Many items at the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette are over one hundred years old. One item is a cast iron Reading 78 Apple Parer made by the Reading Hardware Co. of Reading, Penn., in 1878. It was donated to the museum by the Steele family. You put an apple on the holding fork, turn the crank and the apple is peeled and automatically pushed off the fork. There was a type of apple peeler patented as early as 1803 in America, but it was in 1864 that Davis Goodell invented a more efficient apple peeler. He called it "the lightning apple parer". There were soon many different apple peelers being manufactured. An apple peeler was the first of Eli Whitney's inventions. Those first apple peelers or parers were made of wood and had a shaft with a crank on one end and a wooden fork to hold the apple on the other end.
Apple trees were brought to America by European colonists. The only apples native to America are crab apples. Those first apple trees produced very little fruit, but in 1622, honey bees were shipped from England to Virginia. Soon other shipments of bees arrived and the trees began to produce more apples.
We all know the story of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) who gave apple seeds to everyone he met who was headed west. He also planted seeds wherever he found a suitable place. Apple trees live and produce apples for a long time. The oldest living apple tree on record in America lived to be 219 years old, and it was still producing apples when it was destroyed. Soon apples became a key agricultural product.
The 18th century saw a growing need for apples as a winter staple. Apples were used to make hard cider and dried apples could be used all winter for pies, cakes, and puddings. Peeling enough apples to last the winter months was a hard task. The apple peeler made this job a lot easier. During this time, over one hundred patents were issued for apple parers.
Apple peelers today are not much different from the one at the museum. They have a fork to hold the apple and a handle to turn the apple while it is being peeled.
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