsion of delight that swept his system shook him to his foundations. True, the knife would not cut anything, but it was a “sure-enough” Barlow, and there was inconceivable grandeur in that – though where the Western boys ever got the idea that such a weapon could possibly be counterfeited to its injury, is an imposing mystery and will always remain so, perhaps.”
– The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

“All the stores was along one street. They had white domestic awnings in front, and the country-people hitched their horses to the awning-posts. There was empty dry-goods boxes under the awnings, and loafers roosting on them all day long, whittling them with their Barlow knives; and chawing tobacco, and gaping and yawning and stretching – a mighty ornery lot.”
– Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The history of the barlow knife has been difficult to trace.  At least four American Barlow families have claimed that they invented the barlow knife.  According to Laurence A. Johnson (1) the Barlow knife was probably first manufactured by Obadiah Barlow at Sheffield, England, around 1670. (2)  Obadiah’s grandson, John Barlow, joined the business around 1745 and it was he who was chiefly responsible for developing the exportation of the Barlow knives to America. Another source says the barlow knife was also made by Luke Furnace of Stannington, which in the eighteenth century was a small village on the outskirts of Sheffield. Luke Furnace’s name occurs in the Sheffield directories from 1774 and 1787, but not in the 1797 directory, so he was presumably dead by then. He put the mark “1760” on his knives. The original Barlow, after whom the knives are named, was working in Sheffield at the same time as Luke Furnace.An 1823 directory of Sheffield, England cutlers (knife makers) shows Samuel Barlow on Neepsend (Street). In the Sheffield suburb of Stannington, Barlow Bros. is listed as a cutler. (3)

The barlow knife was designed to be tough, and to be affordable.  To keep the price low, the blade was high carbon steel, and the handle was bone, and not much time was spent in polishing it. To make it tough, the bolster was big and thick.  The original  barlows had only one blade.  Now they have two,  and more care is taken in finishing and polishing them.

John Russell may have been the first American to manufacture Barlow knives. The John Russell Company, now the Russell Harrington Cutlery Company of Southbridge, Massachusetts, first mass produced Barlow knives at their Greenfield Massachusetts, factory in 1875. They were called the Russell Barlow knife and instead of the word BARLOW on the bolster, they were stamped with Russell’s mark, an R with an arrow through it. Today these Russell Barlows are valuable antiques.  (2)

Now several companies make barlow knives, and they are sold on this web page:  www.barlow-knives.com.  Case, Bear & Son, Boker, Robeson, and Rough Rider all make the barlow style knife currently.  The Russell barlow knives were discontinued around 2009.

2.  What is the Barlow Company?

The Barlow Company, which made pocketknives, among other quality gift ideas, started about 1930 in the United States.  In 2003, Barlow stopped giving their products a Lifetime Warranty.  About 2005, Barlow was bought by promotional product giant, Norwood.  Norwood has kept the Barlow line in tact, but is gradually using their “Norwood” logo in place of the “Barlow” logo.  Barlow-Norwood sells only through promotional products distributors, like Advantage-Advertising, LLC.  Their knives are available on  www.logo-knives.com , owned by Advantage-Advertising, LLC.  Ironically, Barlow-Norwood does not currently produce a barlow style knife, but they have in the past, and could possibly resume in the future.  Norwood has many fine business gifts and promotional corporate gifts available with yourlogo imprinted on them.  Included are metal key tags, money clips,  pocketknives, multi-tools, tape measures, picture frames, and clocks.  Some of these items are available on www.advantage-advertising.com

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References:

(1)Laurence A. Johnson article, “The Barlow Knife”,  The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc. ,June 1959

(2)The History of the John Russell Cutlery Company, 1833-1936, published 1976, Bete Press

(3)The Heritage of English Knives, David Hayden-Wright, 2008)

Our parent company, Advantage Advertising LLC, is a member of Distributor Central product information service.

Advantage-Advertising,LLC began in 1991, specializing in putting your logo on promotional products, including Barlow knives and tools.  Other products are pens, calendars, coffee mugs, caps, jackets, and yard signs.  Due to our success on the web, Barlow Knives have become our foremost products.  This page is dedicated to helping those customers who want to use Barlow Knives as gifts and collectables.  The business Barlow-Knives was started in 2009 by our second generation.  This knife business has been in the family for two generations, and we enjoy providing you with the newest models of the original barlow style pocketknife.

      POLICIES:
PRODUCTION TIME:  If in stock, we usually ship within 2 days.  Otherwise, we order from the warehouse, which takes 5 business days longer, if the warehouse has the knife.
ORDER STATUS:  Email us.
UPS and USPS TRACKING:  Available.
ACCURACY GUARANTEED.  If we make a mistake, we’ll fix it.
RESPONSE:  Your emails are answered within 24 hours.
CHANGES:  Prices and descriptions subject to change without notice.
Much of our business is repeat business.  We’re sure you will come back again!

REFUNDS:  Return it at your expense within 14 days of shipment, and we will refund the price of the order, minus a 20% restocking fee.

PRIVACY:  We respect your privacy, and follow this policy.   We do not acquire any more information about consumers than is required by law or is otherwise necessary to provide a high level of service efficiently and securely. Your information may be given to our suppliers and business partners as it is necessary to process transactions and provide our services. If you have questions about this privacy policy, please send an e-mail to sales@barlow-knives.com 

Convenient Payment Terms:
Visa, MasterCard, and Discover (Through PayPal)    We ship to the billing address only.
Check or Money Order


Orders from outside the United States:
International orders must be prepaid in USD by PayPal. We ship only to PayPal registered addresses.  Restricted areas: Nigeria, Kenya, Lagos, and any areas which are not set up to receive USPS Global Priority mail.

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      FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Q1: I have a barlow knife that says “Colonial Prov USA” on the main blade tang. Can you tell me anything about it?

A: Yes. It was made by the Colonial Knife Co. in Providence, RI. Currently, Colonial does not make a barlow style knife. They discontinued that style about 2005.

Q2: I have a barlow pocket knife that my dad gave me. How much is it worth?

A: We specialize in selling new barlow knives. Sorry, we can’t help you to appraise the value of an old knife. Any gun & knife show usually has experts that can help you. Check out our recommendedknife shows. Another option is to purchase Advertising Cutlery, by Richard D. White. It’s very helpful in appraising pocket knives, especially with a logo printed on them. It is not limited to barlows. All pocket knives are covered.

Q3: I have a broken spring on my barlow knife. Does it have a lifetime warranty?

A: Warranties are offered by some knife manufacturers. First you need to determine who made your barlow knife. Many companies have made barlow style knives. The manufacturer usually puts their name (or an abbreviation of their name) on the main blade tang. That’s the base of the blade. Next, you need to contact that manufacturer. We cannot honor any knife warranty if you didn’t buy the knife from us.

Q4: I have a barlow knife that needs some repairs. Where do I send it?

A: Repairs are offered by some knife manufacturers. First you need to determine who made your barlow knife. Many companies have made barlow style knives. The manufacturer usually puts their name (or an abbreviation of their name) on the main blade tang. That’s the base of the blade. Next, you need to contact that manufacturer. We do not repair knives, and don’t know of any knife repair shops.

Everything looks good. Thank you for the quick service.

S. Roberts