Monday, June 9, 2014

How do you like them apple peelers?

by Erin Doane, Curator

Many of our blog posts are thoughtful, well-researched pieces that inform and entertain while making you think about our connections to the past.  This is not one of those blog posts.  I think mechanical apples peelers are cool so this post is about them and how great they are.  Just look at them!

Mechanical apple peeler, 1880
Mechanical peelers have gears, cranks, whirling metal prongs (upon which the apple is stabbed), and sharp blades.  What’s not to like about them?  They were also very useful.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, apples were an important food source.  Properly processed and stored, they could provide food all winter long.  I can imagine that peeling bushels and bushels of apples for winter storage took a lot of time.  It is no wonder that some creative people developed mechanical peelers to do the job.  Over 100 patents for apple peelers were granted during the second half of the 19th century.


Gears!
There are quite a few of these peelers in the CCHS collection and I have been asked why we keep so many.  Storage space is at a premium so we try not to keep too many duplicate objects but each of the peelers is unique.

There are several different types of mechanical peelers.  Lathe peelers were one of the earliest types developed but new versions can still be bought today.  They are probably the simplest type of mechanical peeler.  The hand crank turns the apple against the peeling blade and the spiral shaft keeps the apple moving forward.  We even have a homemade version in the collection.

Advance lathe peeler, 1883
Handmade lathe-style apple peeler
An arc peeler apparently peels the apple along an arc and then back again.

Arc peeler, 1863
By far our largest collection is of turntable type apple peelers.  You turn the handle and both the apple and the turntable with the blade moves to most efficiently peel the apple.  There are quite a few variations of the turntable peeler.  Some hold the apple vertical and others horizontal.  I’m not sure if there is any huge advantage of one design over the other but obviously the people who originally developed each new design must have thought it was better than the last. 
 
Turntable peeler made by H. Keyes, 1856
Turntable peeler made by Reading Hardware Company, 1878
Turntable peeler made by C.E. Hudson, 1882
And, just because, here are two mechanic cherry pitters as well.
Cherry pitter, 1867
Enterprise cherry stoner, 1917

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