The History of Bottle Openers

Bottles are usually corked. This means they are a total bitch to open. As far as the art of bottle-opening is concerned, this is the dark ages. Painter William Henry Hamilton Trood demonstrates the danger of corks in a series of not so well known paintings.

William H. H. Trood's 'Uncorking Bottle' and 'Surprising Result'

February 1892
William Painter invents the 'Crown Cork' cap (U.S. patent #468,258). It looks much like the bottle caps we still use today. Unfortunately, nobody buys him a beer for his good work because there is still no practical way to open them. Beer drinkers become identified by the scars on their fingers and knuckles.

Inventor William Painter       The historic Crown Cork Cap
Problem solved! Painter's 'churchkey' bottle opener (U.S. patent #524,200) makes it much easier to tear off crown corks. Everyone drinks in his honor. Painter goes on to patent an ejection seat for passenger trains.

Early example of a 'church key'

Early 20th century
The bottle industry explodes (sometimes literally), as crown corks allow bottles to maintain maximum freshness and carbonation. The 'soft' drink industry is born.

The Starr corporation begins production of wall-mounted bottle openers. Instances of bartender tendinitis decrease by 73% in the 1940s.

Starr Wall Mount Bottle Opener

Bar Blade openers
'Bar Blade' bottle openers become popular in New York bars. Advertisements on these new openers flourish.

Scientists in Germany standardize the current bottle cap. The 'Crown Cork' is shortened and its number of flanges is reduced from 24 to 21. Perfect.

German scientists busily standardize the cap

Hundreds of funky new bottle opener designs hit the market. Unfortunately, function takes a back seat to form. There is one exception - a design from Japan that allows people to easily pull off a bottle cap in a single casual stroke.

Corkscrew bottle opener

Be Open founder Paul Cifka is in Japan for a wedding when he encounters a fun way to open bottles at a bar near Narita Airport. Within several years, he is selling the 'Be Open' at retail outlets throughout the U.S. Bottle opening in North America is never the same.
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