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 Discovery of the Abner Peeler Collection
Darryl B Fischer July 2, 2003
in progress. Version 11-13-2008
Team Breker owner Mr. Uwe Breker and his wife flew from Germany to Los Angeles from in August (or Dec) 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.
The Peeler Collection was offered for sale at a yard sale.
An antique dealer bought the entire Peeler Collection, still in it’s old tattered suitcase.
Darryl Fischer bought the Peeler Collection from the antique dealer at a swap meet in
Los Angeles, Ca, for $125.00.
found the typewriter and the whole collection of associated papers in an old tattered suitcase at a flea market near Los Angeles,
Ca. I paid he seller $125 for all of it. I took the suitcase and contents to Whittier and showed the items to my friend Lea
McNabb, then took them to my shop. Later that day I did some beginning research at the local library, where I found many references
to Abner Peeler. This was the beginning of 17 years of research.
I stored the typewriter in it's tattered suitcase,
on top of a shelving unit in the back of my shop for about 1 year. I realized that the heat could eventually damage the collection,
so I stored the paperwork in my bedroom dresser, and put the typewriter in my safe. The suitcase was totally falling apart,
looked to be only from the 1930's or 1940's, so I disposed of it.”
1992. April 29.
The Los Angeles Rodney King riots began. I watched on television as Abell’s Auction Co. burnt to the ground, along with
4 items that I had consigned. The next morning, I loaded up my Canon AE1 camera and went to the auction location to help evacuate
some items, at which time I located Barry Abell’s safe (which was beneath the smoldering roof), and I peeled the safe
door and they retrieved important papers and some collectible coins. The looting and fires were approaching closer to my antique
store every night.
May 1. On the 3d day of the riots I loaded my expensive furniture, and the Peeler typewriter items, into my 32’
gooseneck trailer and parked it at Lea's house in Whittier for safety. On the 5th day the rioting had stopped, and a few
days later I returned the Peeler items to my safe.
1993. Oct 28. I happened upon a 1993 catalogue from the Typewriter Exchange auction in Pennsylvania,
and called and spoke to Tom Fitzgerald, who was very pleased to hear that the typewriter had been found. I sent him photographs
of the main items and articles, and he told me he was going to write an article.
1993. The Typewriter Exchange, VOL 9.
NO. 1 “A Crown for Peeler.”
1993. The Typewriter Exchange, VOL 9. NO.
2 “…a future of gold and diamonds...”
1993 The Typewriter Exchange, VOL 9.
NO. 3 “…a future of gold and diamonds...”
1993. Nov. I received
from Tom Fitzgerald a copy of one of the articles he did, and all other articles and information he had on Peeler. He wrote
that he was selling some pieces from the Onondaga Historical Museum in Syracuse in a 2004 auction, and asked me if I would
like to offer the Peeler collection in the auction. (Corresp 10)
I started to do research again, calling Sotheby's, Christie's and Butterfield's to no avail, as no department
specializing in office items.
Tom Fitzgerald asked me if I minded if he gave my number to a collector friend of his, Dennis Clark. Dennis then called me
and asked if I was interested in selling the collection.
June. Dennis Clark called again and told me that
he would pay $20,000 for the typewriter. I told him that I was really busy with some pressing projects that had to get done,
and that I would let him know in a few days. I realized that I had better get some realistic values before I sold it.
I decided to call Sotheby's Beverly Hills again, and my contact Kathy Watkins referred me to an appraiser in London.
I called the Smithsonian and talked to Bill Worthington. He said he would like to have pictures for his archives.
I called the Smithsonian again, spoke with ______ who told me Bill Worthington was out of the office, and wouldn't
be back until next week. She gave me John Lundstrom's number at the Milwaukee Museum.
I spoke with John Lundstrom
at the Milwaukee Public Museum. He told me the Peeler typewriter is “probably unique”, and told me I should contact
Uwe Breker at Auction Team Breker in Germany. I believe he gave me the contact phone number for his U.S. associate Jane Herz.
June 20. After talking
Jane Herz, I sent an email to Uwe in Germany. He called me back and we spoke for a long time about the whole collection.
June 23. Uwe sent me shipping information for the container from New York to Germany by July 11.
Thursday, June 26, 12:30 pm. After coming to the shop from the flea market and then Abell's auction,
I decided to look at the letter closely for the first time. I took a magnifying glass and a loop outside and sat on a Victorian
sofa with the sun over my left shoulder. I saw that the 4 1/2 “ square letter had at one time been folded down into
a near 1” square. I looked into the date area and easily read “June the 19th”, but then the
stain blurred the rest. I looked with a loop in bright sunlight, and could make out the year 1866. But upon looking further
to the right of the date, I thought I saw more typed characters hidden in the stain! I went back into my shop, brought out
my strongest loop, and looked very carefully at them, straining to make them out. To my surprise, they turned out to be neither
letters nor numbers!
These turned out to be a series of 8 mysterious “plus” symbols, each one with a dot in every corner,
an invented typographical symbol of Abner Peeler’s own design. These symbols probably signify to Abner
the 8th typed letter, the exact time of the printing of the letter, or possibly a way of identifying Abner’s work. The
symbol was similar in use, but not the same, as an asterisk.
typographical symbol is a plus symbol with dots in each corner.
In his honor, I am naming it –
Fischer) September 4, 2008.
Sunday, June 29. I took the
typewriter and main historical items to the Northridge Antique Market to video a re-enactment of my discovery
of the typewriter at a flea market. I was too busy during the event and decided not to tape the segment.
June 30. 2:30 p.m. I showed my friend Tom Waidner the things I have just discovered recently and talked about importance
of the air brush artifacts and the whole collection. I told my friend Lea McNabb at 3:30 p.m.
1. I talked to my accountant John Martin to ask about tax consequences of selling the typewriter collection in Germany
in November 2003.
I talked to my bank about getting a safety deposit box for the collection, but 10" by 10"
was the largest they have.
I read Abner's accounting of the patent process where he stated that the proof of
Congress passing a special law allowing his invention to be patented without a patent model, and also to be put ahead of the
others, could be found in the Congressional Globe. I started searching the website for the documents, spending a few hours,
but didn't find the right documents. I did find the patent information and partial drawings that I could not view close-up.
July 2, 2003 11:30 am. I began re-creating the Abner Peeler timeline.
I called the Smithsonian re having the letter analyzed. I was transferred to imaging and printing dept., and I left a message.
John Jones called back, in a message told me to contact the Museum of American History for analytical services on historical
July 9. I decided it would be best to do more research on the collection and
have it all documented before I was to offer it for sale.
July 24. While reading through documents
I found copies of Peeler's written design description and petition (with Chipman as his attorney) to the commissioner
to grant a patent June 23, a reply promising to examine immediately June 26, a rejection due to Peeler's 1st, 2nd and
4th clauses June 28, and Peeler's changes to the clauses and amending of his specifications July 13, 1866.
Aug 8. Uwe Breker called from Germany and told me he had looked through the shipping container for the arrival of
the typewriter and found it had not been shipped for the November auction. I explained about the conversation that I had with
my accountant in reference to the benefits of selling the collection early in the year as opposed to selling late in the year.
I also informed Uwe Breker that I had recently made a discovery that nobody has ever seen,
and that I was the only person who knew the secret of what was typed under the dark stain on the letter.
I told him that I thought it was important to document, on film, the analyzing and revealing of the hidden information,
and having that information available and known before offering the typewriter for sale. He agreed that it was very important
to document the discovery.
Thursday, Aug 14. Called National Geographic in L.A. and got the number
for Washington, D.C. office, but it was too late to call.
Oct 29. Uwe Breker sent me an email
reminding me that he will be in L.A. December 8-10, and asked me which day would be best for us to meet. I sent back that
the 9th or 10th would be best for me.
Nov 3. Called the Image and Printing department of the Museum
of Natural History and left a message.
Nov 7. Paper conservator Lynn Gilliand called me and referred
me to LACMA in L.A. to study the stain on the Peeler typewritten letter.
Nov 13. Mr. Breker emails
me that he will come to my Bellflower shop on Dec 10 around 10 - 10:30 to see the typewriter.
I emailed a Senate historian to get information on Senator Harlan's 2 special acts of Congress.
14. I received a link to the Library of Congress from Dr Betty Koed, Assistant Historian to the U.S. Senate. I searched
all Bills from S370 to S452. I realized that it must be in a "special acts of Congress" file.
act amendment, #1333. Patentees, bill to amend an act in regard to inventors, &c." Possibly also # 1125
Dec 3. I faxed a request to the Patent office to receive the patent drawings for Peeler's typewriter
and the airbrush. Fax no. 703-308-7048
Dec 6. Sent an email to Airbrush Museum website owner Bob
Merlin requesting info about the picture of the lady holding the Peeler airbrush and Peeler's self-portrait.
Dec 7. Referred to Nat Geo HQ, then referred to email@example.com, also firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sent email to comments.
To whom it may concern:
I am in the possession of an important American historical
item that needs to be documented and filmed. There is also a mystery behind a stain on an accompanying historic document that
needs to be computer analyzed, and there is an underlying code that needs to be deciphered. I have learned that the L.A. County
Museum of the Arts has the capability to analyze the document.
Could you please tell me whom to speak to concerning having
the history of this item and the discovery of the information beneath the stain filmed.
Received reply from Nancy Kervin, U.S. Senate Library, concerning her not finding any reference to the special act of congress.
I responded with the Patent Acts # 1333 and #1125.
Dec 10. Uwe Breker came to my Bellflower antique
store to see the Peeler typewriter. I showed him the typewriter, the Patent, the 1866 typewritten letter, the first
airbrushed picture, the first airbrushed picture frame , and all of the associated articles and documents that came with the
collection. I showed him the research I was doing to collect as much information about Abner Peeler as I could. We talked
more about selling the collection at auction.
Dec 9. I searched Ancestry.com and found the 1957
article entitled "Typewriter Invented Here Nearly 90 Years Ago.
Dec 12. I sent emails to
The Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, the Register and Leader, and The Times, asking for any other articles.
13. I sent an email to the Genealogical Society of Webster County Iowa requesting a picture of Abner Peeler's
Dec 13. After a response from Careerbuilders.com, informing me that I had the wrong
link, I sent an email to the editor of the Des Moines Register, formerly the Register and Leader.
I sent an email to Dick Barton after finding a reference (# I 339) to Peeler as the inventor of the typewriter on the Iowa
Biographies Project website.
Dec 13. I found the article "Sister of Noted Inventor Resident
Dec 16. I sent letters to the Webster City and Fort Dodge museums and Historical
Societies. Today I finally realized that Abner Peeler's father, Abner Peeler Sr, is the same Peeler listed in websites
as a famous Illinois preacher.
Dec 17. I found pictures of Abner's half-sister, Sarah Ann
Peeler Brown, her home in Nebraska in 1924, her father, Josiah L brown, taken in 1907, and Elizabeth Ann Peeler.
Dec 18. I received a reply from Rita of the Fort Dodge Public Library. She then mailed to me copies an
article from the Des Moines Register, September, Year unknown, "Gives Iowan credit for Inventing the Typewriter"
and Fort Dodge Messenger article "Recalls Abner Peeler's original typewriter of 1868", dated Dec 12, 1968,
and she sent me a copy of Harold Peeler's inherited typewritten letter, which I had never seen before.
Jan 2, 2004.
I received 2 more emails from Dick Barton, one article from History of Hamilton County, a jpeg of the original typewriter,
and an article about Mrs. Jane Young, including Samuel Baxter info, from Annals of Iowa, A historical quarterly. Included
were references to 2 more Peeler newspaper articles.
From Dick Barton's reference, I checked the Kendall Young Library
online, and found a wealth of historical records and photo collections that are available for purchase.
15. I received a letter from the Webster county Genealogical Society informing me that they had found out that Abner
Peeler is buried in West Lawn cemetery in Lehigh, Iowa, but they have not yet photographed the headstones.
16. I emailed Dick Barton to make a correction to the internet article posted by the Iowa Biographies Project that
stated incorrectly "The original typewriter is still in the possession of Samuel Baxter in Webster City".
Jan 17. I printed and started filling out the forms from the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in order
to nominate Abner Peeler into the Hall of Fame for the invention of the Airbrush and the Typewriter.
to Dick Barton that I thought the 1912 article was indeed correctly printed, and that in 1912 the original typewriter was
still in Samuel Baxter's shed.
Feb 2. I finally talked to Richard Dickerson, he will call
me back tomorrow.
Feb 3. Dick Dickerson called me at 4.00 p.m. and I explained to him about the
typewriter and the importance of analyzing the letter. He was surprised to hear that Peeler had used upper and lower case
letters as early as 1866. He referred me to Darryl Rehr who has done film documentaries and who wrote a history of the typewriter
book. He is emailing to me an article from "Typewriter Topics" that includes the patent diagram.
2004 Spring. The landlord of the building where I had
my antique store, that I had been renting since 1985, called and told me that he was selling the building. The price was above
market price, and I had to put down all the Peeler work to search the L.A. area for another building. When I finally did buy
an affordable building, it took an additional 17 months of renovation and moving to finally be settled. I was totally thrown
off track of my Peeler research. It stayed locked in the safe for years and years.
15. Uwe Breker sent an email informing me that he and his wife would be in L A Sept 1 and 2 and they would like to
meet with me. We set up a date to meet at my Bellflower shop.
Sept 1. Uwe and his wife came to my shop. We went over all the items, reviewed the new information
I had found, and we all looked with a loop at the Abner Peeler Abnerisk. We discussed the importance of the first airbrushed
picture, and Uwe asked me if I had ever looked at the back of the Carte de Visite, because they are usually marked with the
name of the studio. I had not, so we carefully took the frame apart. The Carte de Visite was held on by 5 very old glue spots,
and came off easily. And there it was, the name "Leisenring's New Photography and Fine Art Studio. Corner of Market
Street and Public Square, Fort Dodge, Iowa." Later on I determined that this studio was only open from 1859 to 1860,
and that Abner was either 23 or 24 years old at the time the picture was taken. He was working on his "Sliding"
typewriter at that exact time. I decided that it was time to sell the collection, and I had already determined that Auction
Team Breker was the leading auction for all typewriter, camera, and technological items. With it’s worldwide audience
of collectors and museums, it was the best place for it to be seen by all the pertinent buyers.
Sept 2. I met Uwe and his wife at their Santa Monica hotel and I signed the Auction Team Breker
Sept 5. I conferred
with my friend Tim Merritt, a Daguerrotype collector, on the age of the Carte de Visite taken of Abner. He was able to determine
that the Leisenring Photography and Fine Art gallery was only open from 1859 to 1860, making Abner 23 or 24 years of age at
the time of the photo.
8. I looked closely with a loop at the Abner Peeler first Air Brushed Picture, and I discovered that Abner had used
something sharp to poke pinholes in the centers of the eyes to accentuate his pupils. I found 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 noticed that he had used pins to hold the brass wire script ends down while he air brushed the 1878 cardboard picture
frame. I confirmed that the brass wire script, which is now taped and framed together with the Peeler letter, still has the
black air brushed paint on it’s surface.
9. I took more close up photos of the typewriter, and while I had it upside down I saw for the first time, a letter
“P” scratched into the bottom surface.
Sept 10. I noticed very faint writing on the very back of the Patent, and I discerned and photographed
5 lines of barely distinguishable script.
The script reads:
- - - - -June 19 1866
Recorded 21 - - -
Pat N - - - Liber O 8/2 P.230
A Peeler W Crosley
Mr - - - - - - - - - - -
Sept 11,2008. I packed
the Peeler Historical American Typewriter and Collection, drove to the Fedex main center in Long Beach, and at 5:21 PM, I
sent it to Uwe Breker’s shipper in New York.
picked up the package at his shipper’s office. Delta Airlines gave Uwe Breker special permission to allow the oversize
package to be in the passenger area for the flight to Germany.
Oct 1 2008. I called
Uwe at 6:11 AM PST. A week earlier I had sent him additional photos, and then an updated Peeler History, V-09-29-08. He hadn’t
received the earlier photos, and he looked and found them in his spam folder. I was glad I had informed him of the emails.
informed me that a Danish typewriter journal editor was flying to Germany on Oct 14th to see the typewriter in
person and do a November issue article.
Oct 7. I sent Uwe a clearer version of the 1904 article.
Uwe, Here is a better photo of the (1904?) article. It has the "The typewriter was the invention of an Iowa man" script still intact.
I don't know why the date has been corrected, it almost looks like it used to read 1894.”
I am still curious about this printed date. I have found four different dates for Abner's death, two in
1895 and two in 1896. Could the 1894 date on this article be right?
Oct 7. I realized that of all the articles written about him, and all the pictures used in the articles,
that the Carte de Visite and the Photograph in the airbrushed frame, are the only two known existing photographs of Abner
Oct 8. 7 AM. I met Frank! of Collector Magazine, Pomona, Ca, and showed him pictures of all the
Peeler items, gave him copies, and gave him a copy of the Peeler History. Frank! sent me an email about the use of QWERTY
on the Peeler machine. He wrote “Question: Why did they use the QWERTY keyboard at that time. Is that the
original keyboard paper or a later one?
My original thought was that the paper was
a later replacement, and, as the original type plate with the engraved font letters is missing, or it was never made for this
particular machine, or was taken off to be used on yet another machine, therefore it can't be verified in what
order the engraved type plate letters actually were situated.
Some research tells us that Scholes and Glidden had come up
with the QWERTY keyboard to eliminate keys that were next to each other from jamming.
I found this:
"The arrangement of characters on a QWERTY keyboard was designed in 1868 by Christopher Sholes, the inventor
of the typewriter. According to popular myth, Sholes arranged the keys in their odd fashion to prevent jamming on mechanical
typewriters by separating commonly used letter combinations. However, there is no evidence to support this assertion,
except that the arrangement does, in fact, inhibit fast typing."
The second opinion was from Uwe Breker, who just assured me last month that the Peeler keyboard could
be correct because there were 18c typographic printing cases that held their first row of letters in the QWERTY order.
I have not researched this info at all at this point, so I don't know if it is true.
third opinion is that one of Abner's earlier machines could have started with QWERTY, (but not the Patent machine, which
is truly jumbled), and as he sold all of his ideas and patents, Sholes and Glidden may had seen the configuration.
The fourth opinion is that Abner had
actually seen the 1868 layout of the Sholes and Glidden keyboard, and then used it on his 1869 machine, the "Band".
This is just one of the unanswered questions
about the Peeler Typewriter.
Later in the evening I thought I would finally look into doing a
web page about Abner. I had previously put it off due to the required learning curve that I just didn't have
time for. I registered AbnerPeeler.com.
Oct 8. I emailed Uwe for more insight on the Peeler
Oct 9. I called Uwe first thing in the morning, and he explained to me that the 18c ordinary typographic
printing cases had the most common letters in the middle, and on the English cases QWERTY existed at that time. Since Sholes
was a printer, he used it on his keyboard. He may have rearranged letters to stop the type arms from jamming, but used the
original QWERTY section. Uwe told me that in the press release describing the typewritten letter, he had emphasized
that Abner had, for the very first time ever, been able to achieve proportional spacing on a typewriter. It
is evident in the 1866 letter. Also, he told me that it was the very first usage of "Syllabic typing",
which he described to me. It is the use of two letters combined on one key, such as "to", "is" and
"it", to type a single sylable with 1 keystroke. Abner used 5 of these symbols on the Patent machine,
and typed them onto the letter in the Peeler Collection. Uwe only found 3 references in history where Syllabic typing
After talking to Uwe I called Frank! and gave him this info.
Oct 9. I started constructing Abnerpeeler.com. This is the best
thing I have ever done towards preserving Abner Peeler's legacy. I went on the Internet and looked up a
link that my friend Tom Waidner had sent me back when we were having major trouble editing and designing the web site
for the new 4th Sunday Home Depot Center Antique Market that I was opening. This web site building program was very
easy to navigate, and the page content was so easy to edit that I had the basic first 2 pages up by 9 AM, and
then after a few hours of work (after my real days work at the shop), I had already what appeared to be a pretty decent 6
page web site! I was jazzed.
Around 6 PM Frank called me and we discussed a few things about the typewriter.
he wanted to know where I had kept the collection all these years, and at how many locations it had been stored. He told me
he was going out this very evening to see the movie "Flash of Genius", about the inventor of the Intermittent Windshield
Wiper, who lost his claim to fame to the big auto makers. He told me it reminded him of Peeler's own plight. Peeler had
invented many incredible things, but he was never able to reach his "Future so full of Gold and Diamonds".
( I actually got teary-eyed as I typed this).
Oct 13. Spoke with my friend Sandra Hood, editor of Today's Vintage magazine in El Cajon, Ca,
about a grand opening ad for my El Camino Antique Market, coming in December. I spoke to her in length
about the Peeler Collection, directed her to the website, and emailed to her a copy of the Peeler History.
10:00PM. For the first time I was able to re-create
the Abnerisk on the web page. At first I created it with Word 2007, and copied and pasted it to the upload
page, but it wouldn't appear correctly. Then I tried copying it from Word to notepad to the web, but it still wouldn't
work. I tried it as a Docx, Txt, and Pdf. None would work. Then I successfully printed it from Word 2007, scanned it as a
Jpg, and then inserted it as a picture, into the "Mystery beneath the stain" web page.
I got up at 2:45 AM and called Uwe on
his cell phone. He was driving at the time, just about to turn into the driveway of his destination, and he said to me, "I
have to stop, I'm being stopped by the police"! So uor conversation only lasted 1:27 minutes.