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Joseph Rodgers & Sons was a famous firm of cutlers and silversmiths, which reached the height of its success in the late 19th Century.
Founded in Sheffield, England, the origins of the firm lie with Joseph Rodgers himself, who first began producing fine silverware in 1682. Although the history of the company's origins is a little unclear, by 1730 Joseph's sons - Maurice and Joseph - had taken over from their father and ran the firm.
At first, the company solely specialised in producing pocket knives. These knives were met with huge popularity, and in 1800 Rodgers' product range broadened into razors, table cutlery and scissors. From the beginning, Rodgers focused on producing the highest quality wares; each work was branded with the Rodgers Star and Cross symbol as a guarantee of its superb quality.
So great was the immediate success of Rodgers' fine silverware, that in 1821 the firm was appointed official cutlers to the British Royal Family. In fact, the company was appointed cutlers to five successive British sovereigns: George IV, William IV, Queen Victoria, Edward II and George V.
Shortly after Rodgers' first Royal appointment, the firm opened their first showrooms to celebrate their most impressive wares. Inspired by showrooms' success, Rodgers soon began ambitious manufacturing projects, which showcased their high quality craftsmanship. One of these creations, the Norfolk Knife, was made for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace, London. The work took two years to complete, and features blades with etchings of Queen Victoria and Chatsworth House. The Norfolk Knife remains on display in The Cutlers Hall, in the city centre of Sheffield. People came from all over the world to marvel at superb examples of Rodgers' craftsmanship.
In 1871 the company became known as Joseph Rodgers & Sons, and continued to expand until it became the largest cutlery factory in the north of England. Rodgers & Sons continued to produce silverware for the British nobility and monarchy, in addition to catering for growing export markets such as Asia and Africa. North America became the firm's largest export market. Indeed, it is claimed that Buffalo Bill, the famous 19th Century American cowboy, used a Rodgers hunting knife in his well-known duel with the Native American, Sitting Bull.
Yet despite Royal recognition and a blossoming overseas trade, the Rodgers & Sons could not escape the decline of Sheffield's cutlery industry. The mid to late 20th Century was a difficult time for the firm, which saw a number of changes of ownership occur in quick succession. In 1986, The Egginton Group bought the rights to the Joseph Rodgers & Sons name and trademarks and today, Joseph Rodgers & Sons knives remain in production under the ownership of the Eggington Group. It is, however, Rodgers & Sons' importance as a producer of exceptional silver cutlery that remains responsible for the firm's continued international fame.