Monday, 5 November 2007

The history of cork.

Cork is something that we are all endowed with possessing, whether it be for our recently scrapped bathroom scales, preserving our favourite wines, or embellishing garage doors. It has come to be an everyday occurrence that no-one is willing to stop for and think something along the lines of "Thank William G. Goldberg for this great invention".

And why would we? After all there was never anyone called William G. Goldberg, or not at least one who deserves cork-gratitude.

Cork was actually invented by the Romans, primarily as a mistake when they were actually trying to produce other things. Modern cork bears little resemblance to Roman cork (or Crokarium). Instead of the dark, bubbly matting, roman cork was infact made out of horse hair. Horse hair was known for its strength and attractive swatch of colourings. The tertiary reason for its ingrained attractivity was its apparent inability to be melted. Many roman warriors believed that the finest swords could be made by smelting horse hair.

This small time myth was made in to a big time legend, when roman leader at the time Chebreum Milnatxx stated that great riches would come from the man "qui preiumaauex gaudy horsey" (who span metal from horsey hair).

And so the chase was on. Many methods were tried. From simple iron smelting fires, to lava lamps, through to trying to pressurise them by putting them in an overinflated pouch of leather that was full of rocks and rolling them off roof tops. Though these ended with the rather serendipitous inventions of alloys, lava lamps and rolley-roofey, none of them could melt horse hair.

Until one day, when a horse was found frozen to death in the Alps. In an attempt to save it, it was set on fire. Sadly these heroic attempts failed. But what it did do was to turn the horse's lovely tail in to a puddle of pure guadyhorseyx. It seemed that in the haste to get rich, everyone had all made the same assumption, that all horse hair is the same. So when it came to cutting off a sample of hair, they all took it from the mane. We all know these days that main hair has no melting point, so they could never use it, but tail hair can be melted.

Once they had finished eating, the family ran the now cooled puddle down to the village elder. He looked at its weird colour and said "non quadus vivi logunberries" (it is without a use!). But as he stood up, his bare feet touched the frozen ground and he lept on to the roman cork. "Brashxlikeken! novi- fiesta!" he exclaimed, for his feet, though wet, were now gripped by this relatively warm material. It wasn't much use in the battle field, but roman cork was used up until the 1920's to line mountain paths, and bathroom scales.

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