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Patent Working Sample Beer Engine
An acquisition I could not resist, from an auction in Halifax - a late 19th century travelling salesman's patent working sample beer engine, beautifully engineered in mahogany and brass, with a lead drip tray. The plaque is stamped J. CORNEY PATENTEE AND MAKER H.X No 17068 (the "H.X" presumably being an abbreviated reference to Halifax). Mechanically it is quite a complex design, and I am not entirely clear as to the function of the lever and the two on/off switches, but they do all work. At 17" tall and 3.5" wide, it is approximately 1/3rd scale size.
Unbeknown to me at the time, the auction was being televised (I was a telephone bidder). It was broadcast on "Dickinson's Real Deal" on ITV1 on 8 December 2009. The beer engine was actually shown and described by David Dickinson on the programme, and also featured as the competition item where the prize amount was based on the hammer price realised, which was then quadrupled.
After a bit of internet research, looking at the 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census records, I think I have managed to identify the only Yorkshire-based Mr J. Corney who fits the bill. His name was Joseph Corney, and he was born in Halifax in 1857. He is registered in the 1881, 1891 and 1911 Censuses, although does not appear in the 1901 Census. His occupation is described as "whitesmith".
According to Wikipedia: "a whitesmith is a person who works with "white" or light-coloured metals such as tin and pewter. While blacksmiths work mostly with hot metal, whitesmiths do the majority of their work on cold metal (although they might use a forge to shape their raw materials).
The term is also applied to metalworkers who do only finishing work – such as filing or polishing – on iron and other "black" metals.
A whitesmith was a common occupation to have in colonial times, as well as a blacksmith or a hatter.
Whitesmiths make things such as tin or pewter cups, water pitchers, forks, spoons, and candle holders.".
And, it seems, beer-pumps. What a wonderful craftsman he was!
When Joseph Corney originally made this, the name of Andy Warhol would have meant nothing to him. He could scarcely have imagined that over a century later it would become the basis for his own 15 minutes of fame.