The Mother Of Multitools

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Photos: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

This monster of a multitool is a part of a Smithsonian collection on loan from the National Museum of American History to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo., for the exhibition “Journeying West: Distinctive Firearms from the Smithsonian.”

It was made around 1880 in Germany by John S. Holler. Why would it be included in a firearm exhibition? One tool is a functional five-shot .22 caliber pistol. Look close.

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A pistol is nestled among the blades

This 9.25 X 3.5-inch wide multitool really covers all the bases. According to the Smithsonian, “this knife could be described as the Mother of all Swiss Army knives. If you count the miniatures inside the tortoise shell handle covers, it has 100 ‘blades.’ They include pocket knife blades of every style imaginable, a serrated blade, two dagger blades, several different types of shears and scissors, an auger, a corkscrew, two saws, a lancet, button hook, cigar cutter, tuning fork, pens and mechanical pencils, mirror, and a straight razor.”

The one modern convenience it doesn’t seem to have is a bottle opener, but the bottle cap as we know it wasn’t invented until 1892, Smithsonian cites.

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Built to be a display model to show off the talent of a company’s artisans, the tool was made in Solingen, Germany around 1880 for J.S. Holler & Co.‘s cutlery store in New York City.

The Smithsonian states “at the time, German cutlery firms were attempting to establish themselves in the American market, which was dominated by the firms of Sheffield, England. The workmanship and complexity of this knife make it one of the finest examples of the cutlers’ art in America.”

—Sean McCoy

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