Found deep in the financial records of George Wostenholm you find a mysterious note. “Stenton, Mr., Trip to and from America 500.00 Pounds”
Picking up an old I*XL transports you to another time. To when knives produced for the common man were of a quality you could be proud of. When knives were used to tame the wilds.
You can see and feel the effort George Wostenholm’s craftsmen put into every single knife they produced. The I*XL is an icon and collecting them commands a sizeable investment and knowledge.
I*XL Folding Knife
The English knife making community was the envy of the world when George Wostenholm introduced the I*XL. The blades of the I*XL forged a bond between the English and the US.
The knife was produced with the US knife buyer in mind. This was the first English knife produced for the United States.
The trip to America reported in George Westenholm’s financial records tell the beginning of the story. Stenton went to introduce the I*XL in the first ever sales trip to America.
It’s hard to say if George knew it at the time, but in the near future the American sales of the I*XL would account for over 85% of all knives sold.
These sales were followed by many trips to the US by both George Wostenholm and his successor, J.C. Wang.
The I*XL popularity led to the opening of a new Sheffield knife factory dubbed Washington Works.
J.C. Wang’s Impact On The I*XL
J.C. Wang had a colorful personality that surely added to the popularity of the I*XL. Numerous letters have survived that show a man who passionately backed the quality of the knife he knew was the best on the market.
In one letter penned following the U.S Continental Exposition Wang wrote that all one blade knives are called boys knives. Because Texas boys are quick to fight and knives are their weapons of choice. Wang went on to decree that all one blade knives should be fit with sheepfoot or razor blades instead of the popular spear because the spear blade is such an effective stabbing style.
Another letter, dated November 26, 1890, Wang wrote the following to his US agent.
If you have met with anything explaining the extraordinary excitement among the Indians in the North West just now, I shall be glad to have it. Our papers only say the Indians are dancing the “Ghost Dance” & expecting the advent of the Messiah, but that is all…
Another letter for his agent in December of 1890 he wrote
Thanks for your kind letters of the 10th and 12th. I am sorry the small matter of the paper is giving you so much trouble. There was a nice account in the Times of the “Ghost Dancers” & I see this morning the Indian Messiah has been found, ‘a harmless fanatic’ he is called. Poor Sitting Bull has apparently been murdered. What brutes the Yankees are in their Indian policy.
When the timeframe of these letters are superimposed over the history of the I*XL you see that these folders were being spread over the US during one of it’s most interesting times in history.
The English I*XL played a direct role in the taming of the West and the stories these old folders could tell is our history.
Collecting I*XL Knives
When old I*XL knives were produced, each one was made by hand by skilled craftsmen. There are many versions of the I*XL and to this day a comprehensive list has not been made.
When these knives were made a salesman could receive an order for a large quantity of knives, all special ordered with multiple different specifications in the same order.
Because of this practice we may never know every I*XL configuration produced. There are literally thousands of patterns out there.
You can find examples ranging from penknives, one blade boys knives, bowies, and multi blade sports knives.
George Wostenholm was a master marketer and he produced one of the most successful lines of knives ever produced. They backed that popularity up with exceptional quality. I’ve been chasing down I*XL’s for decades and still search for models such as the Congress, Senator, and even one etched as Anglo-Saxon. I would love to see your I*XL, drop me a line and show your off.
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