expanded their line to include oyster knives, shoe knives, cigarmakers' knives,
corkscrews, cheese tryers, skates, pinking irons, and button hole cutters. These
products and many more are included in the 1901 and 1908 catalogs as well as in a
catalog of Dame, Stoddard, and Kendall, sole agents for R. Murphy of Harvard.
Currently the firm makes industrial hand knives. The cover of the 1901 catalog lists
paper Hangers’ / Oyster and /Shoe Knives in 18 point capital letters followed by
Corkscrews in 28‐point caps.
The 1908 catalog lists the products inside with
corkscrews last of 27 items. There are 5 corkscrews shown on two pages in 1908
and 21 on 8 pages in 1901. Obviously the invention of the Crown Cap in 1892 had
reduced the demand for corkscrews.
When Murphy first made corkscrews is anybody’s guess, but they were being made
between 1862 and 1877 in Mansfield. Probably they were made earlier in Boston
possibly as early as 1850. The Crown Cap, patent in 1892, reduced the demand for
corkscrews in this country.
John Murphy’s combination corkscrew and bottle
opener was an attempt to stimulate the declining sales but didn’t help much.
The earliest examples I have seen of Murphy corkscrews are very attractive with
turned shafts and very nice turned acorn end handles (see page 6) or tapered shafts
with assorted handles. The top part of the shaft are squared and tapered to fit in
matching holes though the handles. Most are secured by peening the end over a
copper or brass washer but an ivory handled one I have has an imbedded round nut
on a threaded shaft.
As we all know wooden handles tend to dry out and shrink allowing just a little play
between the handle and the shaft. The play increases as the corkscrew is used and it
finally becomes useless.
To over come this problem Murphy adopted Walker’s
method of securing the shaft to the handle with a finishing nail lengthwise through
the handle. This was used as a selling point in their catalogs (see page 8).
standard handles were developed for this process, a simple tapered end on in cherry
and a rosewood model with swell center and ends. Straight and curved stag handles
also were offered but these were pinned the short way because of the weakness of
the center of the horn. All came with round or flat screws and were made in several
sizes. All had straight round shafts.
While changing over from the early style with the shaft through the handle to the
long pin method some transitional pieces were produced. One of these is the acorn
handle with the long pin. Another is the newer shape with the shaft through it.
Beside the simple corkscrews Murphy also made one with a very distinctive button
and one with a not so distinctive bell. The button has a collar on top which is pinned
to the shaft. The bottom has eight teeth to grip the cork. The bell looks a lot like
some Williamsons with the flat bottom surface. It is usually held from pushing
upward by a cotter pin. These also had a choice of four handles and two screws.