# 4990 / John Brown & Co.His Majesty/King William IV/Columbia Works Sheffield Folding Dirk C1837

John Brown & Co.His Majesty/King William IV/Columbia Works Sheffield Folding Dirk

Folding Knife Dirk by John Brown & Co.

Approximately 22,3 cm – 8.78 inches fully extended. 4-inch spearpoint blade marked on ricasso [WcrownR] / JOHN / BROWN & CO. / COLUMBIA WORKS.

Elegant shell scales fastened by five silver pins. Nickel-silver bolsters. A handsome folding dirk by well-known Sheffield England maker.

Condition: Fine, minor wear overall. A few marks to blade, maker's mark with some rubbing. Edge with original sharp. Nice opening, snaps close. No damage to note to the delicate slabs


John Brown (c.1793-1876) was listed in Pigot’s Directory of Sheffield (1837) as a merchant and razor manufacturer to His Majesty, Columbia Works [later Columbia Place], Suffolk Road.  This integrated three-storied factory had been built in about 1835 by Brown, probably to exploit the American demand.  It covered 2,000 square yards and contained workshops, cellars, showrooms, counting houses, and cast steel furnaces.  Brown’s partners were George Wharton and George Curr.  Brown had been born in Scotland.  According to Leader (1876)1, Brown had introduced Scotch drapery in Sheffield (John Brown, draper, Norfolk Street, was listed in 1825).  In 1841, John Brown (who should not be confused with the steel maker Sir John Brown) was a ‘merchant’, living in Glossop Road.   He marketed table cutlery and spring knives, including folding dirks marked ‘John Brown & Co’.  Brown applied to the Company of Cutlers to register ‘Columbia’ and ‘Royal’ as trade marks.   The application was rejected, though he was allowed to use a picture of St George and dragon, with the words ‘NULLI SECUNDUS VIRTUTI’.  Brown expanded into cutlers’ shops and warehouses in Union Street and Eyre Street; and advertised for forty or fifty spring-knife hands (Sheffield Independent, 30 January, 23 April 1836).  

But he became bankrupt in 1839 and the factory and its stock (besides the contents of Brown’s house) were auctioned.  Upwards of £4,000 stock and tools were offered for sale, including a wide range of finished and unfinished cutlery (table, dagger, and spring knives, and razors), hafts and scales, and 90 cutlers’ vices (Sheffield Independent, 26 January 1839).  Columbia Works was later occupied by Tillotson.   Brown left Sheffield with his family and settled in Derby, where he became first a tea dealer and then a manager in a life insurance office.  By 1869 – when his wife, Jane, died – Brown had returned to Sheffield.  He died in Broomhall Place, aged 87, on 24 August 1876, and was buried in Ecclesall. .


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