Started by Swiss cutler and surgical equipment-maker, Karl Elsener (1860-1918) in 1884, the company was originally called Karl Elsener after its founder, and located in Ibach, Switzerland, where it is still based. In 1891 Elsener won the contract to produce the Modell 1890, a utilitarian folding knife for the Swiss Army. The knife contained not only a blade, but also several tools—a reamer, can-opener, and screwdriver. Elsener controlled the market for these knives until 1893, when another Swiss industrial cutler in the French-speaking region of Jura, Paul Boechat & Cie, later known as the Wenger Company, began selling a similar product. In 1908, the Swiss government divided the contract equally between the two manufacturers. Elsener’s mother died in 1909 and he renamed his company Victoria in her honor. By 1921 the company began using stainless steel, also called “inox,” in its knives; the firm soon combined “Victoria” and “inox” to form the name “Victorinox,” as it is still known today. In 2005, Victorinox acquired Wenger, making it once again the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Armed Forces. Elsener used the cross and shield motif on the handles of his knives in the early 1900s, and the logo has been a distinctive feature on Victorinox products from that time to the present.

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