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Sunday June 16, 2007

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Figural Sheaths for Williamson Corkscrews

by Don Bull

From the late 1800s until the mid 20th Century several Eastern American companies were actively producing a variety of cast products including jewelry boxes, clocks, candelabras, statues, match holders and other decorative items. Some of the more recognized household words of the time were Benedict Manufacturing, Brainard & Wilson, Jennings Brothers, Kronheimer & Oldenbusch, and Weidlich Brothers. Three of these firms are known to have produced corkscrew sheaths to fit the combination corkscrew - bottle openers from Williamson of Newark, New Jersey.

Kronheimer & Oldenbusch

Ernest A. Oldenbusch was a prolific inventor. His first patent was granted August 2, 1887 (No. 367,544) for a "Spring or Snap Clasp for Pocket-Books". The patent was assigned to the firm of Williams Schimper & Co. Hoboken, New Jersey. During the next forty years, Oldenbusch was granted 40 more patents. His inventions included match boxes, cigarette cases, picture frames, purse fasteners, a lady's belt, a box for postage stamps, a toiler powder dispenser, and a perpetual calendar. His patents showed various locations for him - Brooklyn, New York and Hoboken, Weekhawken, and Jersey City, New Jersey.

Oldenbusch was associated with Schimper until 1900 when he formed a firm with Kronheimer in New York. The Perpetual Calendar (shown above) was U. S. Patent No. 1,660,232 issued February 21, 1928. The calendar is marked on the reverse K & O Co. with the patent date FEB 21, 28. The significance of this calendar will be seen later in this article.

Pictured above are three cast lead horse head sheaths fitted with the Williamson corkscrew. Two are brass plated and one is copper plated. Each is marked on the underside of the head K & O CO. MADE IN U.S.A.

Two of the above horse heads were produced as souvenirs - one for Jones Beach, New York and one for Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Various souvenir "shields" like on the perpetual calendar shown at the top of this article can be found on the K & O horse heads. The second one has the K & O mark on the underside of the head.

The three shields below are Nubblehouse Light, York, Maine; Rotunda, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and The State House, Boston, Massachusetts. This type of shield is also used on other corkscrews which will be seen later in this article.

Although not marked, the sheath below could have been cast by K & O.

The long alligator is known with the K & O mark.

One of the alligators has a "Florida" inset and the other is impressed "Silver Springs, Fla." on the bottom.

Side view of the K & O alligators

The alligator at top above is a larger, fatter version. The alligator at the bottom has a Tampa, Florida souvenir inset. The smaller alligator below has a Miami souvenir plate (all from the collection of Bert Giulian).

Kronheimer & Oldenbusch went out of business in 1942. All of the K & O corkscrews would, therefore, be dated prior to the closing and, most likely, during the 1930s.

Jennings Brothers

Jennings Brothers Manufacturing Company operated a foundry in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They made clocks, lamps, tableware, shaving sets, corkscrews, and more. During the three year period 1899 - 1901, Edwin M. Jennings (one of the brothers) teamed up with Charles S. Mosman to design some clock cases for which they were granted U. S. design patents. As early as 1894 Edward had been a witness on a mirror frame patent by Mosman. Mosman was granted six design patents in 1921 for "Design for a Base for a Crucifix or Candlestick or Similar Article".

The trademark J B can be found on their products. Sometimes it is accompanied by “Trademark JB Signifies the Best”.

Like Kronheimer and Oldenbusch, Jennings produced a horse head sheath for a Williamson corkscrew. The design was somewhat different and they were bright nickel plated. Below is an example produced as a souvenir for Louisville, Kentucky. The other horse head is marked J B 301.

The top two fish swallowing worms in the photo below were made my Jennings Brothers. The brass plated fish has the J B mark. The copper plated fish is marked MADE IN JAPAN. It is a not as finely detailed later production and yet stuffed with a Williamson worm.

A fish in the collection of Bert Giulian has a souvenir shield from the Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine, Florida.

The standing owl, coffee urns, and a standing horse were produced by Jennings Brothers. All of those below have the J B mark.

The marks below from left to right are from the Urn, the Fish, the Standing Horse, and the Owl.

Below are a Cleveland souvenir shield on an Urn and an example like the above standing horse but with a nautical theme (from the collection of Bert Giulian).

Pelican by Jennings Brothers

Jennings Brothers Sea Horse with souvenir shield for "Old Wind Mill, Cape Cod, Mass."

Jennings Brothers Golf Club and a Tennis Racquet

The details of the bear and the lion are consistent with designs by Jennings Brothers. They are not marked. The bear is a souvenir of Skyline Caverns in Virginia.

Weidlich Brothers

Weidlich Brothers Manufacturing Company operated in Bridgeport, Connecticut from 1901 until the 1950s. The brothers were Louis, Frank, and William. They produced a wide variety of art metal ware much of which was silver-plated.

The two principle designers at Weidlich were Louis Weidlich and Alfred J. Flauder. Between 1907 and 1933, Louis was granted more than a dozen design patents including jewelry cases, cigarette dispensers, an inkwell and pin cushion combination, an incense burner, a salt shaker, a table crumber and an electric perfumer (well ahead of the makers of aromatherapy and plug-in odor eaters!). With Flauder, Louis obtained two patents for manufacturing methods - one for lowering costs of die-making and one for hollow ware.

Flauder was even more inventive with over 60 design patents to his credit from 1913 to 1948 while working with Weidlich. Alfred designed jewelry cases, salt & pepper shakers, crucifix pedestals, candlesticks, a variety of spoons, a cigarette lighter, perfumer and disinfectant units, clock cases, athletic trophies and a corkscrew!

The two corkscrews below have the W-B mark of Weidlich Brothers. The comic character on the left is a souvenir of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Note how the comic bellhop head is cast on to the bottle opener top. The corkscrew with milk can shape sheath on the right was offered with a set.

The Jollyfication Set includes a mixing spoon, the corkscrew with milk can shape sheath and a cup. The box has the W-B mark at the top. On top of the spoon is the Prohibition character based on Rollin Kirby's cartoon. The milk can with dog cast on opener handle is marked W-B.

On August 16, 1932 U. S. Design Patent No. 87,567 for "Design for a Bottle Opener" was issued to Alfred J. Flauder and assigned to Weidlich Brothers. Weidlich marketed the combination cocktail spoon, corkscrew, cap lifter, and drinking cup under the name "Jolly Good Mixer." It was produced in silver plate, nickel plate, and bronze plate. The box has the W-B mark and "4 -in-1 Friendship Kit".

In Flauder's clever design there is a scowl and prudish stance on one side of the figure and a half-smile and a drink held on the other.

Do you recognize the Williamson corkscrew? Like Weidlich's comic character, the head is cast on to the bottle opener giving the appearance of a big mouth.

Markings for the Jolly Good Mixer are found under the nose on each side.

The "Prosit" Stein and "Happy Days" barrel resemble the milk can by Weidlich. They were most likely produced by Weidlich at the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933. They fit in with the Weidlich theme of the time. The barrel tap is also a good Weidlich possibility in this theme.

The well worn souvenir plate depicts the Statue of Liberty

The Empire State Building and the New York World's Fair Trylon have the same flat cut at the worm entry as the other Weidlich products. They fit in with the comic character souvenir of the World's Fair.


The Demley mark is better known for the Old Snifter corkscrews. They also, however, produced the Padlock shown above using the Williamson combination corkscrew and bottle opener. The key accompanying it is not marked. It has a souvenir shield from the Old Wind Mill, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Unknown Manufacturers

Although a number of the following corkscrews were probably made by the Kronheimer & Oldenbusch, Jennings Brothers, or Weidlich Brothers, no makers' marks are on those in the photographs.

Unmarked Anchors

Anchors with souvenir shields. The anchor on the left is from Kennebunkport, Maine. The anchor on the right is from the Old Wind Mill, Cape Cod, Massachusetts (same as the Jennings Brothers' seahorse). Both have the same anchor design as the middle example in the previous photograph.

New Orleans souvenir anchor (from the collection of Ron MacLean)

The boots below come in two sizes - 2 1/8" and 2 3/8". The boot on the left has PEMCO cast into it. It is an aluminum casting. Pemco manufactured porcelain and glass in Baltimore, Maryland from 1910 until the firm was sold in 1955. The next three boots are a lead alloy casting. The brass boot on the right has a different cap lifter and larger hole for the worm. This one is probably an Asian knock-off.

The top left hootch hound in the photo below is probably another Prohibition Repeal corkscrew Weidlich Brothers . The hole size for the Williamson worm is correct and smaller than the hole size in the other three in the photo. The latter three have a larger diameter stem above the worm than the Williamson. The design with proper tail is a refinement of the earlier (top left) version.

Hootch hound differences in the worm and the worm hole


The bakelite leg is not marked


Silver and gold boots using the Williamson corkscrew were produced by R. Blackinton in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The boots are marked with the Blackinton trademark and STERLING 738 or 14K plus PAT. APD. FOR. (no patent found).

Four silver boots: Left handed worm on left plus three with right hand worm
The gold boot on the right is from the collection of Jack Bandy

One boot marked with initial and 1928 date and the Sterling mark

The "Little Brown Jug" on the right has the Blackinton silver mark and STERLING 23 on the top. the other two jugs appear to be later productions and have a different shaft / opener above the worm.


Several of the figural sheaths in this article have souvenir shields attached. These same shields were attached to wood sleeve corkscrews, folding bows, and bottle openers.

Two wood sheath corkscrews with shield. The one on the right celebrates the Marriage Place of Ramona in San Diego, California. This is the spot where the U. S. Flag was first raised in Southern California, in 1846. The one on the right is from St. Paul’s Church in Norfolk, Virginia. Built in 1739. St. Paul's Church is Norfolk’s oldest building and the only structure to survive the British destruction of the city on New Year’s Day in 1776.

Folding bow souvenir of Chicago's Union Station.

Here are two examples of bottle openers using the same shape shield as those found on some of the figural sheaths. On the left is a souvenir of a Baltimore convention from Crown Cork and Seal Co. The other is "Compliments of Arnholt-Schaefer, Philadelphia's Largest Brewery Bottlers". Arnholt & Schaefer were brewers and bottlers from 1887 to 1920.


The figural sheaths for the Williamson corkscrews were made in the first half of the 20th Century with the majority in the 1930s. The primary foundries were Kronheimer & Oldenbusch, Jennings Brothers, and Weidlich Brothers. A lock with a metal sheath was produced by Demley. Blackinton in Massachusetts was the primary manufacturer of silver and gold sheaths using Williamson corkscrews. Most were zinc-alloy castings. Others were aluminum , brass, bakelite, and silver. Most of the souvenir shields attached to the figural sheaths and other corkscrews are of similar design and were used as early as 1910.

In addition to figural sheaths, a large variety of silver sheaths can be found with the Williamson corkscrew. They are also used in some of the wine funnel sets, spoons, ice choppers, and jiggers. Stag, bone, and celluloid sheaths have been noted as well.

Readers who have figural sheath styles not shown, figural sheaths with marks, or additional information on the corkscrews or their manufacturers, please email Don Bull at .

Note: This article first appeared in the Spring, 2007 issue of The Bottle Scrue Times, the newsletter of the International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts (ICCA).

O'Leary's Billiken

In his 2000 Best Six, Fred O'Leary described his billiken corkscrew with "A bone/ivory figural with a Williamson-type corkscrew/cap lifter insert. I have owned this unassuming piece for many years before discovering what it is - a billiken. What is a billiken, you ask? The figure is a creation of Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Missouri who was granted a (U.S.) Design Patent for an 'Image October 6, 1908 (No. D39,603), depicting a chubby little elf-like naked boy with a pointy head (or turned up hair), pixie ears, slanty eyes, pug nose, wimpish smile and rotund belly w/button, shown in a seated position with arms at the side and the soles of his bare feet facing forward.

As for the name, it is thought to have oriental origins, which became anglicized by a Chicago distributor - the Billiken Company. Thus image and name came together, leading to an explosive fad in 1910/11 - later spreading to Japan - known as Billikenmania. Its meaning as interpreted for us is "god of things as they ought to be", or in other words it brings good luck. By rubbing the feet, the desired effect could be achieved, which was not lost upon St. Louis University which adopted the Billiken as their official mascot at the height of Billikenmania. To this day SLU team are known as 'The Billikens'.

Billiken songs have been written, including The Billiken Man, published 1909 (Once a fat man went a-swimmin; from the surf he tripped, He was flirtin' with some woman, When his new suit ripped. As he sat down in the sand, He said 'Billikens don't stand, I'm a Billiken Man, a Billiken Man') and Billiken Rag.

Needless to say, with money to be made clever marketers rushed to bring forth every possible configuration they could dream up (now elevated to the realm of collectible) including potty-training dolls ('Billy Can' - 'Billy Can't'), belt buckles, bookends, bottles, clay incense burners, hatpins, marshmallow candies, metal banks, pickle forks, salt & peppers, tokens, tooth pick stands, watchfobs, you name it - and, fortunately for us, Billiken corkscrews. Although the facial countenance is unmistakable, the carving is lacking in lower detail where it will again take a careful eye to make out the stylized bare feet with ten toes ready to be rubbed.'

Editor's note: Fred O'Leary is the author of Corkscrews: 1000 Patented Ways to Open a Bottle.

Another Billiken is this celluloid handle corkscrew labeled "Lucky Joy Germ".

Cast Iron Billiken bank with patent number on the back

News Index

©2007 Don Bull, Editor


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