The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Daily Newspaper

May 10, 2003 Special Report

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Magic Prongs

The Cork Extractor above is from the collection of Jack Bandy. It and the two below are marked "Magic" with the patent dates March 4, 1879 and May 10, 1892.

During the twenty-one year period 1879-1900, Lucien C. Mumford was granted three patents for his "Cork Extractor" (see drawings below).

The first patent was applied for on December 9, 1878 when Mumford was living in San Francisco. In his description, Mumford says "The blades could be jointed to the handlebars, so as to be shut like the blades of a knife..." (on the order of the Bandy example). Patent No. 212,863 was issued March 4, 1879.

When Mumford applied for his second patent (January 14, 1891), he was living in New York City. Here he discusses an "improved socket and stock for carrying the prongs or blades..." Although he shows a gearing system for spreading the prongs apart, the example above left has a spring in the flat collar for spreading them. Patent No. 474,480 was issued May 10, 1892.

Mumford's third patent was applied for on December 20, 1899 (still in New York). Here he uses a cup and cam design to retain the two blades in movable positions (example above right). Patent No. 655,725 was issued August 14, 1900.

Right: Mumford's 1879 patent.

Below Left: Mumford's 1892 patent.

Below Right: Mumford's 1900 patent.

The Converse Connection

Below Lucien Mumford's signature on his 1892 patent (above left), is the signature of his patent attorney, M. D. Converse.

Converse later becomes a player in the cork extractor field by filing for his own patent on July 12, 1898. His objective was to "cheapen the cost of manufacture, and to provide a cork-extractor...that will be durable and...expeditiously used." U.S. Patent No. 624,457 was issued May 9, 1899. The patent is signed Maschil D. Converse (above right).

To add a bit of mystery: Closely examine the signatures of Mumford and Converse above left. Are these not the same handwriting? Now compare the Mumford signature to the one below left from his 1879 patent. Is it not the same?

Finally compare the Mumford signature on the 1900 patent (below right) to the other two. Why is it different? Could his signature have changed over 18 years?

In his discussion of prior Cork Extractor art, Converse says that they involved "more or less complication, consequent costliness of manufacture, and liability to derangement or breakage..."

So Mumford's own patent attorney was prepared to give him some rather stiff competition. It is quite apparent by the shear numbers that turn up today that the Converse product realized a much greater market potential than Mumford's more costly invention. The Mumford Cork Extractor is difficult to find in any of the three styles shown.

The Converse Cork Extractor is often marked on the blade retainer "Patented May 9th 99." They were supplied with sheaths to protect the blades. These sheaths were also ideal to market the product for advertising purposes.

Mumford / Converse Signatures

1878 Mumford signature on patent petition (from Bandy).

1879 Mumford Signature on issued patent.

Comment: With the exception of the sharp tops on the M in the above signature, this signature appears to be the same person.

1890 Mumford signature on patent claim (from Bandy).

Comment: Note particularly the styles of the capital L and C, this appears to be the same signature as the previous two.

1891 Converse signature on Power of Attorney form (Bandy).

Comment: The handwriting appears to be the same style as Mumford's three above.

1892 Mumford and Converse signatures on patents issued.

Comment: Comparing the two capital Cs and Ms on this signature, it appears to be the same person. The Mumford signature appears the same as on the first three signatures.

Comment: Compare the Atty. on this and on the above and the letters M. Appears to be the same person.

1899 Converse signature on patent issued to Converse.

Comment: The M, D, C and all the same as the 1891 and 1892 converse.

1900 Mumford signature on patent issused.

Comment: Mumford's signature still looks basically the same as 1879 and 1892. He's older now.

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©2003 Don Bull, Editor


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