Hello! My name is Miriam Ehrlich. I am a history and women’s/gender/sexuality studies double major at SUNY New Paltz. I am very excited to be a curatorial intern this semester at Historic Huguenot Street.
This week, I will be looking at a piece of kitchen equipment from the mid-19th century- an apple peeler. It is 25 inches in length and 8.5 inches in width. It is a rectangular piece of wood, missing its top left corner. It also has a three pronged turn arm, which is separate from the blade arm. The words “apple peeler” are written on the bottom. This object can give us an insight into what domestic life was like during this time-period, especially when contrasted with the sophisticated kitchen technology available today. While today handheld peelers are very common, these type of manual hand cranking devices are still used for both personal and industrial use. There is another apple peeler on display in the basement kitchen of the Abraham Hasbrouck House for educational purposes.
Women were largely responsible for domestic life’s activities in early America, including preparing meals. This apple peeler would have been of great assistance for cranking out apples at a higher speed than the average kitchen knife could. Larger peelers than the one documented here were used for greater quantities of apples.
Apples were frequently used for making drinks in early America. Cider was one of the most popular options because it was cheap to buy due to the plentiful amount of apples from local orchards. John Hull Brown writes, “apple orchards had been set out early in New York…[a local traveler] describes these apples as the finest in America.”1 It is recorded that an orchard once “…produced sufficient apples to make five hundred hogsheads of cider in 1671.”2 A hogshead is a barrel of liquid which is usually used to contain alcohol. To make a current day connection, the Hog’s Head Inn is an inn and pub in the wizarding village of Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter book series.
Today, New Paltz is home to many apple orchards. Perhaps this very apple peeler was used to turn some hand-picked apples into apple ciders. As you drive through the village you can see some apple orchards and even enjoy a day of apple picking, when in season.
This object was donated by Henry J. DuBois in 1916, and was 75 years old at the time of donation. It is from Otisville, NY.
1 Brown, John Hull. Early American Beverages. Rutland, VT: C.E. Tuttle, 1966. Print. 22.
2 Ibid, 16.