On display in your Vanishing Texana Museum are what we thought were two apple peelers. During inventory we discovered appearances can be deceiving.
Apples, along with honey bees, arrived in America with the first colonist. They planted seedlings that grew quickly in the rich soil and soon apples were being plucked from the trees. These, however, were not the sweet apples we see in our local markets. Taking a bite of an apple, Jamestown's Captain John Smith noted, would "draw a man's mouth awrie with much torment." These apples had a more important purpose – Cider, specifically fermented cider.
Apple can be grown by seed or grafting. Grafting allowed the colonist to control sweetness and flavor. Apples soon became a winter staple for both food and drink. The challenge became how to process all these apples. Paring (peeling), coring, and cutting enough apples to last a winter became a daunting task. Still, it wasn’t until 1864 that a mechanical apple peeler was invented. In that year, David Harvey Goodell introduced his “Lightning Apple Parer.” At first sales were sluggish, but then Mr. Goodall took to the road with a wagon filled with parers and in less than a month had orders for 24,000 units.
As the industrial revolution took over America, the apple peeler soon came in many different versions. There was the “Turn Table” style that turned the apple against a cutter. Next came the “Arch” style, which held the apple stable while a cutter moved in an arch around the apple. A “Return” style moved both the apple and cutter before “returning” to its original position. Finally, there was the “Lathe” style, where the apple is driven past a stationary cutting wedge.
A recently gifted apple peeler on display in our museum is the Return style. It was patented in 1898 by the Goodall Company, yes, the same Goodall that invented the “lightning peeler,” but this was an improved version called the Model 98 Turntable. It’s an ingenious device with a horizontal gear mounted atop the unit. Attached to the gear is a flat blade. Under the top gear is the apple holder which is attached to a worm gear. As you turn the handle on the peeler, the top gear turns the cutter and the bottom gear turns the apple. With both the apple and the cutter turning at the same time, the apple is peeled in just seconds.
If you have visited the museum in the past, you may have seen an apple peeler with a wax apple attached to it. During the course of research on the museum’s collection we discovered that it was not an apple peeler, but rather a peach peeler. The peeler was manufactured by Sinclair Scott of Baltimore, MD with a patent date of 1898. Sinclair Scott started out making canning and paring equipment in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was a competitive business and soon they gave up their food processing efforts and turned to manufacturing motor cars. The company manufactured the Maryland Motor Car from 1904 to 1910 and turned out 871 automobiles before ending production and returning to the food processing business. We don’t know what became of the Sinclair Scott Company. The last reference to them is a patent application for a newer style apple peeler in 1950.
The difference between the two is how the fruit is held and the style of the cutter. The prongs that hold an apple are more widely spaced than a peach peeler which relies on grabbing the pit in the peach to turn it. The second difference is the peeling blade itself. Due to the soft skin on a peach, an apple blade would plow into the flesh of the fruit. To counter this, the peach peeler has a small round anvil like guide that gently rests the fruit against the cutter. A cup shaped blade is spun rotationally to slice the skin off the rotating peach, leaving it perfectly intact.
Upon reflection, it is probably not unusual to find a peach peeler donated to the museum by one of our founding families. While we all know that Jacksonville it the Tomato Capital of the World, peaches have always been an important crop. During the 1907 growing season, there were over 1000 box cars of peaches shipped from Jacksonville. Still today, peach farms dot our landscape.
We invite you to come by and inspect these early 20th century parers. Your Vanishing Texana Museum is open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11-4. Parking and admission at our 300 S. Bolton location is free!