Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Observations on Corkscrew Patents and Patentees No.2

•The requirements of a good corkscrew are that it breaks the seal between a tight cork and the bottle, that it doesn’t break the neck of the bottle, that it pulls the cork out without breaking it, and that the helix of the corkscrew doesn’t break during removal. It also helps that it has a mechanical advantage, and that the worm is placed at the centre of
the cork. The use of a ratchet to obviate the need to remove the hand at every half turn is an unnecessary luxury.
•All of these problems have been addressed with varying degrees of success by inventors since 1795.
•As we know from Henshall’s patent, bottles of the period were stoppered with “cork, tow, hemp, sponge, paper wool and linen.”
•Another alumnus of Brasenose College, Oxford is credited with the first bottled beer in England. He was Alexander Nowell, Dean of St. Paul’s, and Principal of Brasenose 1595, died 1602, “ having either accidently, or by design .. left in the grass or buried in the ground, a bottle of ale, he found it again after some time “not a bottle but a gun such the
sound of it when opened.”
•Between 1795 and 1926 Ninety three corkscrew patents were granted. Including all the patent variations mentioned in the specifications there are a total of 173. Add to this the variants that have been found but not mentioned in the specifications and there are over 200 corkscrews.
•Of the 93 corkscrew patents it is noteworthy that just over half, 49 including the Henshall compound, have a mechanical advantage; whereas 24 are simple direct pull corkscrews with some modification. The rest all have some mechanical action but no mechanical advantage.
•Thirteen corkscrews only succeeded as far as a provisional patent, and of these only five are known to have been produced, viz. Joseph Roper (1865), Joseph Page (1868), Edwin Sunderland (1870), John Burgess (1875), Pitt and Norgrove (1881). Unusually, William Hait Plant’s Magic Patent was manufactured and marked Patent even though it had no
protection, as the patent was never sealed.
•Geographically, forty of the patents originated in London, twenty two from Birmingham and surprisingly only one, that of John Mabson, 1873, from Sheffield. At the time of his earlier patent he was living in Norwood, Surrey.
•Manufacturers were responsible for only twenty four corkscrew patents, thirteen were by engineers, the rest are from patentees with a variety of occupations including architect, innkeeper, coal merchant, hairdresser, surgeon, chemist, and painter and decorator.
•Although almost every patent has improvements, improved, or improving in the title of the specification, it is debateable as to whether many were improvements on their predecessors.
•Many, for a multitude of reasons, including expense of production, problems with manufacture and distribution, were abject commercial failures.
•Some corkscrews were re patented, shortly after the original, with a slight modification to correct a problem.
Baker patent1880/Heeley 1888
Maud patent 1894/Maud 1895
Viarengo Armani 1898/Viarengo 1904
Armstrong 1902/Armstrong 1902
•It is very difficult to estimate how many corkscrews of each patent were produced, although Edward Thomason estimated 130,000 in the fourteen years of the patent. There were a large number of manufacturers of this corkscrew after this date, and they were produced for about 100 years, a figure of 500,000 would not be out of place. certainly no examples of corkscrews associated with 38 patents are known to exist, although it is the opinion of this author that some of them will still be found.
• In 1805 William Congreve, a prolific inventor, whose inventions included a rocket, a rolling ball clock, and a printing process to reduce the possibility of counterfeiting, wrote to Matthew Boulton requesting his assistance in patenting a corkscrew.
• Patenting several completely different corkscrews at the same time in one specification was commercially advantageous. This was exploited by Lund and Hipkins in 1855, and later by Charles Hull, John Mabson, George Twigg and others.

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