This afternoon, I received a package in the mail within which contained an old book, and across the green cover in gold, was the title “THE BLAKES.”
Opening the cover, it read:
77 ELM STREET
A FAMILY SKETCH
ALIDA BLAKE HAZARD
Now, I won’t publish the entire book here, but I will share a few pages of the introduction that leads to single page that happens to focus on Philos Blake–or more accurately Philos’ missus.
It really is an interesting read:
To Pierre and Nancy,
their children and all the younger
You have always seem interested, dear Pierre and Nancy, to know something of your mother’s family, so I have here set down what I hope will be a picture of an interesting group, the central figure being my beloved grandfather, Eli Whitney Blake.
This is not a genealogy, neither does it make any claims to accuracy. Dates and names are all to be found in large volumes which trace the history of the family way back to England. So I shall not be disturbed if anyone calls my attention to such as slip as, for example, the order in age of our grandfather’s brothers.
Of Elihu Blake, my great-grandfather, I have no personal recollection, but he was still in the memory of his grandchildren when I was young, and from many stories told of him he must have been quite a remarkable, if not quaint, old gentleman. His wife was Elizabeth Whitney, sister of Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, for whom out grandfather was named, They had ten children, all of whom live to grow up–seven sons and three daughters. The sons were Philos, Eli Whitney, Josiah, Elihu, John, George, and Edward. The three daughters were Elizabeth Whitney, Maria and Frances. How our great-grandparents ever brought up this large family, educated them and started them in life is a mystery. Besides the small farm on which they lived near Westboro, Massachusetts, the only other source of income appears to be our great-grandfather’s talent in mathematics. Today he would be called an expert accountant. In those, he was called a “mathematician,” and his services were in great demand through the country side and even in far away Boston. It was on one of these business trips, which he always made on horseback, that an adventure befell him which became a family byword. At a crossroads an Indian, in full war paint, suddenly leaped from the bushes and seized the bridle of his horse. Pointing in one direction the Indian said, “Old Injun come dis way, ‘quire me gone dat way, tell him me gone t’other way, would ye?” , and disappeared, probably to the relief of the traveler. In the notice of the death of Elihu Blake in the church records he is described as a “Worthy, Pious, and Very Learned Man”. Wherever could he have acquired his learning? However, he saw to it that his sons had such advantages as were possible. Our grandfather was sent to Yale by his uncle and namesake, Eli Whitney. Josiah went to Harvard. The other sons were content with graduating from the academies of Massachusetts. Not only did our grandparents do well by their children, but they provided for their own old age.
Elizabeth Whitney died when her husband was nearly seventy. He soon married again and had some twenty years of quiet life in a simple but comfortable home. His second wife was always known in the family as “the Widow Holbrook”; more than that about her I was never able to discover. I once asked my grandfather what her name was. He seemed surprised at the question and replied, “Sarah, or Susan, or something like that. I don’t know which, Ask your Uncle John.”
Whatever her name, she seems to have had patience with her husband’s hobbies. He turned his inventive faculties to odd uses. When a guest came to call he was taken into a summer-house. No sooner was he seated on a bench than the lid of a chest opposite flew open and a stuffed tiger jumped out at the startled visitor! To calm his nerves he was then taken to admire a view. As he sat on a chair to rest jets of water spouted on him from all directions to the amusement of his host. Rather a trying old gentleman! Nevertheless the children of Westboro adored him, and it was his habit to frequently invite all the school children to spend a happy afternoon being frightened by tigers, wet with water, and enjoy a feast of cookies at the close.
After his death, his son Josiah bough the house and the place from the widow, but what became of the tiger and the other practical jokes I don’t know. They were not in evidence when I saw the place many years later. Neither do I know what became of “the Widow Holbrook.” She fades out of the family picture as nebulously as she came in.
Two of my grandfather’s brothers went into business with him later under the firm name of Blake Brothers, manufacturing the Blake Stone-crusher, which was the invention of our grandfather. These two brothers were Philos and John.
Philos married Esther Babcock. He was a very tall, large man, well over six feet, and she was very small. She was a very old lady as I first remember her but always very active. She wore a black silk dress the year around, a very ornate cap, and a black front, which probably concealed gray hair. She wore about her waist a silver chain, from which hung a bunch of keys. As soon as guests were seated these keys were used to open a large sideboard and bring out cake and wine which were always offered regardless of the hour of the day at which the visit was paid. Children were treated to oranges and cake, so a visit to Aunt Esther was rather a popular proceeding. There were several children, none of whom are living and only one for whom was survived by children and these have now passed away.
The book continues on with the Blake family history, family lore, how they ended up at 77 Elm Street, and Philos is mentioned once again, in reference to the Blake Brother’s business.
It does make one wonder if Aunt Esther used Philos Blake’s invention after opening the sideboard containing the cake and wine…
Of course, accompanying The Blakes of 77 Elm Street in the aforementioned package was a fantastic addition to the collection
And, a corkscrew that will surely make the best 6…
The 1860 Philos Blake patent (#27,665)
Sharp complete helix, nicely marked with the patent date, “MAR. 27-60,” I am quite pleased.
Over the years, I have shared information regarding the L.E.B. CO. tool kit; an interesting multi-tool that amongst other tools, includes a cork puller that would be used in the manner of a Greeley.
Appearing in advertisements in various publications from 1912 to 1915, we clearly can get a timeframe when the tool kit was produced.
And, there are variations as to what the kit was named; Premium Pocket Tool Kit, Sportsman’s Pocket Tool Kit, and Pocket Tool Kit, and The 47 Pocket Tool Kit.
In a 1912 edition of American Stationer, the tool kit was also featured:
THE 47 POCKET TOOL KIT
The illustrations here shown are the 47 Pocket Tool Kit which is sold by the L.E.B Sales Company, of 115 Broadway, New York. This kit, true to its name
takes up but little space, being quite easily carried in one’s pocket. As can be seen by the list of tools it contains it is practically indispensable around the house, in the barn, garage or, for that matter, in one’s office. Besides the usefulness of its tool it has the added advantage of economy and price. The Kit being sold for a dollar, and the whole lot not taking up the room that one ordinary hammer occupies. Moreover, the tools can always be found because the Kit is at hand in which to replace them. There is therefore every argument in favor of the Kit for the ordinary run of uses.
As truthfully stated by the L. E. B. Sales Company: “No matter where one goes, or under what circumstances, some one or more of these tools will serve some useful or vital purpose. You have seen tool holders, tool chests, and other collections of tools, but never before a Pocket Tool Kit, a Kit that can be made your constant companion and servant to serve so many wants that cannot be enumerated.“
“Some of the tools included in the Kit are: Hammer, screw driver, chisel, dividers, tweezers, compass, saw, protractor, file, round file, rule, bevel, universal chuck, tool handle, T square, tri square, scratch guage, depth gauge, slide calipers, reamer, countersink, brad awl, scratch awl, straight edge, ink eraser, tack claw, nail set, center punch, bag needle, sail needle, button hook, spatula, scraper, stiletto, and ten others. They are made on honor and sold on guarantee, price $1.”
Before we left on vacation, I managed to pick up a large version of the pocket tool kit. And, the size difference between the regular L.E.B. Co. tool kit, and the larger one is significant:
A really neat addition to the cork puller collection.
Over the last week, I have had my eyes on a corkscrew on eBay.
I know, big surprise..
And, I had placed a bid early, and said corkscrew lot ended yesterday.
Now, the corkscrew doesn’t have some fabulous function, nor is it made of some unusual materials, it is just cool, and fairly hard to come by…
There have been two of these that have sold on the corkscrewcollectors.com auction; one for a fairly high price, and one for a few dollars more than the bid that ultimately won the auction on eBay. And, there was one that turned up at the Dearborn CCCC meeting in 2012.
As the auction was winding down to the last two minutes, the corkscrew had jumped in price, and I had pretty much decided to let it go…
And, then with about 30 seconds left, I changed my mind, and threw out a bid.
I was the high bidder!
With 8 seconds to go, my bid was taken out.
With 5 seconds left, I went higher.
Literally…within seconds of the auction ending, I received a message from TC, which simply said:
Apparently he was one of the other bidders, and we had a good exchange about the scarcity of the little corkscrew, and how we both wanted it.
In 2014, when Fred Kincaid had put his up for sale, he referred to it as “Little Korky,” as it certainly seems to be part of the McDowell patent Korkmaster family…
A fun addition to the collection. The next one is yours TC!
On Sep. 02, 1879, Benjamin N. Shelley of Anderson, Indiana was awarded patent number 219,313 for his Improved Combination Implement for Domestic and Other Uses.
When the Shelley turns up, it is usually found with a PATD APLD FOR marking (with the two D’s in superscript) as well as the mark “LADIES FRIEND.”
In Shelly’s patent drawing, he explains:
My invention consists of a combined implement for domestic and other purposes, which presents in a single device and compact form the functions of hammer, screw-driver, cork-screw, can-opener, ice-pick, glass cutter and breaker, stove-lifter, tack-drawer, saw-set, knife-sharpener, wrench, steak-tenderer, and putty-knife.
That is a lot of uses.
And, a lot of hyphens…
That said, when the “LADIES FRIEND” turns up, they almost always have damage to the corkscrew. Odd turns, broken tips; it makes you wonder what material Shelley used for the corkscrew, or perhaps people in 1878 opted to use the corkscrew as the stove-lifter or steak-tenderer…
Still, it is fabulous combination multi-tool with corkscrew that I would love to add to the collection…
If you have a “LADIES FRIEND” laying around, feel free to drop me a line at Josef@vintagecorkscrews,com
Of course, feel free to email regarding any antique corkscrews with which you wish to part.
Under the Patent Office’s category of “Cork Extractors” we find this familiar-looking device of 1867. Can openers of this style have, of course, become obsolete, but there are several contemporary corkscrews based on this principle.
The 1867 corkscrew described (and pictured) in Inventor’s Handbook is, of course, the 1867 McGill (#61,080) patent.
Interestingly, the McGill has still yet to have turned up with the frame and can opener, mirroring the patent drawing, and instead, when found, is a simple direct pull, with a can opener end; usually marked PATENT:
That said, I would love to find a spring mechanism frame corkscrew with can opener attached to the handle…that looks like the 1867 patent!