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What's Up Magazine

Apple Antiques You Can Use

Nov 09, 2010 05:36PM ● By Anonymous

About 150 years ago, apples were an important staple of the diet. They were dried, stewed, cooked into tart pastry pies, mashed into apple butter, fermented into applejack, and, of course, eaten fresh off the tree. In rural sections of the country, the apple bee was a popular event—peeling and slicing apples after the harvest.

In order to cut down on labor, many types of apple peelers were handmade from wood. Moses Coates patented the first basic design in 1803. Coates’ peeler secured the apple on a prong and then rotated it against a blade that removed the skin. Some types of peelers weredesigned so that the user can straddle the base in order to keep the apple still. Other styles weremounted on benches or clamped to tabletops. Cast-iron peelers that also cored and sliced went into production during the mid 1800s. Today, the cost of antique apple peelers ranges from $25 to as much as $700 for large, unusual ones bearing patent dates.
If you start using some of those apple peelers you collect, you will find they work quite well, and it may not be long before you become interested in other types of antique collectible gadgetry. America’s favorite kitchen gadget is the eggbeater, and prices for old ones start at $5. There are more than 1,000 patents on various types of eggbeaters in the United States. The first ones were invented during the mid 1800s. Eggbeaters can range from a simple wire whisk to ones with a rotary crank. The Dodge Race Course eggbeater has a cast-iron rotary crank and is valued at $2,500, but most eggbeaters are priced below $50 and many can be found for under $15.

If you enjoy working up some dough to create a nice homemade apple pie, you might consider vintage mixing bowls. Heavy mixing bowls were made in yellow ware, blue, and natural colors, in addition to celadon green. Hall China Company, founded in 1903 in Liverpool, Ohio, is famous for its teapots, but also made handsome, practical mixing bowls, which start at $20 and go up in price depending on condition and design.

Once you’ve created some apple tarts or pies, you’ll want to keep them safe—the old-fashioned way. Usually kept in a cool place such as the basement or porch, a pie safe is a special cabinet set on legs to elevate the contents six to eight inches off the ground. In earlier times, baked goods needed to be kept safe from household pests: pets, rodents, and insects. “If ants are troublesome, set the legs in tin cups of water,” advised Catherine Beecher in an 1869 issue of The American Woman’s Home.

The doors and often the sides of a food safe contain pierced tin sheets, screens, wooden grills, or fabric to permit the air to circulate but keep out the insects. The most common have the pierced tin sheets, which in many instances were hand punched or pierced to create unique folk art designs.

A wide variety of designs were tooled into the tin, ranging from geometric patterns to birds, flowers, and kitchen utensils. Some of these panels were individually crafted and others were stamped by machines. Pie safes with hand-pierced panels are more valuable than those made by machine, particularly ones with more elaborate decoration.

You can tell if a panel has been hand pierced by examining whether all the panels look exactly the same. A factory-stamped tin panel will be identical to all the other panels in the safe, whereas each hand-pierced panel will be slightly different.

Also, look at the way the doors are attached. On the earliest safes, made at the beginning of the 19th century, the tins are attached to the outside of the safe doors. As the craft developed and was perfected, the pierced tins were framed within the wood doors. Screens were substituted for pierced tin at the end of the century.

Apple pies, apple crisp, baked apples, and warm, homemade applesauce—there’s a lot to inspire the collecting of apple-related antiques.