A little 1900s American history … from Naples, New York
Of course, we call them dehydrators these days, but back in the day, they were called … evaporators.
This is a little article written some years ago by my great grandfather Joseph Widmer. This is the same family that owns Widmer Wines, although my great grandfather was not part of the winery. My father found a few of his old writings and shared them with me. I thought it would be nice to share them with some of my readers.
I remember my great grandfather as a kindly old man with badly bowed legs and two canes, who loved little kids and always had time for us. He was also quite an exceptional woodworker. I still remember the old farm he and his wife, Bessie, owned that we visited on occasion. I have fond memories of the frog pond we often played around (getting quite muddy) and the old apple tree in the back that always had the best apples. I think they were Northern Spy apples.
by Joseph B. Widmer
I lived in Naples until the spring of 1913 and knew of no public evaporators in the Town of Naples, N.Y. As far as I know, there were two privately owned fruit evaporators. One was located on the farm of Charles Hamlin, Jr., just off Naples Atlantic Road; the other was owned by my father (John Frederick Widmer) who also raised many acres of blackberries.
He had a fairly large dry house or fruit evaporator, as we dried other fruits such as apples, peaches and apricots. This dry house 16 feet long by 12 feet wide, a one-story structure, somewhat higher than a garage.
There was only one man in the Naples area that could build that type of building, a Mr. John Dinzler who lived on the corner of Tobey Street and Lower Main Streets before the new Catholic Church was built.
As I said, it was a long building that housed two long cylindrical type heaters that burned old grape posts or other woods of that size. These heaters were joined together lengthwise, resting on large rock slabs. Instead of a floor the inside was all open with a 30-inch wide catwalk and a railing along three sides of the building around the top of the heaters. A very steady low heat was kept.
There were no windows, only hinged shutters for ventilation. Inside the dryer were constructed frames and framing that held screens 30 inches by 48 inches, trays joining both lengthwise and crosswise. These trays were cover with fine screening.
While in operation it called for a full-time attendant who used a small rake in his operation of drying the fruit. When one could squeeze the dried berries in a ball without their sticking together, the were ready for the market.
At that time Walker-Boles who had a warehouse on the corner of Academy and West Avenue near the Lehigh Valley Station hired women for fifty cents a day to pack these evaporate berries in one-pound packages for shipment to a market.
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