Two for One – Glass Knives

The Date – 1920.  The man behind the invention – John Didio owner of both Didio Bros. Cut Glass Co. and the Buffalo Knife Co. Inc.  The invention – Glass Knives.

Why glass?

After all if you drop a glass knife it’s shards to you.  To understand the history you have to know a bit about knives.  Back in 1920 kitchen knives were being made from carbon steel – that meant one thing – they would rust especially if you were cutting acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus.

Antique knives

It must have been an “a ha” moment when John Didio thought of basically combining his two businesses. Definitely a Two for One inspiration. Do you suppose it was because his wife complained so much about her kitchen knives or maybe he didn’t like the metallic taste the knives left on his fruit.

A Bit of Glass Knife History

I have a friend who collects glass knives but more importantly I know a member of John Didio’s family.  It’s always good to go to the source.  Although classed as part of Depression glass E.S. Pease, Didio’s partner in the knife company applied for the original patent in1920 with Didio as a witness. Those early knives were plain, clear and marked BK Co. 1920 in raised letters.  Find one at a yard sale, especially with a box, and you have found a rare treasure.  Try to be calm as you dismissively say “this old thing – I can’t imagine it’s worth more than a couple of bucks.” Do not let out a scream of joy until are back in your car and at least a block away.

Three glass knives

If you’re a steak lover by this point you’re thinking “ A glass knife; what a stupid idea!”  But you weren’t the intended buyer.  The lady of the house was and what the lady wanted was elegance, glamour.  She wanted something that was functional yet showed her friends how modern she was.  Another Two for One for the  glass knife was that not only was it perfect for cutting angel food cake at a tea it was also the perfect gift at a wedding shower.

In addition to being impervious to citrus the knives were also said to slide effortlessly through meringues, cakes and Jell-O.  Yes Jell-O!  Don’t you always cut your Jell-O with a knife?  I don’t but you may have different culinary habits.

By 1938 the knives were being sold by pitchmen at the World’s Fair under the name DUR-X and other companies took notice.  You can find knives by Vitex, Steelite and Cryst-o-lite.   The knives were so popular that at one point Didio wore out his molds and came up with a new handle design.

Vitex glass knife and box

What Became of Glass Knives

Surprisingly to me is that the glass knife fad lasted for so long.  The knives were produced through the country’s Art Deco mood, The Great Depression, WWII, and the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation; all the way into the 60s.  By the 60s the knives, now smaller, made of clear glass with 3 daisies on the handle came in a box marked Didio Bros.

It has been frustrating the last few years not to have money to spend on frivolous items which brings up the final reason I like the glass knives.  They‘re still available and unless you’re really clumsy can still be used. If you’re interested in having a piece of history a glass knife is a great item to start collecting.  The knives are available in the standard clear glass but also amber, blue, green, pink and white.  Several years ago you’d need to pay $50 for a knife and box (boxes are more valuable than the knives) but today the price has dropped considerably.  The ones I have seen have been around $10. I’m sure the prices will go up one day but since I don’t collect to make money that’s not important to me.  I enjoy being able to hold a beautiful piece of American history in my hand.

Tomatoes and glass knife

Shortcake cut with glass knife

Tomatoes sliced with glass knifeI have a glass knife.  I made a point to purchase it even though it has chips on the cutting edge.  Originally I figured I’d just keep it as an oddity but one day I decided to try it out.  Chips and all it cut just fine.  Does this mean I now have to issue you an invitation to a tea?  I think not.

Join the conversation – leave your thoughts on the usefulness of glass knives below.  To stay up-to-date with FoodThoughts join the email list on the right.  You’ll receive a notice when new posts are made.

Advertisements

2 Comments on “Two for One – Glass Knives”

  1. jennifer says:

    Great article! Do you have any idea what an early depression knife marked BK co. Is worth. I have been looking for prices on line and this article is one of the only things that pops up! I recently came across one while I was cleaning out aFamily members basement. Thank you in advance for any information!

    • I have taken too long to answer this but still don’t have a good response for you. I keep missing my glass knife expert at recent meetings. If you have the box it will be worth more. Like so many collector items the price of glass knives has dropped recently. I’ll respond again once I’ve talked to my expert friend.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s