Pocket Knives

by Jim and Melanie

My father had a collection of pocket knives. He gave some of them to our son when he was a young boy. Our boy is now in his 30s and has a son of his own. We have been going through some of the things he left at our house when he moved out. One of those things was his knife collection. I picked out three that were from my Dad and scanned them to show their detail.

The old car in the top knife matches the car Dad had when he was a young man. I even have the receipt he kept when he bought the car. The bottom knife has a steam locomotive pulling several train cars. Our son was a big fan of trains when he was little.

The middle knife turned out to have an interesting story associated with it. The reverse side is different from the front.

I went with Dad several times to a town 20 miles away with loads of hogs to sell at their stockyard. The town was on a rail line that ran into Chicago connecting it with the Union Stock Yards. Animals were easily transported there from our local yard.

I don’t remember Dad ever going to the Union Stock Yards as I grew up. Maybe he got the knife when he visited before I was born. I know he and his brother went to Chicago in 1933 to visit the Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Century of Progress Exposition. In August 1933, he and my mother were married. This trip with his brother was likely before the wedding.

It is possible, though I am not certain, that he and his brother visited the stock yards where they had sent a lot of animals over the years with their father. He might have acquired the knife there as a souvenir. I cannot confirm it. But, it seems possible.

I showed the knife to Melanie. She was intrigued by the name J. M. Doud and started doing some web searching. Genealogy sources identified him a James M. Doud (1864-1926), son of Royal Doud and Mary Sheldon. The Douds became wealthy in the meat packing business. James and five siblings were born in New York state. J. M. was a businessman active in livestock sales first in Iowa and later in Chicago. His name and company appear in ads and legal proceedings. The knife above was probably an item used to promote his sales at the Union Stock Yards.

Opening the blades on the knife revealed the manufacturer as Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. The history of that brand goes back to 1855 in Chicago. They were a leading wholesaler of hardware in the U.S. by the late 1800s. In 1932, the company introduced a new line of hand tools under the name True Value. The hardware business in the U.S. evolved. By 1962, the company sold the name True Value in order to focus on the real estate business.

Royal and Mary Doud had another son named John Sheldon Doud (1870-1951). John met and married Elvira Carlson in Boone, Iowa in 1894. One of their children was Marie Geneva Doud, also known as Mamie. She grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado, and San Antonio, Texas. She married a young man named Dwight David Eisenhower in Denver in 1916 at the age of 19. They moved often due to military assignments. He later became the 34th President of the United States and she First Lady from 1953 to 1961.

It is interesting how a simple object can be a clue to some facts and history. It is a blessing to have access to so much information literally at our fingertips. It needed a curious mind and some careful digging to bring it to light.


16 thoughts on “Pocket Knives

  1. BJ Good

    A collection with a history documentation provided me with several moments of delightful reading. Thanks for your joint efforts in writing this piece. Cool piece of memorabilia to pass on in your family.

      1. jim fetig

        Bet he’d like that. Similar situation for my grandfather’s crosscut saw. I’d love to tell him what I have learned about it. Ain’t Google amazing!

  2. shoreacres

    I really enjoyed this. It’s amazing how many memories such a small object can hold. It’s also interesting how quickly the name ‘Doud’ resonated for me. In grade school, I wore “I Like Ike” campaign buttons, and knew that we always should use the full name: Mamie Doud Eisenhower. I paid almost no real attention to politics back then, but one thing I knew was that everyone seemed to respect the Eisenhowers, even if they seemed to disagree with them about this or that.

    1. Jim R Post author

      I’m glad the post was meaningful to you. It was such a surprise to uncover the details. My folks were probably Ike fans, especially Dad. I knew nothing about politics then. When JFK ran, I got more interested. A kid at school asked me if the Pope was going to run the government if JFK was elected. I thought it was a stupid question.


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