I wish to thank Bob Nugent for his invaluable assistance and
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information. Copyright © 1994, 330 Elgin Place,
Ancaster, Ontario, L9G 2M7 CANADA
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Note: The text has references to some 20
Catalogue pages from the Williamson company. You can click on these references, they
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THE WILLIAMSON STORY - C. T.
Williamson Wire Novelty Company
In 1636 the Wiliemson family sailed from Holland to begin a new
life in the Americas. Settling in Long Island, New York they quickly became accepted
members of society and the senior member of the family, William Wiliemson, was soon
admitted as Burgomaster. The family flourished over the next two hundred & fifty years
changing the pronunciation and spelling of their last name to Williamson in 1761.
In 1876 descendant Cornelius Titus Williamson started a family
business to manufacture household goods and advertising novelties. The C.T. Williamson
Company was housed at 65 Hamilton Street in Newark, New Jersey and operated from a single
room with a staff of 5 people. A year later William Alexander Williamson joined his father
from New York.
By 1877 C.T. Williamson had entered into a business arrangement with
William Rockwell Clough of Alton, New Hampshire to form a company "Clough &
Williamson" to manufacture corkscrews. W.R. Clough was later to become a well known
patentee and manufacturer of wire corkscrews.
The business flourished and in 1878 the C.T. Williamson Company was
awarded two medals and diplomas by the United States Centennial Commissioners at the
International Exhibition in Philadelphia. In the same year they were also granted a Silver
Medal at the 1878 Universal Exposition in Paris.
An 1882 editorial on the City of Newark indicates that C.T.
Williamson was a "Manufacturer of Patented Wire Novelties, New Jersey Railroad
Avenue, opposite Market Street Depot". It indicates that the plant, whose machinery
was driven by steam power, was now providing steady employment for up to 50 people.
Sometime in 1882-83 the partnership of Williamson and Cough ended with C.T. Williamson
acquiring rights to the 1875/1876 W.R. Cough corkscrew patents.
The C.T. Williamson Company continued to grow. Their 1883 catalogue
stated they were the "sole proprietor of the Celebrated 'CLOUGH'S WIRE CORKSCREWS'
(patented in America and Europe)" and were the "sole owners and only
manufacturers of all goods covered by said patents". Clough corkscrews were the main
focus of their corkscrew manufacturing operation. Both the 1883 and an 1887 catalogue
illustrate 38 different versions of Clough's April 6,1875 and February 1,1876 patents. By
way of digression the 1883 catalogue also contained an advertisement (Catalogue #2) for Joshua Barnes June 27,1876 solid metal (lead)
handle/shank duplex wire corkscrew and the
1887 catalogue illustrated a single wire, lead handle Barnes
In March 1887 The Clough Corkscrew & Capsule Co. (sole
manufacturer of Clough's Vial Corkscrews and Capsules), published a price schedule listing
7 corkscrew patents including the C.T. Williamson patent of September 12,1882 (Catalogue #13) for a spoon combined with a corkscrew.
C.T. Williamson retired from company business activities in 1888.
His son William A. Williamson (born March 20,1852, New York, N.Y., mother Helen (Schaffer)
Williamson) who had become thoroughly familiar with the company operations as business
manager and treasurer, assumed responsibility for the day to day operation of the company.
In 1890 the C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Company was incorporated
under New Jersey State laws and upon the death of his father on May 7,1896 William
Williamson became its president.
By 1897, when William Williamson obtained Patent No.587,900 (August
10,1897) for his bell corkscrew wire breaker (Catalogue #17),
the company was using approximately 300 tons of steel wire annually in their manufacturing
processes. A year later on December 13,1898 a cap lift Design Patent No.29,798 (Catalogue #18) was granted to William Williamson. This cap lift
design was a combined wire breaker, crown cap and Baltimore loop seal lifter.
Business continued to expand and by 1907 the company was compelled
to move to larger premises at 60 Badger Avenue, Newark, New Jersey. By 1912 the company,
with William as treasurer & president, Nalbro Townsend - Vice President and K.W.
Atwater - Secretary, had produced over 400 million corkscrews which were marketed and
distributed world wide.
The original one room operation had grown to occupy a 3 story
factory and the work force had grown from a staff of 5 to 125 skilled wire workers and
machinists. The majority of the production equipment in the plant had been specially
designed by C.T. Williamson and his son William.
The leading specialty of the firm at the time was the
"Combination Cork Extractor, crown cap lifter, seal lifter (Baltimore loop seal
lifter) and wire breaker" (Fig 1, No 4). In addition champagne taps, card holders,
cork rings and wall hooks all invented and patented by C.T. Williamson were manufactured.
While Williamson was busy manufacturing corkscrews in Newark, New
Jersey another prolific patentee and manufacturer of corkscrews Edwin Walker was equally
hard at work in Erie, Pennsylvania. Edwin Walker, born on August 19, 1847, at Seshequin, a
small town in north central Pennsylvania was the son of mechanical Engineer George and
Mary Mae (McMicken) Walker. Edwin Walker was a contemporary corkscrew patentee (16 patents
1888-1913) and tool manufacturer who formed the Erie Specialty Manufacturing Company of
Erie, Pennsylvania on February 14,1888. Edwin bought out his partners and established the
Erie Specialty Co. in 1891. When the firm was incorporated in 1902 his son Clarence joined
Edwin Walker's company was a serious corkscrew manufacturing
competitor in North America to the C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Co.. A December 1908
article on Corkscrews & Prohibition, published in The Soda Fountain, indicated that
the Erie Specialty Co. had orders on his books for 1,357,010 corkscrews! Edwin Walker died
September 21,1917 in Erie, Pennsylvania with the Erie Specialty Co. ceasing operation in
1918 soon after his death.
Around 1918, shortly after the death of Edwin Walker, C.T.
Williamson Wire Novelty Co. took over the corkscrew operations of Walker's Erie Specialty
Co. At this point Williamson was the largest producer of corkscrews in North America. From
the 2nd quarter of this century Williamson produced Walker type bell corkscrews (Catalogue
#11) with wood handles attached with a short transverse pin across the handle in the
Williamson manner as opposed to a long pin lengthwise through one handle end in the Walker
C.T. Williamson grandsons George Albro Williamson (born November
13,1894, mother Alice (Albro) Williamson) and Cornelius Tunis Williamson (born July 9,1
897) were involved in the operations of the company.
In 1922 the C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Company (still located at
60 Badger Avenue, Newark) occupied a plant of 400,000 square feet with a work force of 150
employees manufacturing a wide range of products which were marketed all over the world.
Williamson was also the major supplier of web & wire helixes to North American
corkscrew manufacturers. They were a supplier of wire helixes to the Vaughan Company in
Chicago for their lines of corkscrews. In addition the large Negbaur style brass parrot,
Syroco corkscrews and the cap lifter/corkscrew Design Patent No. 134,235 of December
24,1940 by Marshall Neal, California may be found with helix shafts marked
"WILLIAMSON'S". (Figure 8)
William Williamson died January 3,1932 with his eldest son George A.
Williamson subsequently becoming president. The business continued to go well but in 1946
George Williamson and his brother Cornelius, with no heirs, decided to retire.
In 1946 the EASTERN TOOL & MANUFACTURING COMPANY (later ETAMCO
Industries Inc.) Belleville, New Jersey acquired the C.T. Williamson Co. from George &
Neil (Cornelius) Williamson. The company moved from Newark to Belleville, New Jersey in
The C.T. Williamson Co. Inc. continued to manufacture and distribute
corkscrews as well as a wide range of restaurant implements as a division of ETAMCO. Their
1946 catalogue shows the company still had a large portion of its products for the removal
of corks with a total of 33 different corkscrews, pullers and champagne taps illustrated.
An October 1967 catalogue indicates that the C.T. Williamson Co. Inc. a Division of ETAMCO
Industries was located at 1 Montgomery Street, Belleville, New Jersey.
In 1974 Jon R. Moutan was president with a work force of 65 people.
In a May 15, 1975 letter to the late Homer Babbidge, C.T. Williamson Company, Inc. then
Vice President, Moutan indicated that the C. T. Williamson Co. were still manufacturing
millions of corkscrews in various sizes and types every year. They also manufactured
supplies and specialties for the bar, fountain and restaurant supply trade.
The firms interest in corkscrews is evidenced by ETAMCO President
George Frederick Peterson of Boonton Township, New Jersey being granted a corkscrew Design
Patent No.239,362 on March 30,1976. (Catalogue #20)
Early in 1982,106 years after its initial conception in 1876 the CT.
Williamson Co. Inc., then a Division of ETAMCO, was liquidated and all equipment sold by
auction. Thus came to end an important era in the history of corkscrew manufacturing in
North America. No comprehensive corkscrew collection would be complete without
representative corkscrews from the manufacturing legacy of the C.T. Williamson Wire
Corkscrew Patents - The
C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Co.
1. C.T. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.264,391, September 12,1882,
British Patent No. 18,819, October 20,1892 (Catalogue #13) -
2. C.T Williamson, U.S. Patent No.274,539, March 27,1883 (Catalogue #14) - harp/bow
3. W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.405,385, June 18,1889 (Catalogue #15), British Patent No.
15,253, September 27,1889, Canadian Patent No.34,502, June 10,1890 -
metal band finger corkscrew
4. W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.583,561, June 1,1897 (Catalogue #16) - roundlet
5. W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.587,900, August 10,1897 (Catalogue #17) - wood handled wire breaker bell corkscrew
6. W.A. Williamson, U.S. Design Patent No.29,798, December 13,1898 (Catalogue #18) -combination crown caplifter/wire breaker
7. W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.615,938, December 13,1898 (Catalogue #19) - bar corkscrew
8. George Frederick Peterson of Boonton Township, New Jersey U.S.
Design Patent No.
239,362, March 30,1976 (Catalogue #20)
- stamped steel caplifter corkscrew
The following are illustrations of Williamson patents and corkscrew
related items produced by C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Co. All wire helix examples have a
ground point end or tip (not the scarf cut off tip of U.S. Patent No.337,309, March 2,1886
by William Crabb, Newark, New Jersey).
|C.T. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.264,391, September12,
1882(Catalogue #13), British Patent No.18,819, October
20,1892 for a spoon combined with a corkscrew intended for attachment to a medicine
bottle. This example possibly derived from Williamson's English patent is a nickel plated
brass advertising medicinal spoon with wire helix marked "PATENT / TABLOIDS OF
COMPRESSED DRUGS HAZELINE CREAM. / KEPLAR EXTRACT & ESSENCE OF MALT / KEPLAR SOLUTION
OF COD LIVER OIL I DIGESTIVE, DEMULCENT, STRENGTHENING I HAZELINE, BEEF & IRON
|C.T Williamson, U.S. Patent No.274,539, March 27,1883 (Catalogue #14) nickel plated steel heavy flat harp, pivot pin
extends beyond side frames fitted with wire helix, upper frame marked WILLIAMSON". An
example has been found with the upper frame side marked "PATENTED MARCH
23,1883". Illustrated in the 1887 Williamson catalogue (P 24).
Not illustrated - W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.405,385, June 18,1889 (Catalogue #15), British Patent No.15,253, Sept 27,1889, Canadian
Patent No.34,502 June 10,1890 for a strip of metal formed into a band riveted with eyelet.
This model was possibly not manufactured in numbers as only one example marked
"WILLIAMSON CO. MAN'F'RS, Newark, N.J.". is known. This is possibly because of
patent infringements on the Clough U.S. Patent No. 302,321 of July 22,1884.
|W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.583,561, June 1,1897 (Catalogue #16) nickel plated brass wire helix roundlets made in
cylindrical, bottle and cartridge shapes with bottoms marked "WILLIAMSON NEWARK N.J.
PATENTED JUNE 1,97". Bottle shaped Williamson roundlets were also made cigar shaped
and in silver. Models made with this patent date marked on the case bottom were
manufactured with both the shaft retaining disc on the shaft end and with the shaft bent
over an internal rod. This was the basis of the Ralph W. Jorres of St. Louis, Missouri,
U.S. Patent #657,421, September 4,1900 which was acquired by Williamson and was also
manufactured in a tapered case. Bottle shaped roundlets (still advertised in the 1946
catalogue Catalogue #9) were made with the worm affixed to
either case section.
|W.A. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.587,900, August 10,1897
(Catalogue #17). A plain flat bottom bell is retained with a
stepped shaft. A stamped steel wire breaker, without a crown cap lifter, is swaged
to a brass shaft sleeve marked "WILLIAMSON'S". This web helix corkscrew is
identical to the patent drawing. No mention is made of a crown cap lifter in the patent
description. Handle end is marked "WILLIAMSON CO PATENTED AUG 10'97 NEWARK
N.J.". More often found are examples with a caplifter added as illustrated in the
1946 catalogue (Catalogue #11).
Note: All wood handled corkscrews made by Williamson's are held in place
with a short transverse steel pin through the handle side and the upper corkscrew shaft.
Walker manufactured handles are held in place by a pin longitudinally through the shaft (Walker). The shape and sizes of the bells in early models varied
slightly and later appear to closely follow the size of the plain Walker bell. All
Williamson bells have a flat bottle contact surface as identified in the patent
description in comparison to the recessed bottom of the Walker bell.
|W.A. Williamson, U.S. Design Patent No.29,798, December
13,1898 (Catalogue #18) for a cast steel combination
caplifter/wire breaker which could also be used to remove a Baltimore loop seal. Small
example fitted with the cast steel combination caplifter riveted to the shaft. Handle end
marked "WILLIAMSON CO NEWARK, N.J." This cast appendage is more often found in
combination with a bell.
|WA. Williamson, U.S. Patent No.615,938, December
13,1898 for a bar corkscrew (Catalogue #19). I am not aware
of any examples being found but I am sure examples must have been manufactured. The patent
papers contain six pages of illustrations accompanied by six pages of patent
However Williamson did manufacture a bar corkscrew. Steel handle marked "NEW
ERA" with side frames marked "WILLIAMSON" and "PAT NOV12 1895 SEPT 7
1897 MAR 14 1899". These are patents by C. Morgan, Freeport, Illinois U.S. Patent
No.549,67 of November 12,1896, U.S. Patent No.620,949 of March 14,1899 and the September
7, 1897, U.S. Patent No.589,574 by Michael Redlinger of Freeport, Illinois. The mechanism
is partially exposed with a pair of external gravity and spring loaded pawls which engage
and release the lead nut to allow a double action to take place. The handle must be
stroked twice to remove a cork and remove the cork from the worm. I am certain that
Williamson, such a prolific inventor and manufacturer of corkscrews, must have produced
his patent bar corkscrew - perhaps one is yet to be found.
|George Frederick Peterson of Boonton Township, New
Jersey, U.S. Design Patent No.239,362, March 30,1976 (Catalogue
#20) for a corkscrew with two caplifters formed in the bell. Chrome plated shaft, wire
helix and stamped steel bell located with two shaft crimps and formed with crown cap
lifters on either side. The small tapered brown composition handle is glued or formed in
place as verified by a dental x-ray. The bell is clearly marked "PAT.
NO.239,362". This is a rather stark looking corkscrew and certainly does not have the
solid character of the earlier 1897 Williamson Patent.
|Illustrated in the 1887 Catalogue (Catalogue #1), "POWER CORK SCREW", rosewood/ebony
handle, nickel plated steel frame with female lead socket for the twisted wire shaft.
Double wire handle loop marked with Clough's patent date "PATENTED FEB 11876".
Examples were made later with a smoother rounded edged frame either unmarked or marked
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#2) nickel plated wire helix, twisted wire shaft with square cut off button and nickel
plated lead handle with double wire handle loop also marked with Clough's patent date
"PATENTED FEB 11876", was also made with a double helix.
|1887 Catalogue (Catalogue #2)
nickel plated lead handle with single piece steel wire helix and hanging loop, variant of
the June 26,1876 Barnes Patent, not marked.
|1883 Catalogue (Catalogue #3)
"DUPLEX POWER CORK SCREW", rosewood/ebony handle, original brush with twisted
wire steel shaft and double wire helix, not marked.
|1887 Catalogue (Catalogue #3)
round end maple handle, nickel plated steel twisted wire shaft with square cut off button
with double wire handle loop marked "WILLIAMSON'S".
|1887 Catalogue (Catalogue #4)
"THE DOMESTIC" nickel plated twisted open wire shaft, wood handle.
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#4) maple handle with twisted wire shaft and double wire helix, also made with
a lead handle.
|1883 Catalogue (Catalogue #4)
rosewood handle, twisted shaft, wire helix, double wire handle loop marked
|1887 Catalogue (Catalogue #5)
"DUPLEX POWER CORK SCREW", looped wire flat oval handle, twisted shaft with double
wire helix. Directions for use state "When the second or short screw enters
the cork the pressure on the cork becomes so great as to turn it in the bottle. By
continuing to turn the screw and pulling slightly. the cork be as easily extracted as by
the most expensive POWER SCREW".
|1883 Catalogue (Catalogue #5)
steel flattened wire oval handle, twisted shaft with single wire helix.
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#6) "GARDEN CITY" oval handle with open top twisted shaft with single wire
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#6) steel wire flattened oval handle, twisted shaft with square cut off button and
single wire helix.
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#7) nickel plated double wire helix with a heavy rolled split brass open tube/sheath
marked "JOS. LEOPOLD & BRO. BELLEVILLE ILLS.". Catalogue advertisement
states "By placing the handle over the screw, makes a neat article for the
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#7) nickel plated brass sheath, left hand wire helix with loop wire marked
"WILLIAMSON'S". Catalogue advertising notice states
"The LEFT HANDED Screw affords immense Fun when placed in the hands of
the Unsuspicious for use".
|1883 Catalogue (Catalogue #8)
nickel plated brass rolled tube sheath, wire helix with loop wire marked
"WILLIAMSON'S". In 1887 catalogue it is called UNCLE BENJAMIN'S pocket
corkscrew, also made in a smaller size called PAYSON'S PIC-NIC.
|1883/1887 Catalogue (Catalogue
#8) nickel plated brass sheath, wire helix with square cut off button, double loop
handle marked "WILLIAMSON'S".
|Circa 1900, nickel plated steel gimlet and brass bottle
shaped champagne tap with a valve handle which allows the beverage to be discharged out
the bottle neck. Original box marked "WILLIAMSON'S NEW CENTURY NO.1900 CHAMPAGNE TAP
PATENT APPLIED FOR A PROPER SIZE GIMLET ACCOMPANIES THIS TAP" as well as a complete
set of operating instructions. This model was advertised in May, 1903 in the
"National Druggist" and was still being marketed in a chrome plated version as
illustrated (Catalogue #10) in the 1946 catalogue.
|Nickel plated brass champagne tap with the liquid
discharge hole in the centre of the valve handle. The valve handle except for the
discharge orifice is identical to the New Century tap with the same pitch threads. Sold as
"THE FAVORITE No.530 1/2 and sold with a similar gimlet as the New Century and the
Needle Point Champagne tap, illustrated (Catalogue #10) in
the 1946 catalogue.
|Circa 1910 nickel plated steel gimlet and brass
champagne tap with side discharge spout and substantial valve handle. When the valve
handle is turned after insertion the needle withdraws and allows liquid to flow. Original
box marked "ONE WILLIAMSON'S NEEDLE POINT CHAMPAGNE TAP No.1910" with a set of
|WILLIAMSON METHOD: A short
transverse sharpened steel pin is driven through a hole drilled in the shaft
WALKER METHOD: A longitudinal steel nail is driven lengthwise
through the handle into an inlet flared hole drilled in the shaft.
|Williamson advertising corkscrew, handle marked
"Williamson Co. NEWARK, N.J." and "WILL DRAW A CORK REMOVE A CROWN LIFT A
SEAL BREAK THE WIRE" on the sides and "NEED NOT PULL KEEP TURNING" on the
bottom. Handle end is marked "WILLIAMSON CO PATENTED AUG 1097 NEWARK N.J.".
Nickel plated steel fitted with web helix, bell, stamped steel wire breaker/crown cap
lifter and brass shaft sleeve marked "WILLIAMSON'S".
|Small wooden handle, nickel plated steel bell
and wire helix with shaft marked "WILLIAMSON'S". Bell retained with cotter pin
and brass collar.
|Nickel plated cast steel handle with long arc stamped
wire breaker cap lifter marked on the underside "WILLIAMSON'S NEWARK N.J. PAT.
|Nickel plated steel with brass roll over collar fitted
with very short frame (large bell) and web helix. Called the BURGUNDY in Williamson's 1946
catalogue (Catalogue #10), the screw retaining the collar to
the threaded shaft top is metric thread indicating that the item was possibly imported
from Germany or France.
|Nickel plated steel combination left hand peg &
worm and caplifter as illustrated in 1946 Williamson catalogue (Catalogue
#9), was also available with right hand helix.
|Nickel plated harp with steel band frame and rivet
pivoted wire helix as shown in an early 20th century advertisement.
|Nickel plated steel harp fitted with wire helix with
top section marked "WILLIAMSON'S". Pivot pin extends beyond either side of the
frame (Catalogue #10).
|Nickel plated steel harp fitted with web helix with top
section marked "WILLIAMSON'S". Pivot pin extends beyond either side of the
|Nickel plated steel cast crown cap lifter and wire
helix corkscrew fitted with a flat bottom bell and green wooden case was being marketed in
1920 and was still included in the 1946 Williamson catalogue (Catalogue
#9). Cases were also painted red or lacquered and were also available with a web
|20th century nickel plated stamped steel combination
tool fitted with wire helix, crown cap lifter and knife sharpener marked "Wizard
KNIFE SHARPENER". This model was included on a parts display board at the Williamson
|Similar to the Wizard above except with a glass cutter
added and marked "New Era KNIFE SHARPENER". This model was included on a parts
display board at the Williamson factory.
|Nickel plated stamped steel clam shaped combination
crown caplifter and wire helix marked "TIP TOP WMSON NEWARK N.J." as advertised
in the 1946 catalogue.
|The FLASH as illustrated (Catalogue
#9) in 1946 Williamson catalogue, two piece wire helix and crown caplifter with wooden
sheath are often found with red or green paint or with a colour picture advertisement
covering the sheath.
|Nickel plated cast steel combination caplifter and wire
helix corkscrew with catalin (plastic composition) case. Wood (PAL & DON'T SWEAR
models Catalogue #9), iron, zinc casting and brass cases
depicting fish, animals and other objects and bar tools were produced by various
manufacturers with Williamson supplying the opener portion. Henry Boker, Germany also
produced similar combination openers for the export market.
|Nickel plated wire helix with caplifter cast into upper
bell section located by shaft crimps with green catalin/plastic handle, also produced in
flat sided catalin and wood handled models (Catalogue #11 &
12). This style of caplifter bell was marketed as early as 1920 and may be found on
many Syroco pieces.
|Green wood handle, nickel plated rolled shaft sleeve,
caplifter in upper cast bell and web helix (Catalogue #11).
|Zinc plated malleable cast iron body marked
"WILLIAMSON NEWARK NJ", steel points, wooden handle with combination caplifter,
wire helix stored in one end.
|Similar caplifter/wire helix fitted in wood handle of
an advertising ice pick with steel handle ferrule marked "WMSON NEWARK, N.J.".
Handle marked "COMPLIMENTS Frontenac BREWERIES LIMITED MADE IN U.S.A.".
|Examples of corkscrews that were manufactured with
helixes supplied by C.T. Williamson Wire Novelty Co -
brass parrot after the M. Avillar November 12,1929 Patent with caplifter mouth and ice
breaker base fitted with a nickel plated web helix marked "WILLIAMSON'S".
Nickel plated white brass combination caplifter and nickel plated
web helix marked "WILLIAMSON'S". United States Design Patent No.124,235,
December 24,1940 by Marshall S. Neal, California.
Compression moulded wood fibre and thermoset resin painted dog head
made by The
Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) with web helix marked
Syroco figural corkscrews from the 1940/50's may often be found
fitted with a
Williamson helix and caplifter/bell.