Pocketknife on 2006 stamps Switzerland
Traditional Swiss productsVictorinox pocket tools are known all over the world. And to remain a market leader, their Schwyz-based manufacturer manages to come up with ingenious new products every year. The company was founded in 1884 and has had an extremely turbulent history. Two Swiss Post special stamps depict the first Victorinox pocketknife and one of its latest models.
Cutler Karl ElsenerIn the 19th century, Switzerland was still one of the poorest countries in Europe, with many jobless Swiss being forced to emigrate. Cutler Karl Elsener knew that many saddler businesses worked for the Swiss Army making harnesses for its horses, so in 1890, to create jobs, he and other cutlers came up with the idea of making a Soldier's Knife as standard issue for the Swiss Army. A good 25 cutlers agreed to participate only to give up when a factory in Solingen (Germany) submitted a much cheaper tender for the knife.
Karl Elsener, the originator of the idea, was the only one to persevere and lost all he had in the process. In this dire situation, his relatives helped him out, enabling him to obtain deferral of payment and fending off bankruptcy. Later, following the success of his "Officer's Knife", he voluntarily paid his creditors not just interest but also compound interest on his debts. Given the situation at the time, it was a daring undertaking for a craftsman to build up an industrial operation and one that required almost superhuman determination.
A model for officersThe Soldier's Knife was very robust but also fairly heavy, so Karl Elsener developed a lighter - and above all, more elegant - model for officers with many more possible uses. He called this new pocketknife, with only two springs for six tools, an "officer's and sports knife" and had it legally registered on 12 June 1897. Unlike the Soldier's Knife, the "Officer's Knife" was not part of official military equipment. However, this in no way hampered its success. Officers bought their own knives from specialized dealers, and this versatile pocket tool soon became extremely popular. More and more people living abroad expressed an interest in this product. After the Second World War, US Army stores sold the Swiss Army Knife in large quantities to its officers and soldiers.
Europe's biggest knife factoryWith its staff of 920, Victorinox is one of the biggest employers in Canton Schwyz and the biggest knife factory in Europe. Every day, the Ibach factory turns out approximately 25,000 "Swiss Army Knives" (100 different models) and 30,000 other pocket tools (200 different models), not to mention 45,000 household, kitchen and professional knives. 90 percent of this production is sold abroad in over 100 countries. Victorinox has been supplying the Soldier's Knife to the Swiss Army for over a century.
In 1909, after the death of his mother, entrepreneur Karl Elsener chose her first name - Victoria - as his trademark. With the advent of the newly invented material stainless steel in Ibach in 1921, the word "inox" (the international term for stainless steel) was added on the Victoria brand stainless-steel knives, and the combination of these two words produced the current trademark and corporate name of Victorinox.
Postage stamps in detailIssue: Switzerland, 7 September 2006
Designers: Nick and Peter Spalinger, Bremgarten
Printing: offset by Austrian State Printing Office, Vienna
Stamp sizes: 33 x 28 mm, sheet: 194 x 140 mm (4 rows of 5 stamps)
More information Postage StampsPostage Stamps 2006
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