Hi there! I’m so glad you stopped in today. I’m going to be talking about vintage scissors and why you might want to think about starting a collection. All of the examples you’ll see here today are in my personal collection–kind of an accidental one that has taken on a life of its own, LOL. All of these can typically be purchased for 50¢ to $1.00 at garage and estate sales and are worth between $5-20.00 apiece.
I learned that historians believe the earliest form of scissors were developed in prehistory and would have looked something like the sheep shearers of today.
Cross bladed scissors as we know them, date to the first century, but did not become commonly used until the Middle Ages. Through the 1700’s rivets were used to connect the blades (as seen above), after that, screws.
Each pair of scissors would have been hand-forged from iron until about 1840, after which molded steel began to replace the more costly process of making them one pair at a time.
Scissors come in all shapes and sizes and and are designed for a variety of different purposes, to cut hair, paper, fabric, or thread, for example, seamstresses, gardeners, and for use by children as seen here.
Because of its large iron ore deposits, Sheffield (England) was a mecca, as early as 1160, for cutlery producers. By the mid-1800’s, over 100 cutlery manufacturers operated out of Sheffield, filling an eager market with high quality knives and scissors.
1. The first pair of scissors (top) is marked “I. Mars Sheffield” along with a crown and the letters “V” and “R,” which would stand for Victoria Regina, or Queen Victoria. Items marked with a royal seal were akin to a stamp-of-approval from the monarch, letting buyers know how well-constructed and valuable such an item was.
The shape is certainly very interesting and the blades are held together with rivets, which usually indicates an older pair. Another clue: after 1877, Queen Victoria added an “I” to her mark because she had become Imperatrix, or Empress, of India. Any thoughts on their intended use?
2. In 1930, the Richartz brothers from Solingen (GER) opened what would be the largest cutlery factory in Sheffield. Before WWII, they anglicized their name to “Richards,” which is the name you see on the middle pair of scissors (above). Imperial, an American company, bought them out in the mid-70’s, but the plant closed in the mid-80’s.
3. The hair cutting scissors (bottom pair in photo above), signed “Carl Monhouse, Sheffield, England” and “Reblade, Alleghany, NY,” are a good example of what I call a hybrid scissor. Monkhouse immigrated to the US from Germany and established a cutlery company in Alleghany. There, he used blades imported from both Sheffield and Solingen, Germany (see below).
Solingen (Germany), perhaps Sheffield’s most serious rival, also had a fine reputation as a source of quality cutlery. In fact, it was known in Northern Europe as the “City of the Blades,” and it remains the cutlery center of Germany to this day.
Interestingly, I read on Wikipedia, that a band of sword-smiths from the city broke their “guild oaths” in the late 1600’s and took their skills and technology with them to England(!).
These embroidery scissors, marked “WASA Solingen” are delicately decorated and lovely to cut with. WASA refers to a particular company in Solingen that has been manufacturing scissors for at least a century.
This dainty, 2 1/2″ pair, likely used for embroidery, is one of my favorites. I love it’s curves and how over-sized it’s finger holes appear. They are marked “Germany” on one side and “Western Shear Co.” on the other. Yet another pair of hybrid scissors.
Here are a pair of folding scissor signed “Westfield Shear Co, Germany”–another hybrid with blades from Germany and distribution by an American company.
American Scissor Manufacturing
Unsurprisingly, immigrants from both Sheffield (UK) and Solingen (GER) were primarily responsible for establishing the first cutlery businesses in America. Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley, Newark (NJ) and Fremont (OH) became centers for scissor production in this country.
Griffon Cutlery Works
The sole mark on this pair of small scissors–“Griffon”–led me to the year 1888, when Albert Silberstein founded Griffon Cutlery Works in NYC, first on Broadway, then 5th Avenue. At 151 West Street, you can still see the remains of a sign painted on the brick exterior advertising “Griffon Shears & Scissors.”
Notably, Griffon maintained an outlet in Solingen (GER), leading me to think that perhaps Albert emigrated from Germany to the US with a strong cutlery background.
German brothers John and Henri Clauss founded the Clauss Shear Company in Fremont (CT) in 1877 (initially as the Elyria Shear Works). After a devastating fire, followed by a rebuild, they changed the name to Clauss Shear Company and became the world’s largest scissor manufacturer. They are still in business.
I learned while preparing this post that scissors measuring 8″ or more should technically be referred to as “shears.” Therefore, this blue handled pair are not scissors, they are shears.
The mark on this pair of scissors reads “Schnefel Bros. Germany” on one side and “La Cross, Newark, NJ” on the other. Finally, a name we all know and love(!).
Founded in 1903, Schenfel Bros. initially produced surgical instruments, almost exclusively. The Schnefel’s had extensive experience manufacturing and dealing in cutlery since they had been raised in the industry in their home city of Solingen (GER).
In 1931, they filed a trademark for the La Cross brand and began producing nail and cuticle implements that today, one can easily find in almost any drug store in America. Del Laboratories owns the division, which it integrated into its Sally Hansen line in 1994.
In my scissor-buying experience, I have come across many unmarked examples, like this pair of 10″shears. As with my tiny 2.5″ embroidery scissors (above), I love the proportions of this pair, with its blades that seem to go on forever.
A beginning scissor collector could focus on a brand, a city of manufacture, or even a color(!).
Or focus on function or style.
Or, follow my example and buy every pair you come across that’s priced under a dollar 🙂
They can be displayed on a wall (gallery style) or framed, as you see them here. [Note: last year I had great luck selling these framed versions from my Christmas craft fair booth.]
One of the perks of collecting scissors is that they are a small collectible, so they don’t threaten to overtake your home, as perhaps ironstone or artwork could. [Not that that’s happening at my house (cough, cough).]
Little pieces of history, scissors have a story to tell about industry, culture, style, and even genealogy, if you are fortunate enough to have inherited a pair or two from an ancestor.
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