Corks & The Cork Press

I have what I believe to be an old cork press. It is marked on the handle ENTERPRISE MFG CO. PHILA. Can you tell me how much it is worth? Any history you can provide would be welcome. Thanks

The Enterprise (patented about 1860) was one of the most popular cork presses on the market. The ad below taken from the 1888 Robert Stevenson Druggist Catalog shows the Enterprise cork press and several other smaller hand held versions..

Every drugstore needed a cork press of some type to aid them in filling their prescriptions. The rotating wheel compressed the cork as the handle was pushed down.  the then squeezed cork could be easily manipulated into the mouth of the bottle.  these antique cork presses sell for anywhere from $75-$125.

Several other types of cork presses were sold as well such as the one multi-function Cork Press and bottle capper shown below.

Corks were a big industry in the 19th century.  In the United states cork were usually cut by machine.  As early as the mid 1850s machines were patented for cutting corks in various sizes. Number improvement were patented through the later half of the century.

Machine made corks were less popular in Europe as evidenced by excepts from the American Druggist article which follows:

 The use of cork-wood for stoppering bottles docs not seem to date back further than the fifteenth century. Previous to that time, much harder and tougher substances were used for such purposes. Bremen appears to have been the first commercial city which imported cork-wood from its more southerly home, and applied it technically. This may be concluded from a report printed in the State Almanac of Oldenburg of the year 1789, in which it is stated that the industry of cutting corks was already established, by a Bremen merchant named Hensch, in the beginning of the the preceding century, at Stuhr, a village in Oldenburg, situated about one mile from Bremen. From Stuhr, the industry spread over the lowland of Oldenburg, and gradually became independent of Bremen. Among other places, a cork-factory was established at Hasbergen, near Delmenhorst, by Friedrich Cordes, who had learned the art under Hensch, of Bremen. In 1786, the brothers Cordes employed 26 workmen, quite a large number for that period. Gradually other factories sprang up, but during the last thirty years most of these have been transferred to Delmenhorst, which has become the chief centre of the cork industry of Germany. . . .

 In the factory of Cordes and Ellgass, each workman receives usually- 50 kilos of cork-wood assigned to him at a time, from which he is expected to produce 20 kilos of large bottle corks and 15 kilos of small druggists' corks. The remainder is allowed as waste. The thinner corkwood used for druggists' corks has usually a much thicker bark and furnishes more waste. The workman first cuts the wood into strips corresponding to the length of the corks to be made from it. Next he detaches the bark, cuts the strips into cubes, and from these he cuts the corks. This he does by means of two sharp knives, with broad blades, one of which is used for cutting into strips and cubes, the other for round-cutting. He uses no other tools. Considerable judgment is necessary to adjust the sizes of the strips and to select the various portions so as to obtain as large and perfect corks, and as many of them as possible. Even the smallest piece which will yield a cork must be utilized. A skilful workman can turn out, each day, about 1,500 bottle or 2,000 druggists' corks.

The work is not done in a factory, but at the workman's home, and the whole family often assists in the work. The small corks are usually finished by the children. Machines for cutting cork do not appear to have made much headway in Europe, at least for the finer qualities of cork. For common grades, however, machines are used which can turn out some twenty thousand corks in ten hours.

After being delivered in the factory, the corks are passed through graded sieves for the purpose of separating the different sizes, and afterwards they are sorted over two or three times, to separate the grades.

Champagne corks, which receive their peculiar shape only when driven by power into the botues, are almost exclusively manufactured in Spain and France. Of late years, they are often put together from different selected small pieces, which are glued upon each other by a peculiar cement, after which the corks are cut to the proper shape. This is done because the finest and softest grade of cork-wood is rather scarce and very expensive, the manufacturers' price for the best quality of champagne corks being about $36 per 1,000. AMERICAN DRUGGIST NEW YORK, DECEMBER, 1888.