Saturday, 29 August 2009

Miss O'Rourke Where are you?

Although Samuel Henshall obtained the World's first corkscrew patent, 24 August 1795, it is widely believed amongst collectors that it was, in fact , invented by a certain Miss O'Rourke as mentioned in a work of 1829 by Robert Stuart, Historical and Descriptive Anecdotes of Steam Engines and of their Inventors and Improvers, London, Wightman And Co.

Miss O'Rourke, like her own exquisite poteen punch, was a delightful compound from ingredients, both mental and corporeal, of the most opposite nature. The friend of Kosciusko, and the authoress of the Rhapsody which afterwards rung so often throughout the country to the favourite tune (Gramachree) of the patriot Pole, such another hostess was not in England wide, and no other of her order ever conferred so great a benefit on bottlesuckers as she did, by her superlative invention of placing a button and the end of the screw-worm. Henceforth the decanting process was a mere matter of routine. When, in her green old age, Death laid his hand on the inventress, a piratical screwmaker also took to himself the credit and profit of the button addendum. Yet Miss O'Rourke shall never be forgotten, even though her master-piece, some few years later, was eclipsed and may yet be superseded by the King's Screw which can receive no addition either to its beauty or convenience, except it be probably some little steam appendage to make it self-acting. These are trifling additions to a simple instrument, yet they produced a great revolution in its use and value.

Searches through all the available literature have not revealed any other trace of the mysterious inventress, so now we throw it open to the world to let us know, who was Miss O'Rourke? Where did she live? How did Samuel Henshall get to know about the famous concave button? Did she give the idea to the Read family of cutlers from Dublin. Is her corkscrew invention the legendary Read's Coaxer? If you want to read more about the Henshall Controversy, You can buy an excellent book on the subject from Bert Giulian "Corkscrews of the Eighteenth Century, Artistry in Iron and Steel", Price 50$ + Postage

1 comment:

  1. There is little doubt that Samuel Henshall's patent is based on a pre-existing corkscrew. The most notable example is the "Coaxer" made by the Dublin cutler Thomas Read. His corkscrew also has a "button addendum" and is very similar to Henshall's piece in construction and function.

    Read became a member of the Irish Cutlers Guild of St. Luke in 1749, forty six years before Henshall's patent of 1795. When his father died, Read took over the family business in 1776, and the Master Cutler would have been at his prime nineteen years before the patent.

    The involvement of Miss O'Rourke is fascinating. She very likely was also Irish, and we would like to have more information about her relationship to the corkscrew and to Thomas Read.