A Knife for WHAT ?!
When you walk into a kitchen supply store, sometimes the sheer variety of tools can make your head spin. Each one designed for a particular food or purpose – a spoon to scoop out your avocado, a different one for your kiwi, a special knife to carve your pineapple and yet another one to hull your strawberries. For me, the best (worst?) example was a peanut butter spoon I once saw in New York City! Really, a spoon just for peanut butter. Need I say more?
What I learned this past weekend in Schwyz is that this concept is not new. With the 125 year anniversary of Victorinox, a special exhibit just began at the Forum of Swiss History in the town of Schwyz, about an hour away from Zürich by public transportation. The Swiss Army Knife as an icon. Not only can you trace the evolution of the famous red pocket knife with the immediately recognizable emblem, but you can also trace the history of the knife as a tool, even including some examples from the Roman era. The collection on display is truly impressive. When I asked the lady at the museum how many knives they had in total, her eyes grew large and she laughed, as if I had asked her how many people in the world have a Swiss Army Knife?!
To each his own – and by that I mean his own knife: a knife for the architect, the mohel (to perform Jewish circumcisions), the flint-striker, the juggler, the kosher butcher, the hunter and the horseman – his knife the one with the hoof scraper, but of course. A knife for every sized hand too – the smallest measuring just 2mm, and the largest having 314 blades, giving it a place in the 1992 Guinness Book of World Records. Overall, the exhibit spanned time periods, countries, professions and cultures too.
Above left is the drude’s (or elves’) knife, dating back to 1867 from Germany. These were placed in the doorway of a stable or in a baby’s crib to ward off evil drudes, the crosses and moons having protective magic effects. The other 2 knives, above right, make quite a contrast together. First a pocket knife for today, with its glitzy exterior and USB key! Next to it, an ostrich-feather trimmer from the 19th century. What would women’s hats be without ostrich feathers, the ultimate fashion accessory. Too delicate to pluck with any other knife, they had their own.
It was a truly fascinating exhibit, and I highly recommend it. Up next here on the blog – more on the town of Schwyz and what to do after this cultural lesson in cutlery. Here’s a hint – grab your Swiss Army Knife and head to a nearby mountain for a hike and a picnic! Stay tuned…
Special exhibit on the Swiss Army Knife – A Tool that’s Become an Icon
May 16 – October 18, 2009
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
Forum of Swiss History
In celebration of the Jubilee, Victorinox has also organized a North American Road Tour, spreading the word from place to place: “125 Years, Your Companion for Life.” They were just in San Francisco, and are heading next for Vail, followed by Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Montreal and ending in NYC late August. Take a look at the website for more information: