The collector: Mike Viney, Public School Science Teacher, Ft. Collins, Colorado, US.
The collection: Apple parers.
The story behind the collection...
My wife and I bought and sold antiques while working on our undergraduate degrees in college. My interest in apple parers and kitchen collectables was sparked by our small business experiences.
I enjoy collecting apple parers (today, commonly referred to as apple peelers) because they are a testament to human ingenuity. Industrialization and the use of iron during the 19th Century witnessed an explosion of patented creativity. Over a hundred U.S. patents were granted for apple parers between 1850 and 1890. Apple paring was a singular problem solved in so many different ways and undoubtedly catalyzed by a free market system. Various simple machines and gear types were combined to create unique engineering solutions to paring an apple. Each apple parer in my collection represents the working out of this problem by a once living and wonderful human mind.
I have been collecting appler parers for the past 15 years. My wife and I have some display cabinets and open shelves dedicated to exhibiting our collection. My favourite find turns out to be a relatively common parer, but it really solidified my interest in apple parers. My wife was attending an estate auction in Greeley Colorado and came back with a Keen Kutter apple parer. At the time, I was interested in collecting Keen Kutter carpentry tools but the parer kindled my interest in these fascinating tools of the kitchen.
There are many parers that I would still like to own, but many are known only in quantities of less than ten. Parers with “untouchable names”, such as Star, Climax and Nonpareil would find a welcome home among my collection.
The theme of multiple solutions for a single problem is carried over into my two other antique collections. Fruit jars exhibit a multitude of designs intended to keep the lid well sealed. Sad irons with removable handles illustrate a myriad of ways to engineer a handle that can be at once secure and easily detached. I also have an obsession with the history of life on earth as it is revealed by the fossil record. I collect petrified wood from around the world and enjoy studying preserved cell and tissue structure, which provides clues to the evolution of the tree form. I am currently working on an on-line petrified wood museum. Take a look at your own risk, you may become obsessed.
Mike's recommendations for further reading and information
Apple Parers by Don Thornton is a must read for anyone interested in apple parers. The book is richly illustrated, comprehensive and filled with interesting historical information. The International Society of Apple Parer Enthusiasts or APES is a first rate club for anyone interested in collecting apple parers.
Mike's website Apple Parer Museum is full of information about the history and evolution of the apple parer. There is also a movie section where you can see the mechanisms in action.