The Swiss Army Knife got its name because American soldiers were struggling to pronounce Offiziersmesser, the German name originally used for the multi-tool pocket knife.
The knife was first produced in 1891 by Karl Elsener, now Victorinox. The knife did a lot for brand Switzerland globally and became an icon for the country. It proudly donned the flag of Switzerland for all to see.
The Swiss Army, yes they have an army, wanted a knife for their soldiers that could open canned food and be used to disassemble their rifles. This required a can opener and a screwdriver to be incorporated into the design. Although the Swiss Army Knife wasn’t the first it became the most popular by a long stretch. The official designation for the first knife was the Modell 1890 and it had a blade, reamer, can opener and screwdriver. There wasn’t a Swiss company that could take on the capacity of the order so a German manufacturer was the first to produce the knife.
Karl Elsener nearly didn’t make it through the 19th Century. It took a last-ditch effort at an improved knife, made expressly for officers to use, that saved them. The knife, funnily enough, didn’t get its popularity from its intended target user though but instead from the international market after some effective marketing.
The Swiss, being the peacekeepers they are, didn’t want a single company to control the market and eventually ordered knives from Victorinox and another company called Wenger. This is where we see the slogan variation between the Genuine Swiss Army Knife (Wenger) and the Original Swiss Army Knife (Victorinox). This agreement lasted for a very long time until Victorinox acquired Wenger in 2005.
The typical Swiss Army Knife now as 20+ tools squeezed into a palm-sized knife without becoming clunky. You can now slice your biltong, open your wine or beer and clean your horseshoe with one simple tool!
The Museum of Modern Art in New York added the Swiss Army Knife to its collection for its intelligent design.