The Northfield Knife Shop

knife shop dam

A recurring theme of this blog has been that street names have a lot to tell us.

Mill pondSuch is the case with Northfield’s Knife Shop Road.  Here, on the Humiston (or Humaston) Brook mill pond, once stood Litchfield’s largest business.

Northfield_Knife_Factory_Northfield_CT-690x405The Northfield Knife Company was established in 1858, taking advantage of the water power and access to the Naugatuck Railroad.  In the post-Civil War era the company produced over 12,000 knives per year.

000_2242It employed 120 workers, many of whom were highly trained experts from Sheffield, England, then world-renown for its excellence in steel-knife production.  (In fact, when a proposal was made in 1866 to incorporate Northfield as a separate town, one opponent argued before the state legislature that the English cutlers weren’t fit to be citizens of a town!)


Foundation of the the knife shop complex.

The mill dam brought other businesses to Northfield as well, most prominently a feed and fertilizer mill run by Jeremiah Peck.  The growth of these two businesses led to a corresponding growth in Northfield’s population, and factory housing appeared in town.  In 1865, for example, the Northfield Knife Company spent $5,000 to erect five homes for employees on Main Street.

northfieldknifeoct41884ironageadNorthfield knives live on as Northfield UN-X-LD, a division of Great Eastern Cutlery.  Today they are made in Titusville, Pennsylvania.  The mill pond in Northfield remains, however, testimony to the industrial heritage of this area and to the Northfield Knife Company, an internationally-known business whose knives were featured at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Much of the information presented on Northfield’s industrial history is derived from Rachel Carley’s excellent  Litchfield:  The Making of a New England Town.


14 thoughts on “The Northfield Knife Shop

  1. FYI … the old Holley-Williams House in Lakeville had on display a letter from T.R. Thanking the factory there for the knife it had sent to him. Great article – again!

  2. I have an original early Northfield pocket knife, with the letters stamped UN-X-LD stamped on the heal of the knife where it folds with Brass handles

  3. I found a Northfield knife & a old Winchester knife in an old gold
    Prospectors stone cabin, the WC is in bad shape, but the NF is in good shape.
    Have images if interested.

  4. Not sure if you checked out the exhibit at the Salisbury Hist. Soc. – Salisbury Cutlery Handle Factory was located on Factory St., near Mt. Riga Road (site of my recent post).

  5. Does anyone have records for the knife makers who worked in the Northfield shop? I understand that it was a dangerous profession. If there are any records, I’d love to know where to find them. Thanks.

  6. I recently visited and wrote about the falls, this was an interesting read, particularly the part about the English workers and how the company built homes for them. Wish I could find one of those knives! Thank you for the lovely read.

  7. My Great-Grandfather owned and operated the Knife Shop in Northfield. I have his original knife and the paper stamps they used for the knives in mint condition.

    • Hi Daniel,
      I had the opportunity several years back to visit the old Knife Shop run by your Great Grandfather. I have a couple of knives made by him. I met with Bill(?) Gill and we went through the shop, it was just about collapsed at that time. I managed to get a few blades and a great visit. Please get in touch with me if you would. Ben

      • Hi Ben,
        I believe the shop you visited was actually my Great Grandfather’s shop on Main Street. He was one of the cutlers at the original factory near the pond and produced knives out of the main street shop after acquiring the stock from the original company when it went out of business. Bill Gill is my cousin.

      • Hi Ben,
        I believe the shop you visited was actually my Great Grandfather’s shop on Main Street. He was one of the cutlers at the original factory near the pond and produced knives out of the main street shop after he acquired the stock when the company went out of business. Bill Gill that you met with is my cousin.

  8. I have a pocket knife given to me by my grandmother. My grandfather carried it since he was a young boy so it’s quite worn. Unable to read the stamping very much but it does look like it begins with a un c– the handle has one side inlaid with a star and seven leaves on a stalk ! can anyone
    add information to this . She said it was made at northfield knife shop . I remember there was a small knife shop next to the place I went to school in the late forties. That was in northfield CT.

  9. My father Bill Gill has passed away, please do not go on the private property of the current location of the knife shop on main st.

    Thank you

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