Reading over the many remarks in the above posts especially the post concerning the blunt cut nails the following comes to my mind.
I of course received a great deal of my carpentry education from my father who in his own right was a great, and I say this with no reservation "all around good carpenter".
One thing that he taught me along with many other tricks, was the following:
"son if you are under the impression that the nail will split the 2 by 4 or what ever you are nailing just take the nail and blunt the end by giving it a few whacks on the pointed end with the hammer"
You know it worked every time it would go right through and not split the stud or what ever you were using.
I suspect that the blunt square nails were better to prevent splitting on account of their blunt ends than the pointed modern nails. This is of course if you drove them into the wood with their thickness parallel with the grain.
one of their bad features though was that as the blunt cut nail emerged on the opposite side it usually came through with a good chunk of the surface wood.
Thanks everyone for the remarks in the above posts