Heritage: Delta County Knives

Delta County, Michigan is the knife manufacturing center of the Midwest. We have more knife creators than we can mention on this page. Some of the names you probably recognize are Webster Marble, Bark River Knives, and Rapid River Knifeworks because of their reputation for manufacturing the world’s best knives.  

With all the outdoor adventure and excitement there is to experience in the Upper Peninsula, visitors have found you need a trusted blade to help forge a path, start a fire, or protect from danger. There are so many practical uses for a great knife and you will find some of the best right here in Delta County!

The roots of this industry can be  traced to when Webster Marble began his career as a timber cruiser and surveyor. He arrived in Gladstone, Michigan around the same time as the town was founded in 1887. Five years later, he developed his first invention – a folding pocket axe. Because of his experience in the forest as a surveyor, he realized the dangers of an axe with an open blade to the woodsmen who carried them.

With the invention of the safety axe, the Marble Axe Company was born.

Scores of inventions followed, including an impressive line of knives, compasses, waterproof match boxes (Match Safe) and his famous “Game Getter” rifle with a folding handle. Many of Marble’s inventions are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

In many ways Webster Marble sparked the knife manufacturing industry in the Upper Peninsula years ago, and attracted thousands of visitors to the area’s natural beauty.His inventions supplied adventure seekers with the tools they needed, and inspired today’s manufacturers to make world class knives. 

Marble’s Inventing the Outdoors Museum

Located at 1001 North Lincoln Road in Escanaba, MI 49829  

This exhibit takes visitors on a journey beginning in the late 19th century, when a rapidly urbanizing America began to seek wild and beautiful places for recreation and rejuvenation.

The exhibit explores Marble’s genius for innovation, experimenting and improving upon tools that didn’t meet his needs as an outdoorsman, and for marketing his creations across the globe. Marble would eventually own more than 60 patents for outdoor products. Explorers from Robert Perry and Teddy Roosevelt to Charles Lindbergh depended on the absolute reliability of Marble’s products. By the time Henry Ford rolled his first Model T off the assembly line, Marble was a household name and his company was outfitting millions of outdoor enthusiasts with Michigan-made products. His designs for products set the standard for the 20th century in the outdoor goods market and are still influential today. By the way, a Model T touring vehicle is part of this exhibit.

Some of the other special artifacts that are here include the Marble’s safety folding axes, many models of unique hunting knives, automatic fish gaffs, and the famous Game Getter gun.

After traveling from the History Museum in Lansing to the Negaunee Iron Museum, we are excited that Webster Marble’s Inventing the Outdoors is back where it all began in Delta County.

Bark River Knives – Manufactured in Delta County, Michigan

“Bark River Knives is a family-owned business whose goal is to produce the finest  semi-production cutting tools available on the market. 

At Bark River the emphasis is on maximum performance of our products. We use a blend of traditional and contemporary designs and styles. Manufacturing methods are also a blend of modern and traditional to gain needed tolerances while maintaining the subtle features that have produced exemplary cutting implements for centuries.”

 

Rapid River Knifeworks – Manufactured in Delta County, Michigan

“Established in the spring of 2002, Rapid River Knifeworks seems pre-destined to become the next great producer of high quality custom knives. With a lot of skill, a few pieces of machinery and some really big dreams, we developed a line of custom knives that combine beauty with strength and practical usability. We were confident that sportsmen and women would respond favorably to a line of high quality hunting and fishing knives that you can really use in the field without sacrificing the great looks of a knife you’d be proud to display on your mantle.”

Marble’s Knives – Manufactured in Delta County, Michigan

“Webster L. Marble came to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the early 1890’s and quickly gained the reputation of  being one of the region’s finest “timer cruisers”. His uncanny ability to look at a specific forest acreage and predict the board foot yield made him very popular with the many logging companies in the area. Marble loved the outdoors and the vast Upper Peninsula offered innumerable opportunities to hunt, fish, camp and explore the environment. An inventor by nature, he was continually seeking to create useful tools and equipment that would be both practical and durable in the outdoors.”

Amazing knives and manufacturing excellence are part of the DNA of Delta County. We hope you enjoyed learning more about our heritage and encourage you to visit soon to see this beautiful community as well as our locally made products for yourself. 

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