The Abner Peeler Historic Typewriter Collection, including the Peeler Typewriter, the Abner Peeler 1866 Typewriter Patent, the First Letter sent thru the U.S. mails from Washington D.C., the First Airbrushed Picture, and the First Airbrushed Frame.
The Abner Peeler History and Timeline of Events


                                                                                                                                    Darryl B Fischer   July 2, 2003                         
                                                                                                                                 A work in progress. Version 11-13-2008




Abner Peeler was born in Hamilton, Illinois, January 15, 1836, to Abner Peeler Sr. and Lavina Nichols.

1840. May 27. Abner's mother, Lavina Nichols-Peeler, died.

1841. Feb 15. Abner Sr. married Elizabeth Ann Freney

1849. May 31. Abner Peeler Sr. died at age 70. Abner was only 13 years old.

1850. Abner was 14, attending school in Menard County, Ill.

His brother Joseph 22, was a farmer.

His sister Melissa, 19, was working as a teacher.

His sister Elizabeth 17, was in school.

His sister Mary Ann, 12, was in school.

His sister Elanore, 6, was in school.

His sister Sarah Ann was 4.

His sister Elmira was 2.

Ref: 1850 Census of Menard County, Il, page 57



1857.  In June while Abner Peeler was in college in Jacksonville Illinois, he got the idea to make a Printing and Writing machine. He couldn't concentrate on study because his head was "so full of writing machines and a future so full of gold and diamonds", and he quit school two weeks later and went to Springfield, Illinois to start on construction of his first typewriter. After two months he was sick from overwork and discouragement by failure. He burnt the first machine in a stove, and returned home to repent.

At some time the family moved to Webster City, Iowa.


He made 7 typewriters in the 9 years from 1857 to 1866.

"It is safe to say that there is not a typewriter in existence today that was not foreshadowed by one of the seven I made during the nine years from ‘57 to ‘66." 
(Abner Peeler. Fort Dodge Chronicle, 1893.)


1857. June. Abner Peeler builds his first wooden typewriter. Discouraged, he burns it in a stove.

1858 and '59. During winter he makes one with type in an 8 inch circle, striking down.

1860. In the spring he made the "sliding" typewriter, and then sold it to Mr. Wetters west of Sugar Grove, Menard County, Ill.

1860. He showed the sliding typewriter to Mr. Milem Alkire, a wealthy farmer living east of Sugar Grove who offered to board Abner and furnish tools and material if he would make a better one.

1860. Summer. He makes the "wheel machine".

1859 or 1860. At 23 or 24 years of age, Abner has a Carte de Visite photograph made of himself at Leisenring’s new Photograph and Fine Art Gallery. Leisenring is listed as a daguerreian at #3 Jefferson Street, west side of public square, second floor, Mt Pleasant, Iowa, 1859 to 1860. He was working on his "Sliding" typewriter at this time. (18 years later he has it enlarged, and creates the very first airbrushed picture.)

1864. Sept 25. Abner marries Rachel Permilia Walters

1866. Dellia M Peeler born.

1866. Abner builds the “Patent” machine.

June 9, 1866. Abner takes the stagecoach from Webster City to Washington with William Crosley, to make the application for his Patent. William Crosley was the brother of Major George W Crosley. The railroads were not completed until 1868, because of the interruption of the Civil war. The first leg of the trip was to Boone, Iowa, where he wrote his first typewritten letters for the mail. He wrote home from Chicago and Washington, and kept those letters as mementos.




“We took the stage to Boon where I wrote the first letters for the mail that was written with a typewriter. I wrote home from Chicago and Washington, and all of the letters are kept as mementos.”

(Abner Peeler. Fort Dodge Chronicle, 1893)







June 19, 1866. After a 10 day stagecoach ride, Abner types the first letter ever written on a Typewriter in the United States to pass through the mails from Washington, D.C.




Washington City. D, C, June the 19th. 1866.  ++++++++

Dear Companion.

                                 We are both well.  I feel

splendid.  I am now in the office of Chipman & co.

_ _ _ _   .    The machine has been examined by a

great many shrewde men, and they think it is the

greatest curiocity. of the age.  They also think it is

of great value, and they are going to take the first

steps to procure a patent immediately. The draftsman

will be here in a few minutes.  Col Smith thinks we

will get a Patent this week.  I may not get away

from here for two or three weeks yet.  I cannot tell

how long I wll stay. but one thing is certain. I will

come HOME as soon as I can.  I will send you

some money in a few days.  If I stay here, your wants

will not be forgotten.      Board is from 12 to 20 Dolars

per week here.  I am geting fat as a hog on it.

To sum the whole thing up prospects are good.

Write to me immediately. and Direct your lettes to

A, Peeler. Box 708.  Washington City, D, C,

 I must close  I will write again soon.

Yours   as ever.




He writes the letter in the office of Chipman and Co., while waiting for the draftsmen to come do work on Patent drawings, and then mails it to his wife. Colonel Smith thinks the patent will be awarded the same week. While in Washington for presumably 2 to 3 weeks, he uses post office box 708, Washington City, D.C., as his mailing address.






On this  letter, to the right of the date, Abner types his own invented typographical symbol,
similar to an asterisk.
It is a "Plus" symbol, with dots in each corner.
In Abner's honor, I have named it - an "ABNERISK"


Note: Incredibly, the Peeler typewriter was the first to use "Syllabic" printing, the use of words such as "it", "is", and "as", and it was adjusted for proportional spacing. It typed both uppercase and lowercase letters in 1866. Sholes added a shift key for uppercase and lowercase letters in 1878, 12 years after Peeler.



June 23, 1866. Abner applies for and writes his "Printing Machine Specification" Patent application, Number 57,182.

Chipman Co. of Washington, D C are recognized as his attorneys. Witnessed by J. Clemment Smith and H. H. Summers?. Notarized by Thomas J. Myers? Notary Public.
The Patent drawings witnessed by J.  Clemment Smith and _______. 

June 26, 1866.  Thomas Haileard?, Chief Clerk for the U.S. Patent Office, by direction of the Commissioner, writes that the case will be taken up for immediate examination.
Abner receives receipt No. 57,182 for 2 drawings and 4 sheets and pays $15.00. (Article 6)

June 28, 1866.  Abner and Chipman are informed that the machine is un-patentable due to the 1st, 2nd and 4th clause specifications being found in patents by E. and E.E. Town, Oct 5, 1858, Sinle? And Sholes, Sept 27, 1864, and Tiffany and Sinle? March 20, 1860.

June 28 to July 13, 1866.  Abner and his attorneys do corrections to make his typewriter Patentable. He erases the 1st, 2nd, and 4th clauses, and rewrites and re-inserts new 1st and 2nd clauses.

July 13, 1866. Abner presents his amended Patent application to the Commissioner of Patents.

(Exhibit ?)

Abner pays an additional fee of $20.00 (Exhibit 6)


Abner becomes indebted to Senator James Harlan (Rep) IA  b. 1820 d. 1899 for the passage of two special acts of congress in his favor.





"The first to admit the full sized machine as a model,

it being many times larger than the cubic foot prescribed by law.


The second to examine and patent the machine out of it's regular turn

on account of it's supposed value to the public."


(Abner Peeler, Fort Dodge Chronicle, 1893)






June 1866. The Congressional Globe records the two special acts of Congress.

July 27, 1866. The Patent application is examined by J. R. Peale. (Exhibit 6)
The patent application is issued by N. McCormick. (Exhibit 6)

Just a few days before receiving his Patent, Abner writes:




                                                    Dear Companion

  I am swell this morning and with that I am

happy to say to you, that I am comeing home soon.

LOOK    OUT    FOR    ME.          I think we will get

a patent in a few days. Gen Chipman payed

me $100   + one hundred dollars +   this morning

I paid Mr W A, Crosley $50    + fifty +   of it

and he wrote to his brother Major Crosley to pay

you the same amount which I suppose you have

got by this time.. You need not pay any of

my debts as I am comeing home soon.

Take care of your (money)?

Tell the folks that I am straight as a string.

                      I feel BULLISH

          Kiss Dellia for me.

                                                       Yours as ever



Aug 14th, 1866. Tuesday. In only 32 days, Abner Peeler is granted a Patent for his printing and writing Machine, Patent No 57,182. It is signed by W.T. Otto, acting Secretary of the Interior, and F C Theaker, Commissioner of Patents. Named on the Patent are Peeler, Crosley, and Chipman. (Exhibit  )
The Patent receipt is signed off as Patented, and recorded Vol 203, page 224. (Exhibit 6).





“I call my invention a printing and writing machine”


(Abner Peeler. Page 1 of his 1866 Patent)





It was the first Patent given without a Patent model. The full size typewriter was submitted.

It was awarded a Patent out of turn and ahead of all other patent applications due to it's value to the public.


1868. John M Peeler born.

1869. Abner invented a typewriter he called "The Band."  The son of Judge D.D. Chase of Webster City offered him $200 for it, but he was

advised not to sell it.

1869. Mr. Crosley and J.S. Kenin sent him to Washington to get a patent. When he got there he found it had been patented and the inventor had sold it for $4000.

18- -. Abner sells ½ interest in his typewriter patent to Mr. Crosley and a London firm, for $100 deposit and $(      ) balance, (Abner forgot the balance amount.)

18- -. Abner sells the last half interest to Samuel Baxter of Webster City for $1000. The full amount that he received for the invention was around $1500.


List of documented machines:


1. 1859 "Burnt" machine

2. 1858 to '59 "Circle" machine

3. 1860 "Sliding" machine

4. 1860 "Wheel" machine

5. 1866 Patent" machine

6. 1869 "Band" machine



 I believe that the typewriter in the Abner Peeler Collection  is most likely Abner's 1860 Sliding Machine.


The 1860 "Sliding" machine was sold to Mr Wetters. It is possible that sometime afterward, someone in the Peeler family may have attained the Sliding machine back from Mr Wetters. The machine in the collection is very crude, and much simpler than the complex mechanism he invented for the "Patent" machine. Also, the "Patent" machine utilized syllabic writing, which afforded him the luxury of  proportional spacing. It seems that he would have kept this technology in his future machines.


(Darryl Fischer) (Revision Oct 14, 2008)



1870. Federal Census for Hamilton County, Illinois, listed Abner as age 34 working as a jeweler. Also worked as a locksmith and gunsmith, as per articles. (4)

1880's to 1897. Abner conducted gun and locksmith shop in Fort Dodge and later moved to Lehigh, Iowa.

1874. He made the self-threading sewing machine shuttle attachment and sold it to Mr. Al Deering and T.T. Oleson for about $300.

1874? He makes the elastic shuttle race for the Singer Oscillating, and sold it to Mr Ferguson, general agent at Fort Dodge and special traveling agent of Chicago, for $105.

1875. Dec 14 He patents the A Peeler sewing machine shuttle. Patent No. 171,163

18- -. Abner invented an air compressor. This probably gave him the idea to build an Air Brush.

1878.  Abner invented his "Paint Distributor," the first Air Brush.

One month later he created the first picture ever painted with an Airbrush.

He took the 1859 – 1860 Carte de Visite of himself at age 23 or 24, and had it enlarged to 10” by 13”. He airbrushed the enlarged picture of himself, and then cut around his head and shoulders to remove the background. He painted a sheet of paper brown and put it behind his painting to become a new background. I believe he did this to remove any overspray that was on the original background. He used a pin to poke tiny holes in the centers of the eyes to accentuate the pupils. He painted in two diamond shape buttons, that did not exist on the original Carte de Visite. Each is a white cross with black diamonds in the corners. He shortened the lengths of the ends of his tie, so they would form a distinct cross and not touch his inner vest. The crosses of his buttons complement the crosses of his collar and his tie. He definitely was an artist.

"I invented the Air Brush in the year 1878,
and have the first picture ever made with an Air Brush,
which was made a month after it's invention.
(Abner Peeler, Fort Dodge Chronicle, 1893)


Then he creates the first picture frame ever decorated with an Airbrush. He assembles a contemporary post card photo of himself, presumably taken at age 42, on a cardboard frame, and airbrushes it with wire script silhouettes of the words APeeler Artist, and Ft Dodge Iowa. He used pins to hold the wire script ends down while he air brushed the frame. The wire “APeeler” script still retains it’s original black paint, and is now mounted and framed along with the 1866 Peeler Letter.


He sold the first airbrush to S.M. Thomas for $10.

1881. He sold the "entire right of the world" for the airbrush to brothers Charles and Liberty Walkup of Rockford Illinois, for $700.

1881. October. Abner filed for patent for his "paint distributer".

April 25, 1882. Abner is granted Paint Distributor Patent No. 256,852.

1882. He made two airbrush improvements and sold one for $100 and the other for $50, to Liberty Walkup, for a total of $850.

1882. Abner patents the A Peeler Roller Skate. Patent No. 291000.

18- -. He invents a pair of Ice Skates made from iron files, now in the collection of the Fort Dodge Historical Foundation.  No patent exists.

18- -. He invents an Air gun and offers the patent to the US government.

18- -. Abner Peeler married Laura Ross.

1885. William Peeler was born

June 14, 1887. Abner’s stepmother Elizabeth Freeney died.

Earl Peeler was born May 28, 1889. ?

Blanche Peeler. Harold states that in 1968 that she was living in Hastings, Neb.

1893. The Fort Dodge Daily Chronicle publishes the article "A Noted Inventor". Mrs. Hepler reads her reply from Abner Peeler to the Chicago World's Fair Club.


In his 1893 reply, Abner states:



“To comply with your request in detail would require a volume and I will therefor only attempt to

give a short synopsis of a few of my inventions. In June, 1857, I was a student in a college in

Jacksonville, Ill. The idea of writing by the use of type first occurred to me at that time. In a week

or two my head was so full writing machines and the future so full of gold and diamonds that I

could not study so I quit school and went to Springfield where I commenced the construction of

my first typewriter. At the end of two months sickness was brought on by overwork and

discouragement by failure. I burned the first machine in a stove, and went home to repent of my

folly, while a cloud of impenetrable darkness hung in the future where the bright visions of two

months before vanished. Space will not permit of a description of the seven typewriters I made in

the nine years following the first attempt. On the 9th day of June, 1866, I left Webster City in

company with William Crosley for Washington, D.C. to make application for letter patent. We took

the stage to Boone where I wrote the first letters for the mail that was written with a typewriter. I

wrote home from Chicago and Washington and all of the letters are kept as mementos. On arriving

at Washington we became indebted to Senator Harlan for the passage of two special acts of

congress in our favor. The first to admit the full sized machine as a model, it being many times

larger than the cubic foot prescribed by law. The second to examine and patent the machine out

of it’s regular turn on account of it’s supposed value to the public. In proof of the above we refer

to the patent office, records and Congressional Globe June, ’66. You wished to know to whom I

sold and the amount received. Mr. Crosley and a London firm got one half interest. They paid me

$100 at one time as a legal consideration, and I don’t remember just how much more. I sold the

last half interest to Mr. Samuel Baxter of Webster City for one thousand dollars. The full amount

I received did not exceed $1500 in all. It is safe to say there is not a typewriter in existence today

that was not foreshadowed by one of the seven I made during the nine years from ’57 to ’66. In the

winter of ’58 and ’59 I made one with the type in an 8 inch circle striking down to the center each

being raised by a spiral spring, Remington turned, making my machine strike bottom upwards and

making the type strike upwards and fall back without a spring. In the spring of ’60 I made the

sliding type writer and sold it to a Mr. Wetters west of Sugar grove, Menard County, Ill. I showed it

to a Mr. Milem Alkire, a wealthy farmer living east of the Grove and he became so much interested

in it that he offered to board me and furnish tools and material if I would make a better one. I made

the wheel machine that same summer. In ’69 I invented the band. The son of Judge D. D. Chase of

Webster City offered me $200 for it but I was advised not to sell it. J. S. Kenim and Mr. Crosley

sent me to Washington to get a patent. When I got there I found it had been patented and the

inventor sold it for $4000. I invented the Air Brush in the year 1878, and have the first picture ever

made with an air brush, which was made a month after it’s invention. I sold I sold the first air

brush to S. M. Thomas for $10, and sold  the entire right of the world to Mr. L. Walkup three years

later in 1881 for $700. I made made two improvements in the next year and sold one for $100 and

the other for $50 making in all $850. That there is such a thing as improving a machine backwards

has been demonstrated in the air brush. In 1874 I made a self threading sewing machine shuttle

attachment and sold the same to Mr. Al Deering and I. T. Oleson for about $300. The self threading

idea and spring tension has been universally adopted by all the late improved machines. My third

and last sewing machine improvement, the elastic shuttle race for the Singer Oscillating I sold to

Mr. Ferguson, general agent at Fort Dodge, and special traveling agent of Chicago, for $105.”

                                                                                                                         (Fort Dodge Chronicle, 1893)

1895. Abner Peeler dies. Note: Fort Dodge Messenger states he died Nov 8, 1895. Lehigh Valley Argus states he died Aug 11, 1896, and Nov 2, 1896. The Abner Peeler Sr./Lavina Nichols Genealogy website states he died Nov 1,1895. He is buried in the West Lawn Cemetery, Lehigh, Iowa. (3)

1900. While in Washington, D.C., Attorney P H Ryan from Webster City comes across papers that imply that Abner Peeler was defrauded of his typewriter patent. (Article 2).

1900. September. The Des Moines register publishes the article "Gives Iowan Credit for Inventing the Typewriter". (Article 2).
The Des Moines Register has been an all-Iowa paper for most of this century. It is a descendant of the Iowa Star, started by Barlow Granger in 1849, and the Gazette, started about a year later. The Gazette eventually was renamed the Register, and the Star merged with several other papers to become the Leader. These two papers merged in 1902 to form the Register and Leader.

In 1903, Gardner Cowles, Sr. purchased the Register and Leader. He was determined to build it into a newspaper for the entire state. Cowles acquired the Des Moines Tribune in 1908. The Tribune was published as an evening newspaper until it was merged with the morning Register in the fall of 1982 to make the larger, full-service daily paper that Iowans know today. In July of 1985, The Des Moines Register was sold to Gannett Co., Inc.

1903. Dec 22. Article titled “Son Gives Evidence of Father’s Genius”. William Peeler, now 18, while living in Lehigh as a grocery clerk for employment, and inventor of a powerful Oculist magnet, is featured in a Webster County newspaper. Included in the article is a story about Abner Peeler, his typewriter, and his other inventions. (Article 13).

1903. Unknown newspaper prints the article "Fort Dodge Boy's Inventive Genius" (A 14)

1904. Oct 2 The Register and Leader newspaper publishes the article "Millions Evaded His Grasp, The Typewriter was the Invention of an Iowa Man".

1905. Controversy. The Lehigh Argus prints the article "His father Invented the Typewriter".

1905. Mr. Kiser of the Chicago Record-Herald ridicules the Lehigh Argus article claiming Abner Peeler as the true inventor of the typewriter, accompanied with a cartoon, the objective being to hold the country paper up to ridicule.

1905. The Petersburg Democrat (ILL) publishes a rebuke to the Chicago Record-Herald, "printed to show that (Abner Peeler) was the real inventor of the typewriter".

1905. July 24. The Times Republican, Wayne County, Iowa, reprints both the Chicago Record-Herald and the Petersburg Democrat articles in one article named "ABNER PEELER THE INVENTOR"

1912. The book History of Hamilton County / by J,W. Lee…Chicago: S.J. Clarke publishing company, is printed. Included under Abner Peeler and Inventions is a story of the typewriter. (2)

1914. April 11. Fort Dodge Messenger publishes the article "Abner Peeler, Webster County Inventor". *******(2)

1929 August 8 A Nebraska newspaper publishes the article "Sister of Noted Inventor Resident of Bradley". It infers that Sarah A. Brown recently received a book of her family history. Included is the reprinted 1893 article from the Fort Dodge (Iowa) Chronicle entitled "A Noted Inventor". At age 84,she was the only living member of a family of 13 of the Peelers.

1920's. William Peeler displays the typewriter in Florida.

1920's The Miami Herald writes about the displaying of the Peeler typewriter in Florida. (Book 3)

1920's The Fort Dodge Messenger carried the Miami Herald story on their community page. References to earlier Argus stories. (Book 3)

1920’s to 1930’s William Peeler moves to Los Angeles with the Peeler Collection.

1932 May 14. The Webster City Freeman-Journal publishes the article "Abner Peeler claims invention of first typewriter". (2)

1930's. **Name of article**    William Peeler shows his father's typewriter to a California newspaper, where pictures are taken and published.

1934. June 13. Alhambra newspaper publishes the article "Original Typewriter Model is Property of Local Man".


1936. Famous typewriter collector Carl Dietz goes to Los Angeles to find William Peeler and buy the Peeler typewriter for his collection. He is unsuccessful in finding him.



 1957. June 8. The Daily Freeman Journal, Centennial Edition, Webster City, prints the article "Typewriter Invented Here Nearly 90 Years Ago".

1960. The Times publishes the article "Typewriter believed to be oldest in existence". Reporter Cordell Hicks conducts the interview with William Peeler and photographs the typewriter in William's apartment, 5107 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, Ca.

William receives info from Book Enterprises, Inc, 310 E 44th St, New York, NY, 1007, sent to him as President of Keystone Found. Inc., 1505 N Mariposa Ave, Hollywood 27, Ca.

1968. Dec 12. The Fort Dodge Messenger publishes the articles "Exhibits historic typewritten letter" and "Recalls Abner Peeler's original typewriter of 1868". Harold Peeler exhibits his inherited typewritten letter.  (Article 20).

1969. March 22. William Peeler died. He was buried in a pauper's grave.

1969. March 29.
The Times printed the article "He Wanted No Mourners, So Don't Grieve". (Article 18).

1970's? The History of Hamilton County, Vol. 1 wrote a biography about Abner's many inventions under "Inventions, C337".


1983. Auction Team Breker owner  Mr. Uwe Breker and his wife flew from Germany to Los Angeles from in August and spent 2 weeks looking for Abner Peeler's typewriter. They sent out 182 letters looking for information about the whereabouts of the typewriter. They went to the convalescent home where Abner's son, William R Peeler, lived before his death in 1969, and they went to the funeral home looking for any information as to whom William R Peeler may have given the typewriter to. They spoke to the past employees who had attended to him in the funeral home to find ou if they knew where the typewriter may be. Then they went to Webster city, looking for Abner Peeler's home and any living relatives or friends. Peeler's home was gone when they found the site.





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