The Monroe Brothers' slow return apple parer is small and elegant. Some of the apples favored at grocery stores today are too large for this parer. It is important to pick out small to medium sized apples for many of the 19th Century parers.
James Francis Monroe (1818-1901) and Edwin Pear Monroe (1827-1917) established Monroe Brothers c1864 (Thornton, p. 112). Their diminutive slow return parer, graced with six heart-shaped cutouts, proved to be a popular and profitable design for multiple manufacturers and is a favorite among collectors today. Four patents are associated with the Monroe Brother's parer, three of which appear on most examples.
A prominent patent date of September 9, 1856, issued to John David Browne (1807-1891), appears on the drive wheel (Browne, Sept. 1856). Browne's patent covered the geared mechanism that slowly returns the paring knife to starting position without the aid of a spring. The Sept. 9, 1856 patent date also appears on the side of the frame along with two other dates of May 6, 1856 and Aug. 21, 1866.
Browne's May 6, 1856 patent is for a quick return mechanism powered by a spring, a design strategy that is not used on the Monroe Brother's parer (Browne, May 1856). Browne assigned his apple parer patents to J. L. Haven & Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1856 who manufactured the Nonpareil and Eclipse apple parers based on Browne's designs. J. L. Have & Co. in turn assigned the patents to Monroe Brothers in 1863 (Monroe to Commissioner of Patents, 1865). The Monroe Brothers obtained a reissue of Browne's May 6, 1856 patent on August 21, 1866 (Monroe, 1866). It is curious that the reissue was for the May 6 patent and not the Sept. 9 patent which protects a slow return mechanism equivalent to that used on the Monroe Brother's parer.
The Monroe Brother's paring knife has an extension (finger) and cam to pivot away from the apple as it slowly returns to starting position after paring the apple. The brother's mention the Sept. 9, 1856 patent in letters patent issued for their paring arm mechanism on March 24, 1868 to avoid describing their return mechanism (Monroe, 1868). The illustration for their 1868 patent corresponds to their manufactured parer. The 1868 patent does not appear on their parer; even so, it dates the approximate start of production.
Monroe Brothers dissolved c1874 and while both brothers continued in the hardware business Edwin moved to Newark, New Jersey (Viney, 2020). Multiple companies made use of the Monroe Brothers design including J. L. Haven & Co., R. P. Scott Company, Goodell Company and L. A. Sayre. Most of these designs utilized a larger drive gear, 4.5 inches (48 teeth) instead of 3.5 inches (40 teeth).
Browne, J. D., inventor, Machine for Paring Apples, 1856 May 6. US14800.
Browne, J. D., inventor, Apple-Parer, 1856 Sept. 9. US15683.
Monroe, J. F. "To comissioner of Patents." 19 Dec. 1865, in Patent File USRE2339, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Monroe, J. F., assignee, by mesne assignements of J. D. Browne, inventor, Improved Machine for Paring Apples, 1866 Aug. 21. USRE2339. Reissue of US14800.
Monroe J. F. & E. P., inventors, Apple-Parer, 1868 March 24. US75951. Ironically, this is the main patent for the parer, yet does not appear on the machine.
Thornton, D. 1997. Apple Parers. Sunnyvale, California: Off Beat Books: 112.
Viney, M. 2020. Browne, Haven and Monroe. ISAPE, August 2020, Issue 116, pp. 6-11.