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Our History

KA-BAR history dates back to the end of the 19th Century and includes more than 100 years of quality knife making. Below are some of our historical highlights.

Pick a Year:

1800 - 1899: The Cutlery Industry Takes Root in America


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


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

1900 - 1919: Union Cutlery Company is Formed


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


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.


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


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.


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 - 2004: 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.


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


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

2005 - Today: Under New Leadership, KA-BAR Sets Its Sites on a Bright Future


KA-BAR names co-Presidents, John F. Stitt – President, Sales & Marketing and Kimberly L. Johnson – President, Administration and Finance


KA-BAR acquires Ek Commando Knife Company


KA-BAR begins production of KA-BAR/Ek branded knives

The KA-BAR Legacy

The history of KA-BAR Knives and the production of the iconic KA-BAR USMC Fighting/Utility knife.

Great Moments in KA-BAR History, Vol. 1

Brothers Wallace and Robert Brown set out to replace their chintzy razors and end up setting the foundation for a legendary knife company. The brothers create the Tidioute Cutlery Company in Tidioute, PA in 1898, building the foundation for what grew into KA-BAR Knives.