What is a Swiss Army knife? Who invented it?

Most people may have seen or heard about the Swiss Army knife. Born in a small canton of Switzerland, this versatile, multi-purpose tool has become a legend over a century. Since its invention, the Swiss Army knife has found itself useful in various situations and tasks, from saving people from disasters to repairing space shuttles. Thanks to its adaptability and portability,
the device is a common presence in expeditions to Mount Everest and the rain forests of Amazon.
The Swiss Army knife is a contraption that contains an assortment of blades, screwdrivers, scissors and other gadgets. The idea of the product is to store a large number of tools with a minimal space. All of these tools are stored in spring-loaded compartments with a single handle. Various versions of the device contain many other accessories including spoons, forks, compasses, torchlight and magnifying glasses and in the case of most advanced models, even emergency surgical equipment. Some of the latest versions even contains digital altimeter, mp3 player and laser pointers.
The history of the Swiss Army knife begins in 1891 when a Swiss entrepreneur named Karl Elsener acquired a contract to supply pocket knives to the Swiss Army, updating an old version of the device. He had established a cutlery factory in 1884 which he named Victoria in 1909, after his expired mother. The company was renamed Victorinox in 1921. It was in 1894 Elsener became successful in adding many features to the device. In 1897, he was granted a patent for the product, named The Officer’s and Sports Knife. It got its current name from the American soldiers.
Two years later since they began to provide the knives to army, Elsener’s company had got itself a rival, a firm promoted by a businessman named Theodore Wenger. Both of the companies were based in places with difference in ethnicity and culture, and to avoid the allegations of favoritism, the Army split the contract between the two in 1908. By mutual consent, the Victorinox knives were advertised as ‘The Original Swiss Army Knife’ while the Wenger ones were labeled ‘The Genuine Swiss Army Knife’. In 2005, the two companies merged, agreeing to manufacture the knife under only a single brand, that of Victorinox. The shell of the device is generally of the color red, and bears the logo of Victorinox; a cross surrounded by a shield with bilateral symmetry. The Wenger logo had been a cross surrounded by a rounded square with quadrilateral symmetry.
At present there are numerous varieties of the Swiss Army knife. Millions of the product are sold in various parts of the world. Over the years, the Swiss Army knife has become an icon of Switzerland. There is even a custom of American Presidents to give Swiss Army Knives as presents to their guests at the White House, such is the status of the marvelous product. The word itself has become a metaphor for successful multi-tasking. The New York Museum of Modern Art and the State Museum for Applied Arts, Munich have chosen the Swiss Army knife to their collection of Excellence in Design.

Additional reading:
Swiss Army knife (Wikipedia)
History – Victorinox Swiss Army 

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