So, who did cut the cheese? A joke, yes, but also quite literally I am asking this question: who cut the cheese? This question has come to mind several times over the last little bit ever since I started investigating and learning more about a Danish ancestor of mine named Peter Jorgen Jacobson, also known as PJ.
PJ Jacobson was born near Frederikshavn, Denmark in 1846 and immigrated to the United States along with his family in 1862. After some time out west (to learn more about his life and journey, check out my YouTube video), he eventually settled in Safford, Arizona. Being an astute businessman of many trades, PJ opened a general store named The Old Reliable Store in 1887. This business far outpaced all expectations, so in 1895, he constructed a new and larger, two-story building to accommodate a sizable quantity of goods. This building became a focal point of downtown Safford and provided necessary groceries and equipment to people.
PJ sold many groceries in his store including meats and cheese. In operating a large store, he must have needed industrial grade and quality cutlery and equipment to slice and sort out individually sized purchases. In other words, PJ would have received meats and cheeses in bulk quantities, and in order to sell them, he needed to have knives and other equipment to cut them into smaller pieces and quantities that your everyday person would buy. Fortunately, one of these knives has survived to today: a butcher’s knife that is sometimes referred to as the “Jacobson knife”.
In reality, not much is known about this knife. Family legend holds that it was used for cutting the cheese in the store, but where it came from, when it was made, and how it got to the store are all questions that have yet to be answered. This butcher’s knife is about 17 inches in total length with a 11.5 inch slightly curved-back blade. The handle is made of wood and is held by three large rivets. About two-thirds of the way toward the handle on the blade is a punched logo, and this logo is where this story gets interesting. It reads: W C CO. VILLAGE BLACKSMITH WATERTOWN, WIS.
A quick google search yields some extensive research done by the Watertown Historical Society. This article, or list of dates and events, sheds light on this mystery. From it, we learn that W C CO stands for Washington Cutlery Company, which later became Village Blacksmith. A further search shows that most knives from this company around this time have the same logo punch as is seen on the “Jacobson knife”. WC Co Village Blacksmith operated from 1906 up until the 1960’s when they were bought out. They specialized in handmade butcher knives and tools ranging from farm knives to cleavers. It seems to me that they really started to ramp production around 1908. What is also more interesting is that the Watertown Historical Society has some neat pictures, of which is a man working on assembling knives, and these knives appear very similar to the “Jacobson knife”.
With this newfound information, we can infer a few things while some small questions still remain unanswered! First, we can assume that PJ acquired this knife sometime anywhere from 1908 to 1928, a year before he passed away. If I had to guess though, I would put the date probably in the 1910’s. Second, an industrial knife of this grade would have made light work of a big block of cheese, which further supports the family legend of it being used to cut cheese. Yet, how this knife traveled from Wisconsin to Safford, Arizona is unknown, but perhaps this question doesn’t matter as much.
What does matter is that the knife has survived today and is in great shape! So great of shape, that it is still used to cut cheese today! Family artifacts can provide so much insight into people and ways of life. What are some family artifacts or heirlooms you possess? Let us know!