The Geneva Shears Company

October 28th, 2022

By John Marks, Curator

In September Historic Geneva presented “On the Cutting Edge: An Evening at the Cracker Factory.”  I talked about the history of the building at 35 Lehigh Street, better known as the old Geneva Cutlery or Geneva Forge plant.

1893 Drawing Of North Geneva

1893 birds eye view of Geneva.

In 1893, there was nothing north of the Lehigh Valley Railroad tracks, as seen in the bird’s eye view to the left. Houses on Sherrill and North Genesee Streets were still sparse and new. Older factories occupied all the lakefront and downtown land.  New businesses looked to the north for land and access to the railroad.

I assumed that Geneva Cutlery had built the factory, but I was wrong. A Geneva Daily Gazette article on January 26, 1900 announced the formation of the Geneva Shears Company. “Plans for the proposed shears factory at Geneva, which have been under way for some time, were perfected yesterday, steps will be taken immediately for the incorporation and formal formation of the company.”

On May 2, 1900, the Geneva Daily Times reported that “the factory of the Geneva Shears Co. will be in active operation by the middle of June….At present the company is unable to accept any orders for shears, owing to the fact that it has no samples. So the first business will be to make up a lot of sample shears and scissors.” Businesses relied on salesmen to visit prospective stores and let buyers try the goods – a far cry from online shopping.

image of a pair of scissors made by Geneva Shears Company

Scissors made by Geneva Shears Company

Searching for images related to Geneva Shears Company proves that not everything can be found on the Internet. While collectors are aware of the company, surviving scissors are rare.

A May 16, 1901 Geneva Daily Times article admitted that “fear had been felt that the new industry would not prove as successful as was predicted.” However, the company had just signed a three-year contract with a large New York City hardware wholesaler, to buy the entire output of the factory. At the time, there were 35 skilled workers. The anticipation was that the work force would double each year of the contract, to 70, then 140 employees.

Aside from minor notices in the newspaper, the next big news came on December 11, 1901. According to the Geneva Daily Times, “It was announced today that the factory of the Geneva Shears Co. may be converted into a general cutlery works….New York capitalists probably will take the bulk of the proposed increased stock.” There was no mention of the large contract that had been signed in May.

1903 Footprint of a of factory

This 1903 footprint of Geneva Cutlery is probably the original size of the shears factory.

On January 13, 1902 the stockholders of the Geneva Shears Company voted to dissolve the corporation. The first meeting of the Geneva Cutlery Company directors was held a few weeks later.

Eventually the company expanded to cover the whole block from Avenue E to Gates Avenue. I will write more about Geneva Cutlery, and other businesses that occupied the building, next time.

One response to “The Geneva Shears Company”

  1. Charlie Bauder says:

    John, Great research Goes to prove that there is always something new to learn about Geneva’s history.

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