New England Corkscrew Maker
The Robert Murphy catalogs indicate that the company was established in 1850 and,
indeed, the 1851 Boston City Directory lists John Murphy, cutler, at 17 Harvard
Place. In 1854 his brother Robert joined him to form J & R Murphy. In 1862 the
brothers moved to Mansfield, Massachusetts, where John remained for the rest of
his life. In 1877 Robert returned to Boston where he carried on his cutlery business.
In "The History of Harvard" we read that "the Oregon Mill was sold in 1884 to
Robert Murphy of Boston who began preparations for the manufacture of cutlery
here." The 1898 Boston City Directory does not list the firm but shows Robert
Murphy as a resident, which indicates to me that the plant had been moved to
Harvard in 1897. Probably one or both of Robert's sons were working for him at this
time. The Boston City Directory of 1900 states under Murphy, Robert was "removed
to Harvard." The 1901 catalog shows the Harvard, Mass address, but the copy in the
company's file has been overstamped to show "& Sons" added to Robert Murphy
and "Ayer" over Harvard. The 1908 Catalog reflects these changes and also lists John
R. Murphy and W. Edward Murphy above the company name. There is no mention of
Robert so it can be presumed he had retired. The town of Ayer is adjacent to
Harvard and the move, made between 1901 and 1908, was a short one. It was also
the last one as the company is still in business there.
During a visit to the factory in Ayer I talked with two long time office personnel, Mrs.
Evelyn Smith and Mrs. Agnes Colt and learned that after John died his brother
Edward ran the business and when the latte died his wife tried to keep the business
going with the help of the roman but after about six months the business was sold to
Mr. William Maxant, in 1954, but the Murphy name was kept as it still is today. The
current owner is Mr. Douglas A. Bethke. I was given the opportunity to view two
catalogs as well as an envelope containing a few screws, which have been kept safely
in the office safe. Aside from the two ladies in the office only the foreman knew that
the company made corkscrews.
In his book “New England Cutlery” Phil Paniewicz states that J & R Murphy made
dental and surgical instruments while located in Boston but while in Mansfield they