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photoA Parker Nail-stripper is displayed near the rifles in the Shafer Museum. Nails in the box bottom could be tossed into the top tray. As the device shook with hammering, the nails would rattle down and fall into a line with their points down.

The Parker Nail-stripper

Nails, appleboxes, invention and a family: This tale is based on a handout from the Shafer Museum that includes material from a story first published in the Wenatchee World newspaper.

F.M. Parker figured out how to get a strip of nails between one’s fingers with all the heads up - something that mattered to anyone that had to drive a lot of them. When apples were packed in hand-made wooden boxes, there was a demand for the Methow-built Parker Nail-stripper from all over the country, plus France, England, Russia and New Zealand.

F.M. Parker first had the idea for a nail-stripper in Hotchkiss, Colorado, where he had an orchard. He and a brother got tired of picking nails out of the pan to nail apple boxes, so he got to figuring a way to make nails easier to get a hold of. The apple-box maker would dump nails into the device’s included wooden tray. The nails would slide into inclined metal V-shaped gutters and from there, all heads up in a row, between two parallel wires. In that position, box makers could pick up four nails at a time between the thumb and index finger and hammer them into the wood. A fast box maker could pick up eight at a time.

The unpatented Parker Nail-strippers were placed on the bench where the boxes were made so that the pounding hammers would keep the nails sliding by gravity. Instructions suggested the user might also want to sprinkle soapstone on the nails to make them slide easier. A good box maker could construct 600 to 800 boxes per day - even 1,000 if he had a helper to bring the shook (boards) and take the boxes away.

When paper boxes replaced wooden boxes the market for the Winthrop device dropped considerably, though roofers can also use them shingling, instead of putting nails in their mouths.

Before F.M. Parker came to the Methow in 1922 - because there was lots of wood here - he and a brother were itinerant box-makers. They would nail up boxes for so much per box, traveling through Hood River and Oregon fruit areas, and the Wenatchee Valley. At the same time they’d sell their nail-stripper to hardware stores.

Parker had only one competitor, a Dick Smith of California, who had a patent on his and threatened suit. But Parker could show he’d been making them in Colorado long before Smith built his first one.

Parker undersold Dick Smith by quite a bit because he had his kids to help him. The last one sold went for $180 a dozen. The Parker family for years also made wooden toys for J.C. Penny.


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