At the end of the 17th century, vintners discovered that wine matured better if it was taken from the cask and stored in a glass bottle sealed with a cork. Ever since a great deal of ingenuity has gone into devising the best way of removing the cork.
The earliest surviving corkscrews date from the beginning of the 18th century. They have a very short worm with a circular or ovoid handle. In many of them the worm can be folded back into the handle. By the end of the 18th century, the familiar T-shaped corkscrew had become the standard.
In 1795, Reverend Samuel Henshell added a metal button between the worm and shaft. This gripped the cork and turned it in the neck of the bottle, making it easier to remove. Henshell’s “Button Screw” began a flood of new inventions with over 400 designs being registered or patented in the 19th century.
Most 19th century corkscrews were fitted with a small brush and many also had a small ring at the top from which the corkscrew was hung for storage.
“Ladies’ corkscrews” for opening perfume bottles were popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. These usually had a silver worm and were part of a matching set of implements for the dressing case.
After the amazing ingenuity of the 19th century, the basic T-shaped corkscrew returned to popularity during the early 20th century with the main innovation being in decoration. Animal shapes with the worm being the animal’s tail were the most popular. In the 1920’s stylised art deco animal shapes were popular with chrome plating becoming fashionable in the 1930s.