And, a few more poison indicators…

Not that I have actually discovered any poison indicator corkscrews since we last spoke–not that I am speaking–but, I thought I would thumb through the back of O’Leary and check out the patent drawings (once again).

As mentioned the other day, the first mention in O’Leary of a corkscrew with a poison purpose, is the Bailey Safety Alarm of 1890.


That said, I found another reference on pharmacy history that has an illustration of the both the 1883 Stites Bottle Stopper and the 1890 Bailey Safety Alarm with the words “Stites Cross Bones Stopper and Corkscrew.” In visiting the patent, no corkscrew is mentioned in the Stites patent description, but it would certainly be cool if it actually had one–or if we could find one for that matter.


The Blake patent of 1914, mentioned the other day is the next poison related corkscrew illustrated in O’Leary.


In looking at the dates, and while no patent has been found, we then go into 1915 with the Hall’s Red Devil Skull.  And, the newly identified as a patent, so not pictured in O’Leary, Hudson patent of 1915.


In 1916, we see T.E. Higgins “Poison Alarm Device.”  Again, a piece that I have never seen in person, or pictured, and one that certainly should do its job, with a large skull hanging above a corkscrew inserted in a bottle.


In 1917, there is the Ketler patent for a “poison bottle indicator.”  Similarly themed, it has a skull and crossbones in a circular frame.  Again, as far as I know, this has yet to be discovered within our respective collections.


In 1921, we are introduced to the Teece patent “poison bottle top.”


And, finally in 1924, there is another Skull and Crossbones styles corkscrew: the Fleisher patent, with folding corkscrew attached to the top of the skull, and a spike to insert into the cork:


There are lots of other poison indicators without corkscrews.  Many patents, with largely the same theme, spikes and sharp edges.  Like the Hall’s Red Skull, where the horns are intended to serve as a warning in the middle of the night, and the sharp edges of the Blake (which we haven’t found) or the serrated disk, which is similar to, and could very well be the Bailey’s Safety Alarm, there are sharp edges, spikes, prongs, barbs, and the like which are intended to serve as a deterrent.

This is going to hurt you, so don’t drink this.

As far as I know, most of these patents haven’t been found in a real life form.  Do you have one of these poison related corkscrews?  Do you have a different poison related corkscrew?

Feel free to drop me a line.

Edward Leverich Hall

From a 1912 issue of American Druggist:

To Lower the Death Rate

The number of accidental deaths in the United States from poisoning in the course of five consecutive years amounted to 8,441 in four states alone, the remaining states have hallillustration
no statistics of this kind.  These figures show that something out to be done to prevent the possibility of such accidents.  The Hall Red-Devil-Skull Company, 115 Nassau street, have brought out a unique preventive of such poisoning, which consists of a Red-Devil Skull in the shape of a corkscrew, made of a composition, colored a deep red.  The little sharp horns of the “Red Devil” project above the rest of the skull, thus preventing anyone from pulling the cork of the bottle thus protected without a prick from these horns.  In daylight the shape the color of the corkscrew protect and warn.  The advantage of this little device is that it can be applied by any one to the cork of any bottle when care must be used when taking its contents.  The skulls are inexpensive and there is room on the back for the name of the druggist, so that it becomes a valuable advertisement as well as a most useful article.  We understand that the company, which owns the patent rights and manufactures these skulls, will send free samples with full information to any druggist.

Also, within the issue:

Poison Bottle Indicator

Retail druggists all over the world are buying Hall’s Red-Devil-Skull corkscrew, an invention to safeguard their patrons.  Projecting devil horns on the handle warn the user at night by sense of touch.  Many deaths have been caused through picking up bottles in the dark.  This will prevent that.  Any druggist that orders a quantity may have his name put on the corkscrew.  Prices, samples, and information may be had by sending to the Hall Red-Devil-Skull Company, Danville, Ill.

We know that the HRDS stands for the Hall’s Red Devil Skull, as Don Bull published on his website a few years ago having found a box for the little Skulls on eBay.  And, we know that there are two sizes.

But, from these two brief articles, now we know that the little horns were intentionally sharp.  And, that they little skulls had the possibility of serving as an advertising vehicle.

Have an you you found a Hall’s Red Devil Skull with advertising?

Moreover, the article explains that the company has the patent rights.  Is there a patent for this little guy?


The digging will continue, but thus far no patent has been discovered.  Still, we have found the inventor!  Mr. Edward Leverich Hall, who according to the University of Illinois Directory as of 1910, was listed as Gen. Mngr., Red Devil Skull Co., Danville, ILL.  Invented the Red-Devil-Skull, a device to prevent accidental poisoning, now being sold extensively across the U.S.