As you open a fresh, ice-cold bottle of beer, your thoughts are usually on consuming the beverage. Rarely does anyone stop to think about the cap or the instrument you used to open said beer: the bottle opener.
But like aglets on shoelaces, someone had to invent bottle openers and that person deserves proper recognition. And we’d like to give that inventor the recognition they deserve, even if it is a few centuries too late.
With that in mind, we want to share with you the history of the antique bottle opener so pop the top off of your favorite bottle of booze and settle down to learn a little bit of history.
Common Issues Before Bottle Openers Were Invented
As is common with many other inventions, necessity is what caused antique bottle openers to be invented. Towards the end of the 19th century, beer bottles were typically sealed in one of two ways.
Either a beer bottle was sealed with a cork or with a closure that closely resembles today’s modern swing top. But there were problems with both of these methods.
First, neither method is particularly sanitary. One reason is that they tended to reuse both methods more than once. Even if other materials such as metal or porcelain were used, the seal was not sufficient.
The second problem was that no method was great at preserving carbonation in the beer. Often, you’d open a beer only to find it was both unhygienic and the beer was flat.
And if any of the materials came into contact with the liquid, the beer became toxic. It was not until inventor William Painter placed a think layer of cork on his bottle cap design that the beer would stay safe.
Today, a thin layer of plastic is used rather than cork.
The Life of William Painter
In 1839, William Painter was born in Triadelphia, Maryland. Twenty years later he emigrated to the United States, settled in Baltimore, Maryland and embarked upon a career as an inventor.
He was so successful as an inventor that he earned over 80 patents over the course of his life. In 1891, after not finding much success with his other inventions, he developed bottle top openers.
He focused on bottle openers because he was searching for a product that was not only disposable but would sell in large quantities and thus, earn him a great fortune.
Painter invented what’s known as the Crown Cork style of bottle caps. Today’s beer bottle caps still look very similar to his original design.
Two years after developing bottle caps, he invented the Church Keycap lifter, which effectively removed the bottle cap tops. In 1892 he received patent no. 468,258 for his bottle cap and another patent for his bottle opener.
Going One Step Further
William Painter wasn’t done inventing and revolutionizing the beer industry yet. In 1898 he invented a foot-powered crowner device. This device was then marketed and sold to bottlers and retailers to seal their bottles using his caps.
Since his new machine made capping beer bottles quick and easy, it soon became popular in beer bottling worldwide. By 1906, he was opening manufacturing plants in countries like Japan, Brazil, and Germany.
Painter died in 1906 a very wealthy man. But his company lives on. It’s now known as Crown Holding’s, Inc. and it’s a public holding company headquartered in Philadelphia.
Crown Holdings does over $6.5 billion in sales and has operations in over 40 countries while employing over 25,000 employees.
Different Types of Old Bottle Openers
Since William Painter’s invention, many people have become inspired by his antique bottle openers to create their own. Bottle top openers now come in a range of shapes and sizes.
Let’s take a look at some of a few antique bottle openers. You can also take a look at this company to find modern versions of antique bottle openers.
Church key bottle cap openers were named because they resembled the ornate keys used to open churches. Many other people made their own version of the church key bottle opener and some earlier versions are quite valuable.
Beer companies and other smart businesses began manufacturing their own version of a bottle opener as a promotional item. A practice still widely in use today.
Bottle Opener on Soda Machines and Walls
Bars and places that sold soda by the bottle began to place bottle top openers in strategic places so their customers could easily open bottles.
Coca-Cola machines had a bottle opener built into their machine.
Cast-iron bottle openers have become extremely popular amongst collectors. You can find bottle openers made into all different types of shapes and figurines in homes and in bars.
Other Fun Bottle Opener Facts
While most vintage bottle openers aren’t expensive or even hard to find, they’re still great to collect. And there are some openers that are valuable.
Some classic vintage openers even have a small pin on the backside which allowed them to be spun around on a table. The object would be that whomever the bottle opener was pointing to when it came to a stop would be the person to buy the next round.
A bit like the game “spin the bottle” but everyone got a beer rather than a makeout session.
Antique bottle openers became so popular that in 1978 the Figural Bottle Openers Club was founded.
Learn More Fun Facts
One obvious reason to learn about bottle openers is so you can impress your friends the next time you all meet to grab a drink. But your education shouldn’t stop with just beer bottles.
This type of information is not only interesting but entertaining as well. And bottle openers make great gifts for beer aficionados.
Make sure you keep reading our blog to pick up interesting tidbits to impress your friends with. Start by clicking here to read about other products.