On display at the Wine History Project Offices, by appointment.
CORK EXTRACTOR DEVELOPMENT
The quest to find the easiest way of drawing corks from bottles without jolting or disturbing their contents led to the development of a variety of tools by both skilled craftsman and industrial production companies. Most recognizable is a simple device that has a pointed spiral piece of metal turned by a handle, the corkscrew. A term whose first-known use was in 1698.
The seventeenth century saw oil cloth being replaced by cork for sealing bottles and the development of simple portable corkscrews. The eighteenth century saw the standardization of bottle neck shapes and larger, more difficult to remove corks designed to facilitate aging wine in bottles. The nineteenth century saw a period of invention and ingenuity with bottled wine reaching all classes of society. Throughout this century and the next, inventors extended the simple corkscrew in all manner of ways.
T-Screws and Straight Pulls
Corkscrews with no mechanical features and no other tools. First patented in 1795 by Samuel Henshall, English. Likely invented decades earlier, the cap limits how far the worm can penetrate the cork allowing further turns to rotate the cork breaking the seal between the cork and the glass neck and making extraction easier.
EARLY AMERICAN CORKSCREW INVENTORS
William Rockwell Clough (1844–1920) New York
Inventor of machine that produced pocket corkscrews composed of a single piece of twisted steel (1875) whose manufacturing ingenuities allowed him to hold a virtual monopoly on the wire corkscrew industry for many years. Also partnered with C.T. Williamson in Clough & Williamson a manufacturing business that operated 1877-1882. Clough’s business closed in the mid-1930s.
Edwin Walker (1847–1917) Pennsylvania
Corkscrew patentee and tool manufacturer who patented sixteen designs between 1888-1913, including the Walker bell-shaped corkscrew. He formed Erie Specialty Manufacturing Co. with partners, buying them out in 1888. The business was taken over by Williamson in 1918 shortly after Walker’s death.
William Alexander Williamson (1854–1932) New Jersey
Cornelius Titus Williamson (William’s father) formed the C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Co. He acquired the rights to Clough’s 1875 patents after their partnership ended in 1882, and he retired in 1888. William patented a number of finger corkscrews between 1875 and 1881 and took over as president in 1896. William died in 1932, and his son, Gary, took over. In the mid-1930s, the company took over Clough’s business when it closed, and in 1946 the company was acquired by Eastern Tool and Manufacturing Co.
Double and Twisted Shank
Clough Patent, 1883
Walker Bell Corkscrew
Walker Patent, 1900
W.A Williamson Patent, 1889
Corkscrews that use a simple lever and fulcrum.
Single levers have one lever arm. Invented in 1882 by Carl Wienke, German. Popularly known as “Waiter’s Friend,” “Butler’s Friend” and a “Wine Key.” Device folds and the handle uses the side of the wine bottle for leverage.
Double levers have two lever arms. First invented 1888 by Neville Heeley, British, known as the James Heeley &
Sons A1 double lever corkscrew. Dominick Rosati, American, patented a version in 1930. Turning the screw raises the pair of levers. Pushing the levers down removes the cork.
Compound levers have several attached lever arms. First invented in 1884 by Marshal Wier, English. Also known as extendable and concertina mechanisms (because of their resemblance to the bellows of the concertina, an instrument similar to an accordion.) Popularly known as a Zig-Zag, the brand name of the 1920s version by Marie Jules Leon Bart, French.
Corkscrews that have a mechanical feature using a thread, ratchet, or rack and pinion action.
POCKET AND PROTECTED CORKSCREWS
Corkscrews in which the worm is covered or otherwise protected for safety or travel.
Cork removers that do not have helical worms.
SELF AND PARTIAL CORK PULLERS
Corkscrews based on the principle that continuous turning of the worm draws the cork up the helix.
Herbert Allen Patent, 1981
Device wraps around the top of the bottle. Turning the screw pulls the cork upwards because the device is in a fixed position.
Herbert Allen Patent, 1981
A single side lever corkscrew, which employs a split handle that close around the bottle to secure it in place and a lever the drives the worm into the cork and then pulls the cork out. Repeating the series releases the cork from the worm. The Rabbit corkscrew released in 2000 made this type of corkscrew popular.