On the hunt for Clark corkscrews!

In Watney and Babbidge’s seminal work Corkscrews for Collectors, they discuss Clark corkscrews, explaining, “…it is doubtful whether even common corkscrews were manufactured in the United States prior to the work of Robert Murphy in Boston from 1850, and that of Joseph L. Clark and Charles L. Griswold in Chester, Connecticut.

Clark and Griswold appear to have begun in similar but separate businesses in Chester in the mid nineteenth century: Griswold manufactured bits starting in 1850. His neighbor, Clark, patented a unique corkscrew in 1864 which may represent the first use of the steep-pitched worm, and a year later sold his corkscrew business to Griswold”


I have yet to see an example of Clark’s patent. It doesn’t appear in Fred O’Leary’s book on American corkscrews, nor has it turned up in his 2009 update, nor John Morris’ most recent presentation on American patented corkscrews.

Was it ever produced? Have any survived. The hunt for this particular corkscrew continues.

What have been found, are Clarks attributed by Watney and Babbidge to the Clark Bros. of Chester Connecticut. On page 99 of Corkscrew for Collectors there are two Clarks shown. With text that explains, “a Clark corkscrew in mint condition, found in the Clark homestead, still in its original wrapper. “ And, the second, “a product of Clark brothers of Chester.”

As mentioned in my Best 6 for this year, two Clark’s from Homer Babbidge’s collection are now in my own. One is signed, CLARK and the other, came with an interesting description. The tag that accompanied the corkscrew reads, “Manufactured by Clark Co, Chester, Conn. Found in the home of a Clark founder in Chester, CT. The Gilbert family who were witnesses for another Clark patent lived across the street from the Clarks”



You may look at the simple wooden direct pulls your collection, and say, “I have a Clark.” And, you very well may, but having a signed example is not common. I have literally picked up and examined hundreds of t-pulls that have a similar shape, and it wasn’t until this year that I had actually found one—in the wild–that bore the Clark signature. And, what is even more exciting was that it was a half-sized corkscrew, with a different handle than the two that were from the Babbidge collection.


Now, I appreciate some of this is repetitive, as I have discussed Clark corkscrews in the past (more than once at least).

However, I really would like to see other collector’s examples of the signed Clarks that they have. What other sizes are there? Any other unique shapes? Do you have a signed Clark with a brush perhaps?


Of course, I would be interested in trading for, or buying, any Clarks that might be made available. And, while I will continue the hunt for Clark corkscrews, let’s see what others are out there!!!

Best 6 for 2012

After much deliberation, here are the best 6 corkscrews for 2012. These may not be the rarest, or most valuable, but to me they are some of the most interesting finds and discoveries.

What will make the best 6 for 2013? Let the hunt begin…!


1. In Bob Nugent’s 1990 article, Robert Murphy, New England Corkscrew Maker, he mentions, albeit briefly, that he had an Ivory handled Murphy. In describing the corkscrews, Nugent (1990) explains, “Most are secured by peening the end over a copper or brass washer but an ivory handled one I have has an imbedded round nut on a threaded shaft.” Marked, R. MURPHY BOSTON, a walrus Ivory handled Murphy finally made it into my collection (see Nugent, 1990).

2. Marked on the end of the tin case PAT. MAY 28-07, this is James B. Dodge’s patented (#854,812) 1907 Cork-Extractor. The spur between the prongs, according to the patent description, is intended to pierce the cork, “…at the same time that the arms…are thrust between the cork and bottle neck, to assist in holding the same, and to increase the efficiency of action.”
(see O’Leary, 1996, p. 124).

3. At first glance, one may wonder exactly how this would pull a cork. And, when I first found this, I thought it might be an ice pick. However, what makes this unique and an appropriate addition to the best 6, is the message that is written on the side of the handle. It reads: “EAGLE LIQUID MALT, The Better Malt In The Orange Can, Please Use This Special Tool To Remove Cork, Call Washington 3993.” The end cap, is also marked with WILLIAMSON, NEWARK, N.J. I am still researching this one.

4. Interesting variation of the Lucien Mumford Cork Extractor. This example has shorter prongs, with the springs visible upon turning it upside down. And, instead of the normal markings with the two different patent dates on the collar that surrounds the two prongs, this one is marked underneath with PAT. MAR. 4-79 -PAT’S PENDING. (see O’Leary, 1996, p. 84)


5. In Watney and Babbidge (1981) they discuss the corkscrew maker Clark from Chester Connecticut. A simple direct pull corkscrew, the handles are generally a telltale sign of a Clark, however they rarely turn up with the signature. A while back, I acquired two Clarks from the Homer Babbidge collection–one of which was signed CLARK. Despite looking at every corkscrew with a similarly shaped handle, I had never found another marked one. This year on my way to Brimfield, I stopped in an antique store, and in the last booth saw a simple wood T. The tag said “Old corkscrew, signed.” I asked for the case to be unlocked and much to my delight it was a signed CLARK, this time in a half size. It is shown next to my other signed CLARK for a comparison. (see Watney and Babbidge, 1981, p. 97-99).

6. Maschil Converse’s 1899 Patent prong puller. This example has a Sterling handle. Marked PAT. MAY 9, 99 and STERLING 2208 with the maker’s mark for Simon Bros., & Co. Philadelphia (see O’Leary 1996, p. 101) simonsbrosmark

Country Living – December/January 2013

Our friend A.A. came by last night, and with her brought an article that she had just found in Country Living magazine.

And, what should it feature, but corkscrews of course…

With corkscrews supplied by Don Bull, it is a nice piece that has some hard to find “…corkscrews that masquerade as saws, wrenches and more.”

If you hit the newsstand sometime soon, it is the December / January 2013 issue.





Neat stuff Don!!!

Putting together the best 6 of 2012

We are closing in on the end of the corkscrew fiscal year, and having sent the latest issue of The Bottle Scrue Times to the printer yesterday, I am working on what will be my best 6.

It has been a pretty good year for corkscrew collecting–okay a stellar year–and for those that regularly read the blog, you have seen countless pictures, read about special finds, and a few of you have even sent some of these my way in trade.

Still, every year it is a tough decision, only 6… How can I leave out the best 7th? Perhaps we should make it best 16!

So, here is a list of possibilities, there are others that still could make the list, but I have tried to whittle it down a bit.

Go ahead and Pick 6, and lets see where we end up.

Could something be added over the next 20 days that could make the list. One can only hope.