Bar-mounted Cork Puller and Re-Corker

Date: c 1910

Origin: United States

Size: 7.5 inches high x 9 inches deep

Materials: brass


Object ID:WHP-CR979

The Simple Barscrew
We now think that using a bar corkscrew or cork extractor is the obvious way to open wine bottles. But, here’s the thing. Beer, cider, medicines, perfume, and many other liquids were also corked into bottles. Cork has been used to seal bottles for over four hundred years. In the nineteenth century most glass bottles were hand-blown. These bottles were fragile and cumbersome to hold which made them difficult to open with a simple, T-shaped corkscrew. Once bottles were made more uniform by the glass being molded to uniform sizes it would become easier to open bottles with a mechanical solution, hence the need for a device that incorporated a mechanical solution that held the bottle in place. Especially when a large amount of bottles needed opening.

The Wine History Project has an exhibit dedicated to corkscrews. There are so many different ways of achieving this simple but, at times, difficult task. And as we learn from the exhibit, there are different categories of corkscrews including simple, lever, and mechanical. But, the ones discussed and shown in the exhibit are all handheld.

Now the term: mechanical bar-mounted (barscrew) cork extractor. What does the term exactly mean? Upon examination, this was discovered. Mechanical mounted barscrew cork extractors can be screwed to a wall (wall mount), clamped to a counter (clamp mount), screwed to a countertop (top mount), or set on the floor (floor stand).

The Wine History Project Collection includes object WHP-CR979, a Yankee No. 7 bar-mounted cork puller and re-corker with a plate advertising Nathan Dohrmann Company, San Francisco. While researching the details of this object, I discovered quite a bit of general information that was of interest and thought I would share it.

Remember, during the 1800s, ciders and beers were popular. Also, they were bottled and sealed by corks. Bottled beer in Public Houses (bars, taverns, saloons) required a faster, simpler method of removing corks, and many bottles need to be uncorked at the same time. This led to inventors proposing new patents at a rapid rate. Many inventors tried to create the perfect mounted cork extractor. An enormous number of utility and design patents were registered for mechanical mounted bar corkscrews in many countries, where they were also manufactured and distributed. The best type of apparatus to do that for approximately the past 140 years has been known as a bench-mount version or bar-mount of a corkscrew extractor. This type of bottle opener grips or supports the bottles during the extracting process without breakage of the cork.

The first to patent a device that would not only hold a bottle, but also turn and remove the cork with one up-and-down motion of a lever or handle was patented in 1865 by Henry John Sanders of England. There is no known existing example available of this invention. A Swedish inventor from Stockholm by the name of P.F. Lindstrom patented an automatic mounted corkscrew in 1870. But it was not commercially viable. It weighed over thirty pounds and had over 144 different components. In the book written by Bernard Watney and Homer Babbidge entitled Corkscrews for Collectors, the authors state that there are two known examples of this patented invention still in existence.

The “crank and pump” mechanical mounted corkscrew was used in the latter half of the 1800s where the corkscrew worm was attached to a stem, with a crank, inserted through a frame with a lever. Most likely, the lever on the piece of equipment was pressed (or pulled) to extract the cork after the work was cranked into the cork. But in the early invention, the cork was held by hand, and the crank-operated in reverse to turn it off the worm. Because it was time consuming this type of mechanical corkscrew was utilized by home consumers. A standing model of this “crank and pump” type was invented by John Bloeser of St. Louis, Missouri, which was recognized as Patent No. 337,921.

patent by Raymond B. Gilchrist of Newark, New Jersey for a bottle holder on March 3, 1905As you can imagine, manufacturers and distributors of the mechanical mounted corkscrew/cork extractors were the main creators of the patents. When reviewing the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents for bar corkscrews during August 1884 and August 1915, the same business names are amongst the listed patentee names in the United States. Redlich Manufacturing Company, Arcade Manufacturing Company, Freeport Novelty Company, and Stover Manufacturing Company were all from Freeport, Illinois. From Meriden, Connecticut the companies included Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company, Landers, Frary & Clark, Manning, Bowman & Company, and Meriden Malleable Iron Company. Erie, Pennsylvania is the home to four companies that applied for and received patents for barscrews: Erie Specialty Company, E. Walker Tool Company, F.F. Adams Company, and Lovell Manufacturing Company, Ltd. Three other cities make the list of locations for contributing patents to the manufacturing and distributing these cork extractors and they are: Chicago, Illinois with the Gilchrist Manufacturing Company and Albert Pick & Co.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the Enterprise Manufacturing Co., and finally Waterbury, Connecticut by Scoville Manufacturing Co.

Other countries that contributed to the development, improvement and betterment of the mechanical barscrew are Belgium, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden. The British and Spanish favored brass as the object’s material, while the United States, Germany, and France mostly made their bar corkscrews of cast iron and plated with nickel. Many of these objects had label-advertising plates affixed directly onto the corkscrew. This use of early advertising techniques allowing them to be in full view of paying customers as they walked up to the bar to wait on getting their drinks opened was common. The manufacturers and distributors also used marketing techniques in giving each new model a name related to function, size, strength, ease of use, class, or spirit of celebration. An example for each would be Yankee, Little Giant, Invincible, Safety, L’Elegant, and Victor.

Now back to prior to the WHP-CR979 object in the Wine History Project Collection. The combination Yankee No. 7 bar-mounted cork puller and re-corker with plate advertising Nathan Dohrmann Company, has a self-centering bottle-holding clamp. A counter (or tabletop) is required for the clamp to hold on to. A cork can be quickly and safely drawn from any bottle and as readily can be re-corked after part of the contents of the bottle is used. According to Wine Antiques & Collectibles, a book written by Donald A. Bull and Joseph C. Paradi, “The internal mechanism is massive and strong. It is simple, as only two screws are used in its construction.”

Regarding this type of cork puller, the application was filed for a patent by Raymond B. Gilchrist of Newark, New Jersey for a bottle holder on March 3, 1905, and designated with Patent No. 823,678. In the application Gilchrist stated, “I have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Bottle-Holders…the bottle-holder is applied to a cork-puller to hold a bottle beneath the corkscrew during operation of the puller.” The United States Patent Office approved the application on June 19, 1906.

Specific to the Wine History Project Collection object here is some background information of the man who created this particular patent. Raymond Gilchrist was born 1866 and died in 1928. He operated the Gilchrist Company at 230 Bank Street in Newark from 1902 to 1926. He was known to patent anything being used by a soda shop/ice cream counter during the “pharmaceutical era.” The soda fountain “shop” lasted from 1890 until the 1960s. The drugstores were the places that had the soda fountains. They became the social centers for young and old. As gathering places, they usually had marble-topped counters and tables, wired-back chairs, mirrors on walls and counter fronts, and glass-chrome servicing dishes and glasses.

The soda industry made progress in its popularity from 1912 to 1922. Some think that this progress is largely the result of Prohibition. However, it is also true that the soda industry would have developed rapidly even if Prohibition had not been brought about. Soda shops were made more beautiful, as the mechanical equipment was improved and as sanitation and service became better. Some of the mechanical equipment at a typical soda fountain would have included: mixing receptacles for electric drink mixers, ice cream scoops, cork pullers, ice picks, and straw dispensers – many of them patented by Gilchrist. In the 1920s, Gilchrist’s firm became a subsidiary of the Scoville Manufacturing Company and in the 1930s was merged with Hamilton-Beach, another Scoville subsidiary.

The plate on the corkscrew extractor is etched with Nathan Dohrmann Company. It was the largest bar-supply company on the Pacific Coast at 361 Bush Street and was the seller/distributor of the Yankee No. 7 bottle corkscrew extractor that is part of the Wine History Project Collection. Frederick William Dohrmann (November 1, 1842-July 18, 1914) and Bernhard Nathan (our research cannot determine dates of birth/date), were importers, wholesale, and retail dealers. Their office and store buildings were located at 122-132 Sutter in San Francisco.

Frederick Dohrmann’s San Francisco career in merchandising started in 1868 as a partner with B. Nathan & Company located at Sacramento and Kearney Streets in the crockery business (china, crystal, flatware, lamps, and fine “art goods”). Over the next thirty-seven years he expanded the business to create the Dohrmann Commercial Company, specializing in wholesale and retail sales By 1875, its retail outlet in San Francisco known as Nathan-Dohrmann Company (and later Dohrmann’s) located in Union Square had expanded and included hotel/resort and wholesale products. Dohrmann introduced the concept of a middle-class, mid-line shopping destination to America on the West Coast. In 1898 the company expanded to include household items and sales increased. The firm had grown from sixteen employees to 125 by 1906.

The bar-mounting corkscrew is a fascinating tool that had multiple upgrades with many patents in its evolvement. A general description would say that the clamps hold the bottle in place and the helix, in one up and down motion, extracts the cork from the bottle. They are screwed or clamped to the counter. Most early mounted corkscrews were designed to open beer bottles with short corks. Modern ones are made for longer wine corks.