BottleOpener.com was founded in the late 1990's and started as an advertising website for Brown Manufacturing Company. It has since evolved into an e-commerce store. Our site sells items we produce as well as other items that compliment our line.
Brown Mfg. Company is the exclusive producer of STARR branded bottle openers & bottle cap catchers. We produce our bottle openers for bottlers, breweries, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and individuals. Our company holds some of the original patents for a bottle opener that has become internationally renowned for its quality. And over the years, its STARR bottle openers have become collectible because of their long history, trademark and variety of logos. It is believed that Brown Mfg. Company is the oldest bottle opener manufacturer in the USA if not the world. Brown Manufacturing is currently located in Avondale Estates, GA 30002 -- A couple miles due east from the City of Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
'Historical' About Us
What is the short history of Brown Mfg. Company?
Back in the days when most beverages were sold in glass bottles, there was a need for a bottle opener that would not crack or break the bottle. So around 1925, Raymond "Coca-Cola" Brown, an owner of several bottling plants, started Brown Manufacturing in Newport News, Virginia. This company held the original patents for a bottle opener that would become internationally renowned for its quality. These bottle openers are still produced today for bottlers, breweries, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and other manufacturers. The STARR "X" bottle opener can be printed with a flat or raised (embossed) logo for premium, promotional or licensed sales. Over the years, STARR bottle openers have become collectible because of their history, trademark and variety of designs. Brown Manufacturing is currently located in Avondale Estates, Georgia, just to the east of Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
The openers are mainly cast in Germany but over the last 20+ years, we have also experimented with mixed success with foundries in the USA and Asia. Currently, the manufacturing process begins with the creation of a 3D model. Upon approval of this model, a pattern mold is developed. This mold typically consists of 6 to 27 individual bottle openers. Made of ceramic, the pattern mold is used to make impressions in sand. Molten iron is then poured into the sand mold creating each individual bottle opener. The openers are cooled and broken out from the mold. At this point they are sand-blasted to help remove any rough edges and then zinc or chrome plated. Over the years the openers are known to have been nickel, copper, chrome, zinc and even 24-karat gold plated. If the opener has a logo that is applied next. And then, openers can be individually boxed with two mounting screws.
Who was Raymond Brown?
(As told by John Brown, son and family historian) My father was born in 1888, the youngest son of a country doctor residing in various places in Onslow County, Kinston and Tarboro, North Carolina. He had two brothers and three sisters. Denied college because of the limited family fortunes but was helped in some measure to found Brown Brsothers Co. a described below. After Tarboro he resided in Newport News unmarried until 1927, when he married my mother; and the family moved to a larger house in Elizabeth City County, which is now part of Hampton, Virginia. He remained there until his death in 1989.
My father began his career in bottling in Tarbobo, North Carolina. He and one of his brothers formed Brown Brothers Company, a wholesale grocery supplier, sometime around 1909, when he was twenty years old. In 1912 they arranged with the Coca-Cola bottler in Kinston, NC, I believe, to bottle and distribute Coca-Cola in their part of his assigned territory, which was inconvenient for him to handle. This led to the Tarboro Coca-Cola becoming independent. At first the drinks were sent on the East Carolina Rail Road to depots along the line, from which the retail outlets fetched them. In 1914 my father heard of a similar arrangement being on the market in Newport News, where the Norfolk Coca-Cola plant leased its right to the Peninsula, which was impractical for them to cover. This arrangement lasted until my father bought out the Norfolk interest in the Peninsula territory, sometime near 1920. Business flourished especially during the mobilization and wartime, so that by the 1920s it was flourishing, giving my father assets to invest in other enterprises.
What about the rest of the family?
(As told by John Brown, son and family historian) My mother, Evelyn Brown, was born in 1903 in Mount Vernon, NY. In 1919 her family moved to Buffalo. Her father was a jeweler and jewelry designer. She attended National Park Seminary 1921-23 and trained as an interior designer and secretary before meeting my father in November 1926 when he came to Buffalo for a bottler's convention, at which he was exhibiting the bottle opener with a plan to promote home purchases of Coca-Cola. She tended his booth (I am sending a photocopy of a similar arrangement at another convention (pictured below)) and by the end of the week he was ready to propose. They married in January 1927, and lived in Newport News until 1934, by which time the house mentioned above was ready for occupancy. She died there in August 2003 just shy of her 100th birthday.
And then there were 6 sons. From oldest to youngest it went, Raymond Jr. (b. 1927), Peter (b. 1929), John (b. 1931), David (b. 1933), Dean (b. 1936), Philip (b. 1940).
Raymond was a distinguished yachtsman who worked in a fashion in the Coca-Cola works on physical engineering and maintenance matters (most of the time sailing, building, and designing sailboats) until assuming control of the Brown Manufacturing operations in the 1970s, continuing his allotment of time and energy. The bottle opening business went on without notable diminishment or enlargement during his tenure. Ray was killed in the crash of his small plane (of Italian design, built from a kit by Ray himself) at an airshow commemorating the Wright Brothers' first flight, in May, 1984.
Peter worked in the Coca-Cola business for a year after college before entering Naval Aviation in 1952. He was killed in his first solo flight in a jet trainer, in Texas in March 1953 -- after qualifying in prop planes, carrier operations, etc.
John pursued an academic career in philosophy, chiefly at the University or Maryland, where he is now associate professor emeritus.
Dean studied musicology at Cornell and NYU, taught at Brooklyn, performed with the Waverly Consort, switched to photography and became an admired wilderness photographer until his death in July 1973 falling from a mountain in New Hampshire while on assignment from Time-Life. His work is preserved at the Center for Creative Photography in Tuscon, Arizona.
David worked for many years in the Newport News Coca-Cola Bottling Company in various capacities and solicited his brothers (owners of the business) for leadership when my father's energies waned. However, in the event the business was sold in 1987 and with his share of the proceeds he bought a farm owned by the business and has become a fruit and specialty farmer on the Chicahominy River north of Williamsburg.
Philip entered Naval Aviation after graduation from Davidson, served in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war. After leaving the service he became qualified in aeronautical engineering (Ga Tech and Princeton) and found a position with NASA at Langley Field on the Peninsula. He retired c. 1990 and is currently embarked on a career conducting aeronautical research in Williamsburg, Va.
All of us served during summer vacations delivering Coca-Cola on a regular route.
Who was Thomas C. Hamilton?
Thomas C. Hamilton, a citizen of Boston, Massachusetts, filed for a patent on September 18, 1924 for a Bottle Cap Puller. The patent, 1,534,211, was issued on April 21, 1925.
(As told by John Brown, son and family historian) I do not know how my father came to learn of Hamilton's opener. All I know that he was eager to have an industrial operation supplementing his Coca-Cola bottling one and that he had a plant, machinery and a work force available to employ in it. He had just discovered that the product of a previous side venture, a home recording machine which had been produced and sold, was based on inadequate research and did not perform acceptably to consumers -- the "engineer" who had induced him to produce it proved to be a disgruntled, incompetent ex-employee of Edison’s. So, the small fabricating operation housed within the Coca-Cola bottling building and its small workforce was available for some other product. Someone, perhaps Hamilton himself, acquainted my father with the patent and he eagerly took it up. He arranged with a Richmond (Virginia) foundry to have the castings made. The finishing, decorating and dispatching of the openers was done in the spaces used for the defunct "Reproducto." The actual operation in the plant involved breaking apart the castings and knocking off the fragment of the join between openers, then smoothing the openers by tumbling them with round stones in metal tumblers, then plating them nickel (or zinc?) or chrome, painting the ones with raised logos, and packaging and dispatching them to customers. There were about ten women doing the lighter work and a man who manhandled the barrels of castings and drove the packaged openers to post office or freight station. The Coca-Cola bottling operation went on in the adjacent spaces of the building. When the bottling operation was moved to larger quarters a block away, the bottle opener business expanded into the half-empty older building without the processes themselves changing.
Why was STARR trademarked and what does it mean?
(As told by John Brown, son and family historian) I haven't any information on this. I assumed that the name was merely a diffusely commendatory reference with the double "r" turning the word into a proprietary label.
What improvements were made to the original ‘Thomas Hamilton’ patent to allow a new patent (2,333,088) to be issued to Raymond Brown in 1943?
Raymond Brown Sr. filed for a patent on a modified version of the Thomas Hamilton patent on February 9, 1942. It was granted on November 2, 1943. The main improvement to the original patent was the inclusion of 2 back stops adjacent to the prying lip of the bottle opener. These back stops kept bottle caps from being caught in the opener so the next user would not have to physically remove the bottle cap with their fingers.
Collecting Brown's Bottle Openers
Some of the most collectible of our openers are our "Cast in USA" STARR openers. These designs such as NEHI, Drink Mavis and Orange Crush can sell on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Designs with "patent pending" or "Patented April 21, 1925" are also very collectible because they are some of the oldest known designs.
Harold J. Eblen Jr., a wall mounted bottle opener collector, has written and published the "Guide To Collecting Brown Manufacturing Company STARR Bottle Openers Since 1925". Available on Amazon, it offers the most complete information available on Brown's bottle openers.
Listed below are the various patents and trademarks Brown Mfg. Co. has held and the dates and countries in which they were issued.
Old Style Corkscrew Combination with Hook
New Style Corkscrew Combination w/o Hook
Cabinet Type with Corkscrew Attached
STARR "X" (O-5's)
Trademarks (USA only)
STARR 2005 517,144 Brown Mfg. Co.
A general guideline to help you determine the age of your bottle opener is as follows:
Cast in USA, Patent pending, Newport News, VA
Cast in Germany, Patent #2333088, Atlanta, GA
Cast in Germany, BottleOpener.com, Atlanta or Decatur, GA
Cast in Germany, Atlanta or Decatur, GA