At the top of Chestnut Street there is a long brick building with tall gaping windows. Just standing outside and gazing at it, one can feel the life that has flowed through this building. You can almost see the hustle and bustle of young men and women at the turn of the century who worked there after school to make a couple of bucks and the seasoned artisans and laborers who devoted their lives to an essential, yet beautiful craft. This building has been home to the knife-making industry for 116 years. It is the home of the nationally renowned Queen Cutlery.
Schatt & Morgan Cutlery
While knife-making has existed in Titusville for a long time, Queen was not always the face of the industry. Schatt & Morgan Cutlery was brought to Titusville by the Board of Trade while searching for businesses to fill the employment void left by the decline of oil. Schatt & Morgan was originally from Gowanda, New York and moved its operation to Titusville in the fall of 1902, much to the chagrin of the Gowandan people. “The people of Gowanda are in a measure inconsolable for the loss of their principal industry,” wrote the Titusville Herald on December 10, 1902.
Led by John W. Schatt and Charles B. Morgan, Schatt & Morgan announced that their intention was “the manufacture and sale of cutlery and any articles of commerce made of iron, steel, wood, metal, or other material” (Titusville Herald 10/17/1902). The plant officially opened for production in January 1903, led by president John W. Schatt, vice president Charles B. Morgan, and Secretary Treasurer J.V. Crouch. Titusville businessmen John Fertig and E.O. Emerson rounded out the Board of Directors.
Between 1903 and 1905 output grew tenfold. In addition to cutlery, Schatt & Morgan began manufacturing razors and screen door hinges of cold rolled steel, the first of their kind. At the time, screen door hinges were typically made out of cast iron. Cold rolled steel, they claimed, was non-breakable, durable, and easy to assemble and disassemble (Titusville Herald 12/7/1904). With their amazing success, some employees even used their positions at the company to create their own businesses, such as George Linton and William Pass who founded a cutlery repair shop on the corner of Petroleum and Spruce Streets (TH 12/31/1904).
Since the company was expanding, Schatt & Morgan jumped on the technology train and installed electric machinery in 1906 which allowed them to double their already large workforce of 100 employees. Workers seemed to greatly enjoy their jobs at Schatt & Morgan, even using their off time to form a company baseball team. The baseball team was particularly entertaining for the community as avid player Donny Dalton would somersault from third base to home in front of a roaring crowd every time he hit a homerun (TH 2/26/1971).
In 1911, Charles Morgan bought out John Schatt and became president of the company. Morgan would go on to serve as mayor of Titusville twice (1916-1920, 1924-1928) and sit on the Board of Education. Morgan’s leadership was especially important when the country became involved overseas during World War I and Schatt & Morgan was called upon to manufacture 30,000 clasp knives for the U.S. Navy.
Following the war years, Schatt & Morgan fell on hard times during the Great Depression. After being dormant for two years, the company was bought by a new upstart named Queen City Cutlery.
Queen City Cutlery
Queen Cutlery began its life as Queen City Cutlery in 1919 in a garage behind what is now the Titusville High School. Five Schatt & Morgan employees founded the company: Geza Revitsky, Frank Foresther, E. Clarence Erickson, Harry Matthews, and Jesse Barker. In 1921, the five men consolidated their efforts and moved Queen City Cutlery to its temporary home on the corner of East Spring and Kerr Streets, where the laundromat stands today.
The first Queen City Cutlery advertisement appeared in 1921. It stated that the brand new company was open for business sharpening skates and shears. By May of 1921, the company had grown to the point that another city offered a rent-free building in order to lure the business to its locale. The City of Titusville was determined to keep Queen City Cutlery at home and formed a committee to negotiate with the founders. Much to the delight of the city, a bargain was struck and the business stayed.
By February 1922, Queen was so popular that it was able to hire fifteen men to produce 300 dozen knives per week – a gargantuan order for a small business! While production was high, the winter of 1923 was hard on the entire town of Titusville when the flu took hold of the population. At Queen, more than half the employees came down with the grip and more than 40% of Titusville’s overall workforce was sick (TH 3/8/1923). Thankfully, the town recovered and everything eventually went back t￼o normal.
By the late 1920s, Queen City Cutlery had thirty employees (five of whom were women) and was using Cyclops steel in their knives. Since the company survived the Depression still strong, they knew they needed to take another step to grow. On August 22, 1933, it was announced that Queen City Cutlery bought Schatt & Morgan’s buildings, real estate, and finished and partial stock. The two Titusville cutlery giants were finally becoming one.
For the owners of Queen City Cutlery, the beginning of this new adventure was a roller-coaster. Immediately, former president Charles Morgan was brought on board to be a salesman for Queen and in 1937 Erickson (one of the five original founders) was elected to city council (TH 8/22/1933, 11/3/1937). Two short years later, the business was dealt a heavy blow as co-founder Frank Foresther died of typhoid fever and a heart condition at the age of 56. Despite this setback, the company soldiered on. Unbeknownst to them, World War II was quickly approaching.
At the onset of the war, the U.S. government immediately began sending orders to Queen City Cutlery. The company’s employment peaked at around 100 people. Queen manufactured folding pruning knives with hooked blades for the Army Air Force, pocketknives for the Army and Navy, a leather-handled hunting knife, and a machete for the Navy Seabees for use in the Belgian Congo (TH 10/18/1944). Employees worked ten hour days, six days a week to fill the orders. Clarence Erickson even resigned from city council in 1944 to focus on the enormity of work needed for the war effort.
Shortly after the war, the company changed its name to Queen Cutlery and began using their quintessential steel, “Queen Steel” (TH 12/17/1945). The next year, lifelong knife maker and seller extraordinaire Charles Morgan died at the age of 84. The company remained strong throughout the next few decades under the leadership of Erickson and Matthews.
Unfortunately, the 1960s took a toll on the Queen founders, claiming all but one. Clarence Erickson, the third president of Queen and devoted city councilman and wartime leader died July 20, 1961. Erickson was a Titusville boy since his birth in 1897 and lived at 223 North Petroleum Street. He married Rebecca Sloan in 1921 and they had two daughters, Eleanor and Martha, and nine grandchildren. He was 64.
Harry Matthews, Queen’s Secretary-Treasurer for forty-one years and Chairman of the Board for seven years, died October 10, 1967 at Titusville Hospital. Matthews was born in Sunville on Christmas Day 1897 and moved to Titusville later on. He married Adele Revitsky, daughter of his friend and co-founder Geza Revitksy, on September 23, 1922. The couple had a daughter Marian, two sons, Robert and Gerald, and seven grandchildren. Harry Matthews was 69.
Escaping the 60s by six short weeks was Jesse Barker, dying on February 13, 1970. Though he sold his interest in Queen early on, he used it to fulfill his dream of owning a hardware store, Jesse Barker Hardware. Barker was born in 1895 and married Annie Driver in 1912. Three months before his death, he was involved in a car accident from which it seems he never quite recovered. He was 74.
The longest lived of the founders of Queen Cutlery was Geza Revitsky. Revitsky was born in Stoss, Hungary September 5, 1880. The oldest of the group, Revitsky began his cutlery career in Hungary as a tool and die maker and apprentice at only fourteen years old. After serving in the Hungarian Army, he immigrated to the United States in 1907, later bringing his wife Marika to join him. Revitsky worked at Queen throughout different periods in his life and shared his passion for the industry with his grandchildren. Geza and Marika had three daughters, Adele, Irene, and Evelyn, and one son, Oscar, along with thirteen grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter. Geza Revitsky died on October 17, 1979 at the age of 99.
In 1969, Queen Cutlery was bought by Servotronics as a subsidiary company. It existed as such for forty-three years until the Daniels Family Cutlery Corporation bought Queen in September 2012. On January 10, 2018, it was announced that Queen Cutlery closed to reorganize due to issues with “cash flow.” (TH 1/11/2018).
Despite this sadness, the past teaches us to take heart. The cutlery industry has closed down in Titusville before. It has gone through hard times, dealt with the death of its leaders, continued production with a partial workforce, and even started up in a garage. Schatt & Morgan, Queen City Cutlery, and finally Queen Cutlery have been merging, evolving, and creating for over one hundred years. Though we may be down on our luck right now Titusvillans, with an icon closed and a beloved block burned, I remind you to take heart in your past. Learn from our collective history. Together, we can survive anything.