In 1847, Charles Clarenbach (circa 1820-1877) and Leopold Herder (circa 1825-1874), both German immigrants, founded Clarenbach & Herder (634 Arch Street) in Philadelphia, PA as cutlers (manufacturers or sellers of cutlery), grinders, and polishers of razors, patented shears, scissors, knives, and surgical instruments. Clarenbach & Herder were also known for their premium cast steel ice skates made to order. They were advertised as having “durability and [a] neatness [that] defy competition.” Clarenbach & Herder ice skates were used by the Skaters Club of Philadelphia, the first skating club in North America founded in 1849. Not surprisingly, cutler Charles Herder was a member of the Skaters Club, listed on the club’s “active roll” in 1895.
The Herder Cutlery Collection in the Archives Center documents several Herder family cutlery businesses in Philadelphia. Under patriarch Leopold, the Herder’s established other cutlery stores throughout Philadelphia. Son Herman (1856-1920) founded L. Herder & Son in 1871 and son Charles (1851-1926) founded Herder Fine Cutlery in 1879. In 1965, Herder’s Cutlery was renamed Herder’s Cutlery, Inc. While the Herder’s were primarily retailers and importers of fine cutlery, several family members also invented and patented shears (US 479,090) in 1892, knife blades (US 689,880) in 1901, and a safety razor (US 778,540) in 1904.
Clarenbach & Herder’s reputation for excellent workmanship earned them numerous accolades. The Metropolitan Mechanics Institute, the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Art, the Franklin Institute of Pennsylvania, and the American Institute of the City of New York all bestowed awards upon the company. These organizations encouraged and promoted education, especially technical subjects and the mechanic arts, sponsored exhibitions, and recognized scientific advancement and invention with medals and awards. At the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, L. Herder & Son, won a Centennial award for cutlery. Their “malleable tailors’ shears and scissors in Group XV, Class 281 for builders’ hardware, edge-tools, and cutler, were reported by the judges as “commended as good, serviceable goods.” The judges noted that cutlery manufacture in America had seen great improvements both in taste and quality of goods, especially the quality of the steel.
The Centennial International Exhibition, which ran from May 10, 1876 to November 10, 1876, was organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. Herder’s exhibit consisted of an American eagle, made entirely of steel knives and forks, as seen in the image here. Herder’s selection of an eagle, a symbol of strength for the new nation, comprised of steel, a strong metal, was well chosen and executed. After the Centennial, the eagle was moved to the L. Herder & Son store window at 606 Arch Street, where it no doubt attracted visitors and lured countless shoppers inside.
For more information about cutlery, visit the Archives Center and explore these collections: J. Wiss & Sons Company Records, Joseph Miller Collection, Edgecraft Corporation Records, and the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Series: Cutlery.
- American Institute of the City of New York Records, The New-York Historical Society.
- Transactions of the American Institute, City of New York, for the years 1859-1860. Albany: C. Van Benthuysen Printer, 1860, page 64.
- The American Cutler, January 1920, page 25.
- The Coal Regions of Pennsylvania, General Geological, Historical and Statistical reviews of the Anthracite Coal Districts, 1848.
- Getting Work, Philadelphia 1840-1950
- Good Hardware, March 1922, page 14.
- Lewis, John F. Skating and Philadelphia Skating Club, 1895.
- McElroy’s Philadelphia City Directory, 1860, page 29.
- Pankiewicz, Phillip R. American Scissors and Shears, An Antique and Vintage Collectors Guide, Boca Raton, Florida: Universal-Publishers, 2013.
- Report of the 26th Exhibition of the American Manufacturers held in the City of Philadelphia by the Franklin Institute, October 15, 1858 to November 13, 1858.
- United States Centennial Commission. International exhibition, 1876. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880, page 38.