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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About KA-BAR

The History of KA-BAR Knives 

The owner of the KA-BAR trademark, the Union Cutlery Co. of Olean, New York, began using the name on its knives and in its advertising in 1923 after receiving a testimonial letter from a fur trapper, who used the knife to kill a wounded bear that attacked him after his rifle jammed.

According to company records, the letter was only partially legible, with "ka bar" readable as fragments of the phrase "kill a bear".  In 1923, the company adopted the name KA-BAR from the "bear story" as their trademark. Beginning in 1923, the KA-BAR trademark was used as a ricasso stamp by Union Cutlery Co. on its line of automatic switchblade pocket knives, including the KA-BAR Grizzly, KA-BAR Baby Grizzly, and KA-BAR Model 6110 Lever Release knives.

Erickson, Mark, Antique American Switchblades, Chapter 22: KA-BAR, a trademark of Union
Cutlery Co., Olean, NY, Krause Publications, ISBN 0-87349-753-8 (2004)  

On December 9, 1942, after the start of World War II, KA-BAR submitted a knife to the United States Marine Corps in hopes that it would become general issue to that branch of the military.

Working with the Marine Quartermaster Department the original design was revised and production began of an improved fighting and utility knife for the Marines.

As the War escalated, the USMC KA-BAR knives became so well recognized for their quality and so abundant in number that "Kabar" became the name by which many referred to this knife pattern, regardless of whether the knife was manufactured at the actual KA-BAR facility. The USMC KA-BAR was adopted by not only the Marines, but also the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Underwater Demolition Teams. Years after World War II, many KA-BAR knives were unofficially reactivated in the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom conflicts.

Today, the original USMC Fighting and Utility Knife remains the first choice for many men and women of service who carry it as their personal knife option. It is also a favorite of adventurers, survivalists, outdoor sportsmen and, of course, knife collectors who know that this knife deserves a place in their collection. 

For the complete Story of KA-BAR,  go to -;



1800 - 1899:  The Cutlery Industry Takes Root in America.

c1800:  The U.S. cutlery industry begins in New England when a group of cutlers from England's Sheffield Cutlery Industry ban together.

April 29, 1897:  In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a group of 38 men form a Limited Partnership, known as Tidioute Cutlery Company, to manufacture and sell cutlery. The formation is now widely considered to be the beginnings of KA-BAR Knives, Inc.

1898:  First sales of cutlery marks the beginning of KA-BAR as it is today. 

1900 - 1919:  Union Cutlery Company is Formed. 

1902:  Mr. Wallace R. Brown purchases the assets of the Tidioute Cutlery Company, and applies to the Governor of Pennsylvania to form a corporation, the Union Razor Company (later changed to Union Cutlery Company in 1909), for the purpose of manufacturing and selling cutlery. 

December 1911:  A new Union Cutlery Company is registered in Olean, New York, creating two Union Cutlery Company incorporations: the original in Tidioute, Pennsylvania and the new one in Olean, New York. Once the Olean facility is operating successfully, the Tidioute, Pennsylvania plant is closed down. 

1920 - 1944:  The Birth of KA-BAR as a Brand.  

1920's:  During this period, trademarks like OLCUT, KEENWELL, and KA-BAR are adopted and embellished on the knives.

c 1942:  Soon after the start of World War II, the Union Cutlery Company submits a KA-BAR branded knife to the U.S. Marine Corps for issue to fighting personnel. 

1942:  The Marine Corps accepts a reworked design of the submitted knife and begins using it as their standard issue fighting/utility knife. 

1945 - 1974:  The Making of Our Most Famous Knife - The USMC KA-BAR. 

1952:  Due to the role of the KA-BAR branded USMC knife in the War, the directors of the company decide to change the corporate name to KA-BAR Cutlery, Inc. 

1960's:  KA-BAR is sold by the Brown family and subsequently goes through a series of ownership changes ultimately being sold in 1966 to Cole National Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio.

1975 - Today:   KA-BAR Thrives with Collectible Knives and Improved Distribution. 

May 1996:  The KA-BAR product line and assets are sold to Alcas Corporation of Olean, New York. 

Late 1997:  KA-BAR Knives, Inc. dramatically enhances its national product distribution with the addition of five manufacturing representative firms whose territory spans the entire United States.

1998:  KA-BAR celebrates its 100th year in the knife-making business.

2003:  KA-BAR moves to its current location, 200 Homer Street, Olean, NY. 

April 29, 2018:  KA-BAR celebrates 120 years of business with the introduction of a four-part documentary capturing for the first time the most complete history of the iconic brand.  See the complete Video  - 

For the complete Time Line of KA-BAR,  go to  -