The Wine History Project’s collection of corkscrews obtained September 2018

Corkscrews are a simple device. Originally they had a pointed spiral piece of metal turned by a handle back in the simplistic days of lore. The first-known use of this term, corkscrew, was in 1698. 

Corkscrews, or the more historic name of cork extractors, came about because people were on a quest to find the easiest way of drawing corks from bottles without jolting or disturbing their contents. Industrial production companies and skilled craftsmen were involved in the development of these tools. 

Prior to the seventeenth century, oil cloth was used to seal bottles. This method was replaced by cork with the standardization of bottle neck shapes. Larger, more difficult to remove, corks were designed to facilitate aging wine in bottles. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, inventors extended the simple corkscrew in all manner of ways.

American Corkscrew Investors Of The Nineteenth Century

William Rockwell Clough (1844–1920) New York
Inventor of a machine that produced pocket corkscrews composed of a single piece of twisted steel (1875). His 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.

Types Of Corkscrews

There are many types of corkscrews including pocket, mechanical, levers: single, double, and compound, t-screws, straight pulls, protected, pocket, non-worm, figural, and on and on. Several books have been published on the subject.

Examples Of Corkscrew Patents

The first official corkscrew patent was filed in 1795 by the English Reverend Samuel Henshall. Since then, hundreds upon hundreds of corkscrew patents have been filed, each with a slight twist on the classic screw.

Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents
Corkscrew Patents

Wine History Project Office On Broad Street

Many of the 78 corkscrews from this historic corkscrew grouping from September 2018 are on exhibit at the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County’s office at 3592 Broad Street in San Luis Obispo. 

Corkscrew Sketches