Updated Dec.7, 2003
Bayonet Points #14 - December, 2003
Some Notes on Kiffe
The name of Kiffe is well known in connection with knives and bayonets. Unfortunately, most of what is "known" is in error. The most common misconception is that Kiffe was a Japanese company that produced items on contract to the US military during the Korean War (or the Vietnam War in some cases). This is of course based on the common marking of KIFFE over JAPAN found on a variety of edged weapons.
I am a long way from finding the complete story of the Kiffe Company, but can present a few bits and pieces that might lead in the right direction for further study. Those who have any information to add are encouraged to do so, and I will pass it along for the edification of all.
Many of the photographs used here came from various Internet sources, including some auction sites. Therefore many of them are not as clear as I would like, but do serve to illustrate the item.
The Kiffe Company (renamed several times over the years) was founded in 1875 by Herman H Kiffe and survived nearly a century. The earliest direct reference that I have found is an advertisement on the bottom of a baseball scorecard from the middle 1880s. This scorecard was recently sold on eBay, and the photo is from that sale. It gives the name as Herman H Kiffe Sporting Goods located at 318 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. Other sources verify the name and address.
Baseball scorecard from the 1880's? with a Herman H. Kiffe advertisement
An article in the 1887 COURT News as reported in the Brooklyn Union newspaper and found on the Internet states:
"Mrs. Lizetto KIFFE, wife of Herman H. KIFFE, the well-known manufacturer of sporting goods, hired Mary SCHUMACHER as a domestic a couple of weeks ago on trial. Mary proved valuable and was given steady employment. As soon as she got her trunk to the house she got "sassy," and Mrs. KIFFE had to order her to leave. She wouldn't go, and was led to the door. She had Mrs. KIFFE arrested for assault, but Justice WALSH dismissed the case to-day."
Outing Magazine for May 1896 contained an article on the 2nd Annual Sportsmen's Exposition at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Included in the article was the following paragraph:
"Anglers hovered about artistic displays by William Mills & Sons, United States Net & Twine Company, Thos. J. Conroy, H. H. Kiffe, and Schoverling, Daly & Gales. As usual, the Union Metallic Cartridge Company had a striking exhibit, which distinction was also shared by the exhibit of A. G. Spalding and Bros; the Overman Wheel Company, and the Morgan Marshall xhibit of choice cigars, etc."
The same magazine in their May 1897 edition contained a similar article on the 3rd Annual Sportsmen's Exposition:
"Prominent exhibitors of fire-arms, fishing-tackle and sporting goods included the Union Metallic Cartridge Co., J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co., Parker Bros., the Baker Gun and Forging Co., Savage Repeating Arms Co., Winchester Repeating Arms Co., Remington Arms Co., Coltís Patent Fire Arms Co., Marlin Fire Arms Co., Von Lengerke & Detwold, Schoverling, Daly & Gales, Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works, H. H. Kiffe Co., Horton Manufacturing Co., G. W. Cole, Cleveland Target Co., Laflin & Rand Powder Co., Hazard Powder Co., E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., Overman Wheel Co., Victor Athletic Goods, A. G. Spalding & Bros., T. W. Hickson, Derby, Abercrombie & Co., Hutchins Manufacturing Co., Bridgeport Gun Implement Co., W. E. Baxter, Martin Automatic Reel Co., Tatham & Bros., Le Roy Shot and Lead Works."
Some of the other information found also indicates, as do the above articles, that Kiffe was a manufacturer as well as a retailer on a fairly large scale, and that he sold a wide variety of sporting goods.
By 1900 Kiffe (now known as the H. H. Kiffe Company) had moved to 523 Broadway, New York City and was publishing a large catalog of Hunting and Fishing supplies. The photo shown here is from another eBay sale, and illustrates the front of one of these catalogs. Other photos in the auction showed that the catalog had a large number of pages, and offered a very wide variety of sporting goods with a strong emphasis on fishing supplies. Several references found on the Internet indicate that the Kiffe name is known to fishing enthusiasts for having sold a large line of fishing rods, reels, and lures.
Front of H.H. Kiffe Catalogs from circa 1900-1910
Kiffe Fishing Reel, probably from the early 1900's
I have found only spotted references to Kiffe in the period from the 1920s through the 1950s. Apparently the store stayed in business, but seems to have cut back on most manufacturing and became primarily a retail outlet of sporting goods.
Somewhere about 1960 the company, now simply called Kiffe and still at the Broadway address, began to get heavily involved in the military and surplus field. Probably the best known of their products at that time is the M4 bayonet. The first ads that I have seen for this bayonet are circa 1963, about the time that the DCM released large numbers of M1 carbines. They sold for about $4.99 and Kiffe apparently sold a lot of them as they are very common today. Obviously made in Japan for Kiffe, there is still some question as to who actually made them. One guess is Howa, the Japanese company that made carbines for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and export.
Kiffe M4 Bayonet (Top) with two other similar bayonets
The Kiffe bayonet in the photo is a little unusual as the true edge continues further toward the guard than normal, resulting in a short ricasso and almost removing part of the Kiffe mark. The other two show the more typical long ricasso that most Kiffe M4s have.
The other two bayonets appear to have been made by the same company as the Kiffe, and share a lot of similarities. The center one, marked S.A.B. / RIDGEFIELD, N.J. was a factory error. Some time back I showed this one to Val Forgett (founder of Service Armament Co) and he told me that it was supposed to read S.A.C. but the manufacturer mismarked them. These are fairly uncommon, and Mr. Forgett said that most of them went to a foreign government with only a small number being sold commercially.
The bottom one is marked SPORTSWORLD / JAPAN and is also fairly scarce. I believe that Sportsworld was a fairly large sporting goods house in the Chicago area back in the 60s and 70s but my memory may easily be faulty on this point. However, the bayonet is almost certainly a commercial item.
Kiffe expanded in the 1960s into a fairly large "surplus" operation as well as sporting goods. The company had a sales representative who covered most of central America and the Caribbean area, selling surplus equipment to third world countries in that area. Some was actually surplus, and some was purpose made for Kiffe for these sales.
Kiffe M5 Bayonet
The Kiffe M5 is considerably less common than the M4, and better made. It is possible that this model was made for the military trade rather than commercial sales. Whether it was made by the same company that made the M4 is still unknown to me.
An item which I do not have a photo of is a British (Sheffield) marked machete also marked KIFFE. The few that I have seen are in British military scabbards, possibly also surplus and purchased by Kiffe for use with these machetes, and probably also intended for the military market rather than commercial sales. (Editors note, We have one but can't find it right now!)
Kiffe M1917 bolo
Another well known and common Kiffe item is a fairly rough copy of the M1917 bolo knife. The Kiffe version has black plastic grips, and is normally found in a regular issue World War One scabbard. It is said that Kiffe had a large quantity of scabbards that were almost impossible to sell, and had the knives made up so they would have something to cause customers to buy the scabbards.
Kiffe "Kabar" knife
Kiffe also sold a copy of the Navy Mark 2 / USMC "Kabar", also made in Japan. The blade fuller is very short and narrow, and the scabbard leather is light and flimsy. I have been told that these were sold during the 1960s and some were privately carried in Vietnam. They are certainly not up to the quality of the "real thing".
Kiffe "Force Recon" Knife
Another knife made in Japan for Kiffe is also said to have seen Vietnam service, and is sometimes called the Marine Force Recon as it is a fair copy of that very collectible SOG knife. Almost certainly a commercial copy, it may have been sold in "surplus" stores in the 1960s, but I doubt that it was actually officially carried by Force Recon personnel.
Kiffe Hunting Knife
I have only seen two of these, both in USN Mark 1 scabbards. I wonder if this is another case of Kiffe having a lot of scabbards and looking for a product to put in them. The knife is a well made 5 inch blade knife, and would certainly have been attractive to sportsmen. I imagine this was another sporting goods product from Kiffe, possibly in the late 1950s.
Kiffe "Duck Hunters" Coat
This camouflage coat has a Kiffe label and was apparently made in Japan. Although marked Duck Hunter, it may have also be intended for the military market as well as commercial sales through their sporting goods department.
Kiffe "Camp Cookware" Outfit
This item may actually be from the 1950s rather than the 60s or 70s and was probably intended for the Boy Scout or similar market. I had one like this back in the early 1950s when I was in the Scouts, but have no memory of what the markings were. The Kiffe mark shows the 1875 date of their beginning in business and the Broadway NY address.
Kiffe Lensatic Compass
Another item sold through Kiffe sporting goods and marked with their name is a standard style Lensatic compass, probably again aimed at Scouts and campers.
I am sure there are many other Kiffe marked items. These are just a sampling from ones I have personally seen or found on Internet auctions in the last couple of months.
Kiffe seems to have moved in recent years but may still exist. A current web site for a type of carrying bag (Manhattan Portage) states that there are counterfeits and lists one of them as:
MANHATTAN PASSAGE - MADE IN KOREA
NYC connection Len Scheer, Kiffe USA,10e 70th St.
Manufactured by Leisure Prod. Inc. 5-18-17 Ogawahigashi Cho. Kodaira-city, Tokyo Japan 187-0031
Beckwith USN Mark 1 and USN Mark 2 Scabbards
A few months ago I did a couple of columns on Beckwith/Victory Plastics bayonet scabbards. Since then I have had some questions on the scabbards that they made for the Navy Mark 1 and Mark 2 knives.
These scabbards are similar in general design to the Army M8 knife scabbard. The metal throat is not as high, and both the plastic body and suspension webbing is Navy gray. The bodies are also wider than the M8. They differ from each other mainly in the length of the body, and the fact that the flanges on the throat of the Mark 1 are not as wide as those on the Mark 2. As they are clearly marked on the throat, there should be no problem in identifying them.
The Mark 1 scabbards are not really all that common, and most of the ones that I have seen come with the later Parkerized Pal Blade Company knives. They certainly could have and were used as replacements for earlier procurement knives, but most of the other Mark 1 knives are found in one or the other styles of the leather scabbard.
The Mark 2 scabbards are commonly found, and are normally associated with the guard marked versions of the Mark 2 knife. The Marines did not use this scabbard officially and if you find a USMC knife in one, it was likely done either by an individual marine or post war by someone else.
USN Mark 1 and Mark 2 Knife Scabbards
Below is a list of contracts for these scabbards. Strangely enough, both Mark 1 and Mark 2 scabbards appear to have been included in the same contract in at least two cases. Note in the photo above that both of the scabbards have the NORD 4723 contract number with different die batch numbers. The designation in italics to the right indicate the type of scabbards that I have seen with that contract number. I have yet to see a scabbard with the 8676 contract number. The estimated quantities are based on an assumed price that would be similar to that paid by the Army for the M8 or M8A1 scabbard, and it is just an estimate.
Contract Number Contract Dollars Estimated Quantity Dates of Delivery
NORD 4723 $521,000 600,000 11/43 7/44 Mark 1 / Mark 2
NORD 6581 $240,000 275,000 7/44 2/45 Mark 2
NORD 6804 $79,000 95,000 6/44 4/45 Mark 1
NORD 8114 $592,000 675,000 3/45 8/45 Mark 1 / Mark 2
NORD 8676 $125,000 150,000 3/45 12/45
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