Cork Ejectors ©2001 Donald A. Bull


Sparklets Limited was founded in London as an independent company in 1896. The Sparklets Trademark was registered on September 21, 1896 and the primary business at the time was in soda syphons. Sparklets was acquired by British Oxygen Company in 1920.

The marriage of British Oxygen Company and Denis Farandatos' patented "Cork Extractor with Gas Pressure Generating Means" was one of the most significant events in the history of cork ejectors. British Oxygen was producing a gas cartridge or "bomb" that was used in soda syphons, fire extinguishes, life belts, and even dental sprays. The cartridges were called "Sparklets." Farandatos had come up with an idea that would enable British Oxygen to sell even more Sparklets.

In his 1950 patent application, Farandatos refers in passing to the Sparklets with "…one example of which is the CO2 cylinder available on the market." He goes on to say that he has designed his handle "to receive a typical CO2 cylinder of the type used in air pistols…" As we have seen, in later patents his application drawings showed the "Sparklets" type cylinders most commonly used in Soda Syphons.

Soda Syphons had been around for a very long time. In 1901 the Compressed Gas Capsule Company of New York City offered a complete soda water outfit for $3.00 with the message "A Twentieth Century Idea. A Soda Fountain in Every Home." The popularity continued to grow and reached a peak in the 1960s and 1970s. They even found their way into television with popular comic figures engaged in seltzer spray fights.

It has been said that as early as 1837, a man named Perpigna invented a soda syphon incorporating a valve. And as far back as 1790, the concept of an "aerosal" was introduced in France with self-pressurized carbonated beverages.

A number of European patents were granted for Soda Syphons in the 19th Century including an important design using a gas cylinder to charge the liquid. On August 22, 1892 Parisian Victor Ernest Jules Durafort was granted French Patent Number 223,985 for his "Seltzogene." This was followed by patents in England (1893) and the United States (1895). Durafort placed two dip tubes in the bottle. One would hold the gas cylinder which was opened by turning a screw at the top of the mechanism forcing a ball in the top of cylinder downward and releasing gas into the tube. Once this was mixed with the bottle contents, the valve on the second tube could be opened to draw off carbonated liquid.

A short time later, in 1899, Kenneth S. Murray of London was granted British Patent No. 7,519 for his "Means for effecting aeration of liquids in bottles." The patent was assigned to Aerators Limited. In his design, a "Sparklets" capsule was place upside down and when a lever on top was depressed, a pin would open the capsule valve and release gas into the liquid.

Twenty years later Kenneth Murray was a consultant to Sparklets Limited as well as chief engineer to British Oxygen Company. In 1920 he was a key player in the BOC acquisition of Sparklets. He eventually became Chairman of the Board.

A driving force in the ongoing development and improvement of gas cylinders was Robert Hunter Campbell of Edmonton, England. One of his early patent applications for a "Closure for Gas-Containers" was filed with the United States Patent Office on April 22, 1910 (Patent No. 986,135). Of his invention he writes:

My invention relates to containers, or capsules, for compressed, or liquefied gas which is liberated from the containers by piercing a closure, and the object of my invention is to provide containers of the kind commonly known as "sparklets" with improved and very simple and economical closing means which will enable the container body to be used repeatedly with facility and economy.

There it was - a trade name being used in generic terms much like tissues being called "Kleenex" and colas ordered as "Coke." By this early stage, Sparklets had indeed become a household word.

During the next two decades Campbell obtained several patents for improvements to capsules. One of the most significant was when he teamed up with Harry Rudston Read and submitted on March 24, 1919 and application for "Improvements in and relating to Syphon Fittings and the like." These two Sparklets engineers developed a system for automatic extraction of the capsule in order to extend the life of seals.

Read already had several Swiss patents to his credit including one granted to him and Kenneth Murray in 1904 for a syphon.

In 1932 Campbell and Sparklets Limited applied for an unusual patent, "Improvements in Dental Spraying Apparatus." This type of apparatus was used to apply a medicament dentifrice or other solution by using the gas cartridge syphoning system similar to those used in soda syphons. Again the container is noted with "…of the kind commonly known under the Registered Trade Mark 'Sparklet'."

Campbell's 1932 "Improvements in Dental Spraying Apparatus"

The Sparklets Dental Hygienator was the size of a flashlight with a length of 10". The CO2 cartridge is inserted into a holder and the rubber bumper is depressed to start spraying from a thin tube with a pinpoint. On May 18, 1933, Campbell was granted British Patent No. 392,433.

By 1935, Hunter was addressing problems with capsule stress and alignment. With assignment to Sparklets Limited, he filed for a patent for a "Metallic Bulb and Holder" which is easily recognizable today. Hunter added a "transverse depression or depressed band around the body." This added strength and the capsule rested in a rib in its holder. This ensured that the pin would accurately center on the bulb.

Another interesting use for the Sparklets bulb was offered in a 1935 invention by Bert E. Wallace of Barrington, Illinois. His U. S. Patent No. 2,014,824 detailed a dispensing apparatus "for dispensing beer and similar beverages" which would take up minimal space in a refrigerator.

While Campbell was working on bulb improvements at Sparklets, others were working on novel designs for soda syphons. In 1936 Lawrence Ward, a New York City inventor, applied for a patent for a "Dispensing Apparatus." Like Campbell he referred to the capsule using "…a high pressure carbon dioxide container known to the trade as a 'Sparklet bulb'." Ward's discussion in the application is primarily concerned with the method in which the bulb is pierced to release the gas and syphon off the liquid.

On August 1, 1936, within four months of the "Dispensing Apparatus" application, Ward filed for a U. S. Design patent for a Syphon that was destined to become a well-recognized form. The assignee for his Design Patent 101,421 issued September 29, 1936 was Sparklets Limited, London.

The design patent was followed up with a mechanical patent application on August 20, 1936 (Patent No. 2,092,596) issued September 7, 1937 in which he states "These siphons as heretofore made usually consist of a glass bottle or vase that is reinforced by a woven wire jacket or other metallic covering as in the well-known 'Sparklets' name." Included among several objectives, Ward says, "Still another object of the invention is to provide an all metal siphon, thereby doing away with the glass vase." He also designed it with interchangeable siphon and cocktail shaker heads.

Left: The New Streamline Sparklet based on Ward's patents is marked on the bottom "A product of Sparklets Corporation, New York, Patent No. 101,421."

Right: A mechanical pencil advertising "Original World Famous Sparklet Syphon."

By the 1940s Lawrence Ward's patents were in the name of Knapp-Monarch Company, St. Louis. He continued his works on bulb holders (referring to the bulbs as "Sparklet bulbs) and siphon construction.

Ward Patent June 15, 1943

Ward Patent March 28, 1944

Ward Patent October 17, 1944

Following Ward's 1936 invention there were several more patents issued with what now appeared to be a standard configuration for the siphon bottle head. William Brewer, another Sparklets' engineer applied for a U. S. Patent on July 3, 1937 (No. 2,170,705). He was concerned with prevented problems in glass siphons occurring as a result of formation of solid carbon dioxide in the dip tube. He resolved this by using a baffle. Brewer also worked on improvements to Campbell's 1933 "Dental Spraying Apparatus" for which he received a patent in 1939.

In Chicago, Illinois, David Chapman was working on another design for the Sparklets Soda Syphon with the provision for injecting the gas at the bottom. He filed for a Design Patent December 11, 1940 and No. 125,632 was granted March 4, 1941. Chapman's patent was assigned to Knapp-Monarch Company, St. Louis, Missouri.

Sparklets Devices, Inc., div of Knapp-Monarch, St. Louis. Use Sparklets Bulbs only. Patent No. 2,066,517 and 125,632.

New designs for Siphons and the mechanisms therein continued to flourish throughout the forties, fifties, and sixties. Among the many inventors were Millard Weida and William Kochner, St. Louis, Missouri for Knapp Monarch; Walter Freygang, Essex Falls, New Jersey with bulbs for Kidde Manufacturing; Philip Alexander, Brooklyn, New York; Charles Whittaker Roberts, London and Rene Rousset, Wimbledon for Sparklets; and Ronald Quam, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

Alexander Patent September 28, 1943

Roberts Pat. Feb. 14, 1951

Kochner Patent February 12, 1952

Rousset Pat. March 30, 1960

By learning five easy steps, a homeowner could easily make Sparkling Club Soda:

Another use for gas cartridges was in for aerating food products. Two inventors who were working on these products in the 1930s were Marshall Reinecke and Henry Snelling. Both assigned their patents to Food Devices, Inc., New York City. On June 14, 1935 Reinecke filed for his patent on a "Device for producing aerated expanded food products." Among the products mentioned by Reinecke were whipped cream, ice cream batters of all kinds, custards, and cheeses of the cottage cheese type. For aeration of foods, gas cylinders were usually filled with nitrous oxide (N2O). Snelling applied for his patent on September 11, 1937 and he points out that nitrous oxide is preferred but "…any relatively stable gas having a high oxygen content and an ability to mix properly with whatever food product is under aeration" is suitable. The design of his head took on an appearance similar to Ward's soda siphon head.

Reinecke's Food Aerator

Snelling's Food Aerator

With the many uses for the Sparklets bulbs already on the market by the 1950s and the easy availability of the bulb, the stage was certainly set for the Farandatos-British Oxygen marriage. It was a relationship that grew quickly and resulted in their Sparklets Corkmaster becoming a well-known brand name only to fade away by the 1980s.

A Sparklets box showing the uses: Sparklets Syphons, Beertap, and Sparklets Corkmaster.

Thank you to Nick Robinson of England for the use of some of his Sparklet's box pictures (see:

Another manufacturer of capsules for Soda Syphons was Walter Kidde Company, Belleville, New Jersey

Capsules are currently produced by iSi.

Click here for a gallery of Soda Syphons plus a cream whipper and a beer tap

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© 2001-2002 Donald A. Bull