The John Russell Company was founded 1832, when John Russell decided to start a company making knives and cutlery with his brother, Francis. His first products came on the market in 1833, and this butter knife the year later. The handle is made of mother-of-pearl (also called pearl); the hard, pearly interior of various shells, particularly pearl oysters, was a material widely used in the 19th century. Mother-of-pearl was cheaper than ivory but still looked elegant. The Russell Company grew rapidly in its first years of existence; in 1845 it employed 80 workers; by 1850, 200.