The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Weekly Newspaper

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Number 489

Click for free subscription

News Index

The Devil in the White City

by Don Bull

Last week I read The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson (First Vintage Books 2004). The book is a wonderfully written history of the building of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) in Chicago interlaced with the story of a true crime that plagued the city at the time. The book is peppered with the Exposition "Firsts" including:

And George Ferris built the first Ferris Wheel - it was a whopper: a massive 250 foot high wheel and 36 passenger cars. The school bus size (27' x 9' x 13') cabs would hold 60 people giving a total capacity of 2,160 as the wheel turned.

Several cities competed for the honor of hosting the 1893 fair celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of the New World. Chicago won. The fair site was dedicated October 26, 1892. Over 200 buildings were erected on the 600 acre site. The official opening date was May 1, 1893. President Grover Cleveland presided over the opening ceremonies. By closing day, October 23, 1893, twenty-seven million visitors were recorded at The World's Columbian Exposition. They came from all over the world to see the "White City" and enjoy the carnival atmosphere on the midway including Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show.

Pabst Brewing Company was there and they were awarded a Blue Ribbon which became the signature on their beer for generations to come.

And a fellow from New York (later New Hampshire) received a medal - it was none other than William Rockwell Clough, a name very familiar to all corkscrew collectors!

Clough's corkscrews celebrating the fair with copy "1492 Hail Columbia 1892, Chicago 1893". They were marked CORKSCREW PATS NO. 337,309, 441,137 CLOUGH AND MACONNELL NEW YORK. U. S. Patent No. 337,309 was issued to William Crabb of Newark, New Jersey, on March 2, 1886. Patent No. 441,137 was issued to Clough on November 25, 1890 for his "Machine for Making Corkscrews". Ron MacLean found a photograph of Clough at the 1900 Paris International Exhibition. He is standing by his machine holding a corkscrew and has corkscrews on display. Ron notes that Clough exhibited at many fairs at home and abroad.

Having finished the book, I was very curious to learn more about this great exposition and the souvenirs that were offered there. A quick online search of auctions turned up dozens including commemorative stamps and coins, toothpick holders, admission tickets, postcards, playing cards, plates, ashtrays, and more.

Each of the playing cards depicted a different building

Then I learned that a couple of dozen patents were issued to inventors of objects specifically designed for the fair. Harry Snyder had three design patents for cane handles (D22,070, D22,339, and D22,340).

Snyder's Cane Handles

Henry Weihman designed a thimble "having upon its surface a representation of the World's Fair buildings at Chicago (D21,747). Louis Burger created a match safe with the head of Columbus on one side and Queen Isabella on the other (D22,366). In addition to a handful of ornate souvenir spoon designs, Burger also designed several fair spoons (D22,253, D22,254 D22,255, D22,257, and D22,319). Other Exposition spoon designers included William Montague of Duluth, Minnesota (D22,660), Austin Jackson of Taunton, Massachusetts (D20,838), and Alice Demsey of Washington, D. C. (D21,221). There were a number of other patentees of the popular spoon souvenirs of the period.

In anticipation of the fair, Emma Requa of Harrison, New York designed a badge (D21,618) about which she wrote "The design is intended as a memento of the approaching World's Columbian Exposition to be held at Chicago in 1893." Joseph Sweet applied for a design patent for his Cigar-Cutter Case depicting Columbus in May of 1893 but it wasn't granted until three months after the close of the fair (D23,023)

A "Combined Building and Water Tower" was invented by William Fitzroy Smith for use at fairs and expositions. He was granted U. S. Patent No. 446,897 on February 24, 1890.

So what about corkscrews?

While Snyder, Burger, Weihman, Montague, Jackson, Requa, and others were getting their Exposition design patents, someone applied for a patent on a small figural corkscrew with the likeness of Christopher Columbus. Chris' weak worm folds inside the body and is folded out for action. The figure is marked "Columbus Screw, 1492 Chicago 1892, Pat. Appld. For". There is no evidence that a patent was granted.

David W. Davis of Detroit, Michigan applied for his Waiter's Friend patent on February 15, 1890. His corkscrews are well marked with "The Davis Cork Screw Pat'd July 14, 1891" (No. 455,826). The example shown here is a souvenir of the fair with the wording "Columbian Exposition, Chicago U. S. A. 1893".

Columbian Exposition Chicago U. S. A. 1893

Likeness of Columbus on the Davis corkscrew

William Williamson of Newark, New Jersey did not file for his Mini Bottle Corkscrew patent until January 11, 1897. He was granted U. S. Patent No. 583,561 on June 1, 1897. It is, however, interesting to note that one of the badges on a bottle depicts Columbus with the wording "Columbian Souvenir". It is marked PAT APLD FOR and could very well have been produced for the Exposition, several years before the patent application was filed.

Mark on the bottom of the "Columbian Souvenir" bottle

The "Columbian Souvenir" bottle has a Stanhope lens (photo is broken up)

In 1892, Eduard Becker of Solingen, Germany registered a design for a corkscrew with a split frame. The corkscrew was marked "Columbus" and it was registered 400 years after Columbus voyage to the "New World". In March 1893, the year of the Columbian Exposition, Becker filed for a German Patent for his corkscrew (No. 70,879). On June 24, 1893, he filed for a U. S. Patent which was granted on April 10, 1894 (No. 518,018). Given the timing of the invention and the name given to the product, it is quite likely that Becker was capitalizing on the event in Chicago and may very well have had a corkscrew presence there amongst the thousands of manufacturers represented.

Becker frames with the "Columbus" mark

Becker continued to use the "Columbus" as a brand name for his Solingen "Kolumbuswerk" throughout the Twentieth Century. In the example shown above, Becker used the popular neckstand design created by Ernst Steinfeld in 1899 and added a can opener on one end of the handle. (Luterman collection).

Another "Columbus" corkscrew was patented by Eduard Becker in Germany in 1953. The combination can opener, cap lifter, corkscrew, and cork grip was assigned patent number 962,407 on November 2, 1953. It is marked "Columbus". Note the plain and stippled finish differences in the two pictured tools.

A late 20th Century "Columbus"

Becker produced boxes full of "Columbus" corkscrews

A Century of Progress

Corkscrew with sliding corkscrew / opener by Electro Chemical Engraving

Forty years after the closing of the Columbian World Expostion, another "World's Fair" opened in Chicago. The gates were officially opened on May 27,1933 and the fair closed on October 31, 1934. There were thirty nine million admissions to the fair.

Knife / corkscrew "World's Fair 1933 - Chicago - 1934" marked on the master blade N SHURE CO CHICAGO

A corkscrew key commemorating the Century of Progess was made for the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company. This company was founded in 1890 and shoreline structures for the Columbian Exposition were included in the company's projects.

The "Sky Way" and Fort Dearborn are depicted on the reverse

Jean-Louis Desor has a the same key showing the administration building instead of the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock enamel insert. On the opposite side Jean-Louis' key says Sky Ride instead of Sky Way.

News Index

©2007 Don Bull, Editor


The Virtual Corkscrew Museum