Knapp continued on Page 2
Founded in New York, N.Y. in 1895 by its owner, the inventor David W. Knapp, the Knapp Electric and Novelty Company produced, over may decades, a wide variety of toys including some rather fine 2-inch gauge train sets with the locomotives, very unusually, with their bodies in cast iron. Probably Knapp's most famous product was the long-lived "board game", "The Knapp Electric Questioner" made from the 1890s to the late 1940s with sales exceeding 150,000 per annum at the height of its popularity - unsurprisingly, many still survive and are frequently offered on auction sites. Sets of Quiz cards at 50 cents a set were offered, these covering a range of subjects, children using two probes to select the connection between question and answer - a buzzer being the reward for a correct answer. Knapp moved from New York to Indianapolis in 1937, their first address being 3029 East Washington Street and then 739 East Market Street. The Company closed its doors for the final time in the late 1940s.
Probably representing something of a niece market, the company's machine-tool set - "American Industry in Miniature" -was a delightful piece of work and available, circa 1929, as a complete, ready-to-run set under Part Number 995 at $37.50 (or $40 if delivered to west of Denver - around $570 inflated to 2018 values). Individual items were also available, as funds permitted, and included a mechanical hacksaw, a drill press, a sensitive drill, a punch press and, rather unusually (and surely the two most prosaic of additions) a mixing-cum-grinding bowl "as used in pulp and paper mills, sugar refineries, candy factories, smelting plants, etc." and a grading screen. Also available were three different countershaft drive units and a choice of small electric motors. Oddly, it appears that some items were made in France, one such, a double-ended polisher/grinder, has been found stamped as such. In addition, more than one version of the Knapp lathe has been found: some had a flat-topped bed in zinc with the headstock spindle driven by a round rope passing over a 3-step, overhung pulley (as shown in the green and red version below) while others (slightly smaller in size) had a cast iron bed with double V-ways and a sprocket positioned between the headstock bearings with the chain passing downwards through a slot in the headstock casting. A version of this lathe has also been found with a between-the-bearing, multi-step V-pulley, presumably a later development before the introduction of the die-cast zinc models. A double-ended, floor-standing grinder in cast iron was also made with a chain and sprocket drive - like the iron lathe this would have been of an early type when fear of fingers being trapped in such exposed drives might not have been a concern.
Unlike other "model" installations, such as the well-known Tekno ( "Langes Legetøj"), instead of the tools just going round and round and up and down, the Knapp, being considerably larger, was intended to be used in anger (well, perhaps with bemused patience?.
Mounted on a provided 20" x 141/2" mounting board and drawer unit with lock and key, the kit really was complete and contained - with their castings in aluminium - a miniature lathe, jig saw, double-ended grinder and polisher/sander, a complex countershaft unit complete with joined belts, an AC/DC motor to run from a light socket, a 4-jaw chuck, square-point, round-point and skew-point chisels for wood turning, two wooden blocks for turning, three centre drills, a drilling attachment for the lathe tailstock, a set of calipers, twelve sheets of garnet sandpaper, a bottle of glue, an awl, screwdriver, 20 screws, two jig-saw boards - one plain, one patterned - a workshop manual, printed list of contents and assembly instructions - the latter task, as positions for the components were ready marked, claimed to take no more than thirty minutes.
Although the Knapp Company was based first at 47 Warren Street in Manhattan, after several moves they appear to have occupied a new factory in Port Chester, New York, the inscription on the back of the model lathe bed reading: "Knapp Electric Corporation, Port Chester, New York, Makers of American Industry in Miniature". If you have a complete Knapp miniature workshop the writer would be delighted to have photographs to add to the Machine Tool Archive
Some pictures below are high-resolution and may take time to load