The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Weekly Newspaper

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Number 560

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Crows, Ravens & Rooks

Definitions from

Crow: A bird, usually black, of the genus Corvus, having a strong conical beak, with projecting bristles. It has a harsh, croaking note.

Raven: A large black passerine bird (Corvus corax), similar to the crow, but larger. It is native of the northern part of Europe, Asia and America, and is noted for its sagacity.

Rook: A European bird (Corvus frugilegus) resembling the crow, but smaller. It is black, with purple and violet reflections. The base of the beak and the region around it are covered with a rough, scabrous skin, which in old birds is whitish. It is gregarious in its habits.

Our man proves to be a big draw

From the June 1, 2009 issue of The Northern Echo (submitted by reader Wally Mellors*):

His face might not be as well known as our regular columnists, because his photograph doesn’t appear alongside his work, but Cluff has become a Northern Echo institution over the past 19 years.

Known in real life as John Longstaff, our waspish cartoonist was born in Corporation Road, Darlington, and celebrates his 60th birthday next month. It won’t be long before he’s drawing his pension.

Always a doodler, John worked as the exhibitions officer for Cleveland County Council’s planning department before turning to his artistic talents to make a living.

He picked his alias from a Sixties television series called Sergeant Cluff, starring Leslie Sands as a plodding Yorkshire Dales detective, and his big break came in 1982 when his cartoons began to appear in Private Eye.

Over the years, John has got used to being asked for the originals of the sketches which are faxed over for publication each day. Paul Daniels asked for one, as did Lord Archer, and a particular Private Eye effort was snapped up by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

But surely the most bizarre request came last week when a reader rang to ask if it would be possible to buy the Cluff cartoon – reproduced left.

The drawing was inspired by a story about how the rook has been identified as the cleverest English bird because it has learned to use tools. It can even bend a piece of wire to help it winkle a worm out of a tube.

The caller was given John’s telephone number and a deal was done to buy the original.

We’d presumed the buyer must have been into birds, but it turned out that he was an avid collector of corkscrews and anything to do with them.

“He went away very happy,” said John.

Corkscrews date back to the Romans who secured vintage wine containers with bungs fashioned from the bark of the quercus suber, an evergreen oak tree. And collecting corkscrews is a growing hobby, with a record £18,500 paid for an English 18th Century silver pocket corkscrew, engraved with Queen Alexandra’s initials and sold at auction in 1997. Cluff’s cartoon sold for considerably less.

*And, yes, The Weekly Screw reader Wally Mellors was the purchaser of the cartoon!

Raven on the Roost

The box for the "Raven on a Roost" combination bottle opener and corkscrew reads
"Timberline © Radferm, N. Y. 1964".

Old Crow Whisky*

In 1918 W. A. Gaines & Company brought a trademark violation suit against Rock Spring Distilling Company before the Circuit Court. They stated that the Gaines Company used the name Old Crow to "designate a brand of straight rye or straight bourbon whisky manufactured by that company." The Gaines Company operated a distillery in Woodford County, Kentucky called "Old Crow Distillery."

On February 26, 1909, Gaines had officially filed for and was granted the "Old Crow" trademark.

Silas Rosenfield was operating the Rock Spring's Distillery in Davies County, Kentucky. The claim was made that Rock Springs "…in fraud of the Gaines Company's rights and in infringement of its trade-mark, made or caused to be made and sold or caused to be sold in Kentucky a certain spurious straight bourbon whisky … and branded the same with the words 'Celebrated Old Crow Whisky Bottled in Bond.'"

They argued "… in 1835 James Crow invented and formulated a novel process for the production of whisky which he did not patent or seek to patent but kept for his own use until his death in 1855".

When Crow died he passed his secret process to William F. Mitchell who, in 1867, started the Gaines, Berry Co. partnership, the predecessor to W. A. Gaines & Co. The court conceded that when the name "Old Crow" was applied by James Crow it was a valid trademark and "since its adoption it has always been applied to the whisky produced by the indicated secret process, and since that time has indicated to the public whisky distilled on Glenn's creek, in Woodford county, Kentucky, and nowhere else."

The case stated that beginning in January, 1903 Rock Springs sold their "Old Crow" product in St. Louis and that their successors "A. M. Hellman & Co." were guilty of trademark infringement.

The Hellmans denied guilt and argued the alleged use of the word "Crow", "Old Crow" and "J. W. Crow had actually been used oh their own and predecessor's packages of whisky since 1863 and, perhaps, earlier. They said that the whisky sold by Gaines was an unrefined, harmful and deleterious article and that the whisky sold by them was a brand largely free from impurities.

The Circuit Court ruled in favor of Gaines and found the Hellmans guilty of unfair competition.

Hellman appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals and they reversed the decision of the Circuit Court.

A 1949 advertisement from National Distillers Product Corporation

The case went to the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals decision was now reversed favoring Gaines & Co. Two years later the Prohibition period started in the United States.

The painting in this 1949 advertisement is an image of James Crow and the Marquis De Lafayette in 1825.

In 1833 James Crow, a Scotsman, was employed by Oscar Pepper in his distillery in Glenn's Creek, Woodford County, Kentucky. It was there that Crow perfected the art of making sour mash whisky. Today the Pepper distillery is operated by Labrot & Graham (subsidiary of Brown-Forman).

On June 8, 1904 Gaines "Old Crow" trademark was registered. On May 23, 1957 the trademark was transferred from National Distillers Products Corporation to National Distillers and Chemical Corporation through a company name change. On June 15, 1987 the "Old Crow" trademark was transferred from National to the James B. Beam Distilling Co. August 4, 1988 the trademark was transferred by company name change to Jim Beam Brands Company.

A comment on Old Crow:

In 1905 Carrie Nation wrote in her The Use and Need of the Life of a Carry A. Nation "…there is a sign: 'Old Crow Whiskey.' This is slandering the crow, for there is not a crow or vulture that will use a drop of this slop."

In 1897 William A. Williamson was granted a U. S. patent for his invention of a corkscrew which is concealed inside a small bottle or bullet shape roundlet. The ends thread together and when unscrewed, a helix pivots at an angle to the base. The two pieces are then screwed back together to form the handle. The Old Crow Whiskey advertising plaque on this roundlet is from S. S. Pierce. S. S. Pierce started a provisions business in Boston in 1831. They were representatives in Boston for Old Crow Whiskey. The bottom of the bullet is marked WILLIAMSON CO., NEWARK, N.J., PATENTED JUNE 1 97.

An Old Crow picnic corkscrew / cap lifter. The top of the handle says "Bourbon Whiskey at its best." The sheath has "Old Crow Bourbon Whiskey."

The Old Crow cap lifter / corkscrew was made by Paul A. Henckels in Germany. Advertising on the back of the tuxedoed crow is "The Old Crow Distillery, Frankfort, Kentucky." The handles (crow) are cast iron and the blade is stainless steel. The fluted wire helix folds flush to the body.

The Old Crow in tuxedo made his debut in Life Magazine in 1964.

*This article has been reproduced from Corkscrew Stories Volume 2 ©2004 Donald A. Bull.

Coyote Arts

The Raven corkscrew is currently offered online by Coyote Arts of Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada for $28.00.

Figural Corkscrews

Coming late June 2009. Click here: Figural Corkscrews

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©2009 Don Bull, Editor


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