Is your last name Cooper? Well then a big thank you is in order! Your ancestors changed the world! There should be a new campaign - Go hug a Cooper! Why do you ask?
In the same way the smithing trade produced the English Surname Smith and German Surname Schmidt, the English Surname Cooper comes from people who worked as a cooper. According to blackswanbarrels.com, a cooper is "a skilled craftsman who builds wooden staved casks, barrels or buckets." Keeping it all in the family, everything a cooper makes is called a cooperage and it's used to describe a cooper's place of business, too.
Why the hugs? Coopers are partly-responsible for mellowing out wine and spirits, since, for years, barrels have been used to aged wine and spirits. So, if you love wine and spirits, just don't take for granted the hard work each cooper puts in for you to have velvet flow across your tongue. Hug them!
Before the mid-20th century, almost everyone was or knew of a cooper. Remember, this was before plastics, so there was no rubbermaid buckets, so wood was used for casks, barrels and buckets. There was even a journal called the National Cooper's Journal that was published. Some of the ads appear to have monstrosity-like machines that aided the coopers in making cooperage.
Just look at these Oram Barrel Machinery barrel making tools below and decide for yourself if using these tools looks like fun. These craftsmen probably lost a finger or two making your wine or spirit smooth as silk, so go hug a cooper.
John S. Oram was quite an innovator in his time. Take a look at this patent.
Most modern-day coopers still wrestle with barrel-making machinery to create cooperage for the wine and spirits industry, however, the machinery is much safer now but some of the same old tools are still used. Some think the highest quality barrels are those made by hand, but handmade types are rare. However, the handmade type of barrels are still in high demand, so the old cooper craft lives on.
The Independent Stave Company, has made it their mission - "To craft world-class oak barrels and other cooperage products so our employees, customers and communities flourish." Founded in 1912, and persevered though prohibition, Independent Stave Company, now has barrel production on four continents and sells products through 12 brands. They are the Proctor and Gamble of cooperage.
The Boswell family, who started the Independent Stave Company, is setting new standards in cooperage. Customization, an in-house engineering team, traceability, private wood stocks, and innovation-driven design had led them to become one of the leaders in the cooperage world.
Modern Cooperage, is also pushing the limits, but in a different way. The Modern Cooperage barrel, is the most innovative change the wood-aged beverage industry has seen in decades. The technology allows wine makers, brewers and distillers the effect of oak without the cost and waste of traditional oak barrels.
The cooper trade is alive, well, and they are still making your wine and spirits silky smoothy - so go hug a cooper!