Research Pays Off

As many of you know, I spend a fair amount of time hunting for antique corkscrews.  And, when the time to hunt isn’t available, you will often find me digging into various research avenues in an attempt unearth histories, images, catalogs, etc., that might shed light on an patentee, inventor, or perhaps an old advertisement that features the twisted treasures we covet.

In October of 2016, I posted just a simple illustration for a “Kentucky Cork Extractor”  with information from a 1901 issue of The American Angler, which explained:


This cut represents the most novel invention of the age—THE KENTUCKY CORK EXTRACTOR. The simplicity of its construction and practicability of its use recommends it to the public. Instead of twisting and screwing, you merely push the points into a cork, and, by the natural position an action of the hand in drawing it out, the points open and their barbed edges engage the cork, and the same is easily drawn. Close the points by separating the handles, and the grip is loosened and the cork relieved. A glance at the cut will satisfy one of its many advantages. Price 30c. EACH, post-paid.

W.H. HATHAWAY, P.O. Box 2156, New York

It is such an odd looking device, but then of course, the question the crossed my mind; why is a Kentucky Cork Extractor, being advertised for in The American Angler?  A publication about fishing.  There are no other corkscrews or cork pullers shown in the magazine.

That said, it is also one of those unusual looking devices, that if one was to run across this, it is doubtful that you suspect that it was for pulling corks.

Still, I filed away the image my internal-something-to-look-for-rolodex, and got back to hunting for more information.

Yesterday, after building a wine display, I happened to do a corkscrew search on a non-eBay site, and I saw something that looked familiar with a description that read:

“Vintage Antique Metal Corkscrew J. W. Milam Frankfort Kentucky Fishing Tool?”

With this image…


Wait a minute….


With a very fair asking price, I quickly purchased the item, and figured I would come to understand how they got “corkscrew,” out of this piece, after procuring said, Vintage Antique Metal Corkscrew J. W. Milam Frankfort Kentucky Fishing Tool?

And, in short order I did.

The seller explained in her description of the piece, that the tool is marked, “J.W. Milam, Frankfort Kentucky” and “PATAPPLIEDFOR,” and further explained, “I am not 100% positive this is a corkscrew, however, I purchased it in with a box that had some other vintage corkscrews in it.”

It was a good educated guess, and she is right.

While it isn’t a corkscrew, it certainly is The Kentucky Cork Extractor, and the Milam marking certainly seals the deal.


With the Milam name, it also explains the previous advertisement in The Angler, as B.C. Milam was a well-known fishing reel maker, and his son John W. joined him in the family business.

And, as it happens, his son, John W. Milam, on October 9, 1888 was awarded a patent for a Cork Extractor!



There clearly are variations in how J.W. was going to potentially produce this, as shown in the various  designs in the patent drawing, with the extractor looking more like a combination of figure 3 and figure 5, but the J. W.Milam Kentucky Cork Extractor is spot on his illustration that appeared in the periodicals from that time…

Not ironically, the three ads that I could find for the Kentucky Cork Extractor, all appear in fishing / nature publications.

This should arrive on the island in a couple of days, and I will publish better pictures then.

A fantastic addition to the collection.

For those wondering, the patent drawing is pictured in the back of O’Leary (BOO) on page 201.


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