The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Weekly Newspaper
Sunday, June 29 , 2008
A Conversation with Converse
Hold everything. What's going on here? This cork puller with whistle sold at Internet auction a couple of weeks ago for $340.00. There were five bidders competing for it.
What a surprise it was for us to learn that the Converse prong puller patented in 1899 (the listing said 1890) has a whistle in the sheath! So you are amazed too?! We went to a medium and in a séance we had a conversation with Maschil Converse.
Weekly: Mr. Converse, we hear that you have invented a number of products.
Converse: Yes, in 1886 I got a patent for a snap hook, in 1894 a nail extractor and a monkey wrench, in 1899 a rivet and a cork remover, a wood plane in 1900, and a saw handle in 1902. All together I had about thirty patents.
Weekly: Tell us a little about your invention of a cork remover.
Converse: Cork extractors had been made for some time with prongs which in use are inserted next to the inner sides of the neck of the bottle on opposite sides of the cork by pressure to embrace the latter. Some can be used on different size corks and are costly to make and are quite apt to break.
Weekly: And what did you do differently?
Converse: My goal was to cheapen the cost of manufacture and make a produce that would be more durable.
Weekly: And did you succeed?
Converse: Yes, I filed for a U. S. patent on July 12, 1898 and on May 10, 1899 I was granted U. S. Patent. No. 624,457.
Weekly: Was it a success?
Converse: Yes, we couldn't keep up with demand! We produced them by the thousands. They were so successful that many were still working a hundred plus years later.
Weekly: How did you protect the prongs when not in use?
Converse: Although it wasn't part of my patent, when we went in to production, we simply made a round tubular sleeve with the same diameter as the inside of the collar above the prongs. The sleeve would slip over the prongs and keep them safe. We even sold it to some companies stamped with their advertising.
Weekly: Did you ever make a sleeve that had a whistle in it?
Converse: What the hell are you talking about?! Remember we wanted to make the product as cheaply as possible. We were in the business of pulling corks not whistling!
After the last question and answer, the spirit went silent.
The same seller (from Argentina) offers the above puller with a starting bid of $45.00. It closes on July 2. You still have time to place a hefty bid!!! But wait ... check this out:
This one closes on July 1 and it has a starting bid of $60.00. From the listing we learn the whistle is very loud, a brush on the handle is missing, and it has been polished.
It is important to note that none of these listings make the claim that the item is old. Yes, the prong puller is old but the sheath has been replaced with a modern example. Several of them have turned up in recent months.
Here's what a Converse cork puller with sleeve looks like in real life:
Note: Like the converse whistle cork pullers, the conversation with Converse is fantasy.
Cork Puller Tune
Here's a song with Portuguese to English translation often heard during Carnaval in Brazil.
Saca-Rolha (Zé da Zilda - Zilda - Waldyr Machado)
As águas vão rolar
Garrafa cheia eu não quero ver sobrar
Eu passo a mão no saca saca
E bebo até me afogar
Deixa as águas rolar
Se a polícia por isso me prender
Mas na última hora me soltar
Eu pego um saca saca saca
Ninguém me agarra, ninguém me agarra
The waters are going to roll
I don't want to see any full bottle left
I get a hold of the cork cork
And drink until I drown
Let the waters roll
If the police lock me up for that
And at the last minute release me
I get a hold of the cork cork
Nobody catches me, nobody
©2008 Don Bull, Editor