Celluloid Corkscrews

Celluloid was the first synthetic plastic material. In 1856 it was synthesized by British Chemist Alexander Parkes (1831-1890). John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920) of Starkey New York developed it as a commercial product in 1869. Celluloid is produced from a mixture of cellulose nitrate and camphor. It is a strong, durable product which can be produced in many colors. It was even an expensive substitue for ivory. Common products made from celluloid include combs, brushes, dentures, billiard balls, photographic film and, yes, scales for figural corkscrews!

Here are a few of the corkscrews with celluloid scales in the shapes of legs, mermaids, alligators, kissing couples and shoes. Marks and patent data are noted. Manufacturers marks noted are detailed at the bottom of this page.

The gay nineties legs are German patent 21718 issued to Steinfeld & Reimer January 1, 1894.

Mini legs are the hardest of the celluloid legs to find. The pair at top left is 1 7/8" long. This is followed by a rare bare flesh tone. The second from the top right has two different stripe pairings on each side. Markings on legs include: GERMANY; GESETZLICH GESCHÜTZT; SRD (with arrow through it) GERMANY; MORLEY & SONS GERMANY; HUGO KÖLLER SOLINGEN; REGISTERED GERMANY; GRAEF & SCHMIDT MADE IN GERMANY; HENRY BOKER; LUNAWERK SOLINGEN GERMANY; D PERES GERMANY.

The most common color stripes for legs are pink / white, green / white and blue /white. However, the pink / white at bottom center is very unusual in that it carries advertising on the shank: VAL BLATZ BR'G CO. MADE IN GERMANY.

Top: Marked AMOR GERMANY, D.R.G.M. 105407. The German Patent was issued to Carl Bewer of Solingen on November 31, 1898. This corkscrew is sometimes referred to as the "Kissing Couple" and also was produced with all metal scales.

Left: Blade marked A ANDERSON, ESKILSTUNA. An Anderson advertisement calls this "svart celluloidskaft" - black celluloid. It has at times been misidentified as Bakelite. Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic resin invented by Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863-1944) in 1909. He was a U.S. chemist and inventor born in Ghent, Belgium.

Right: The woman folds in the middle and is marked GES. GESCH.

Bottom: The shoes are Ernst Lesser's German Patent number 82028 of September 4, 1897. Marked WEYERSBERG & SON GERMANY

Mermaids from Left to Right:

1. Marked SRD (with arrow through it) and GERMANY on neckstand. Can opener blade on backside.

2. Marked GES GESCHÜTZT on neckstand. Reddish brown. Foil cutter on backside. Also reported marked simply SOUVENIR.

3, Marked F. WESTPFAL GERMANY on neckstand. Ivory color. Foil cutter.

4. Unmarked two color with foil cutter.

5. Marked GESETZLICH GESCHÜTZT GERMANY on neckstand. Two color. No blade on backside. Unusual web helix.

6. Marked GRAEF & SCHMIDT GERMANY on rare knife blade type. Foil cutter and fluted helix.

Although a Mermaid has been reported with the markings GERMANY PAT APPL FOR, I do not know if a patent was issued.

1 & 2: Neckstand marked GESETZLICH GESCHÜTZT GERMANY. Both have foil cutter blade.

3. Neckstand marked W. H. MORLEY & SON, GERMANY. Can opener blade on back side.

4. Neckstand marked GESETZLICH GESCHÜTZT GERMANY. No Blade on backside.

Non-celluloid legs from Left to Right:

1. Mini legs. The top of the worm is marked REGISTERED GERMANY. The silver scales are marked STERLING.


3 & 4. 1970's productions marked GERMANY. Plastic thighs and stripes are painted in the grooves.

Companies and marks in this study:
  • A ANDERSON, ESKILSTUNA: Located in the Swedish cutlery center Eskilstuna.
  • VAL BLATZ BR'G CO: A Milwaukee,Wisconsin brewer. The name Val Blatz was used until Prohibition (1920)
  • HENRY BOKER: A large cutlery manufacturer in Solingen, Germany founded in 1867 and still operating
  • GESETZLICH GESCHÜTZT: German for Legally Registered. Mark of a Design Patent.
  • GRAEF & SCHMIDT GERMANY: New York City agent for J. A. Henckels of Solingen, Germany, located at 29 Warren Street from 1883-1908, The firm changed locations several times before going out of business in 1952
  • HUGO KÖLLER SOLINGEN: German cutlery manufacturer founded in 1861
  • LOERZEL BROTHERS, SAUGERTIES, N.Y., CELEBRATED LAGER: Founded in 1874, the Loerzel Brothers name was used from 1888-1893
  • LUNAWERK SOLINGEN GERMANY: A. Feist & Co. founded in Solingen, Germany in 1903 used this name from 1928 to 1948 for its New York office
  • W. H. MORLEY & SON, GERMANY: Offices in Germany and New York City 1913-1927
  • D PERES GERMANY: Founded in 1885 in Solingen,Germany and still operating
  • SRD (with arrow through it) GERMANY: Mark of Severin R. Droescher, an importer located at 77-79 Warren Street, New York City 1891-1924
  • F. WESTPFAL GERMANY: Frederick Westpfal, Importer, 186 East Houston Street, New York City 1884-1928
  • WEYERSBERG & SON: Founded in Germany in 1787


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©1997 Donald A. Bull