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MUSEUM MUSINGS: William Appel had a pipe dream

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times, June 17, 2020

In the spring of 1883, a 16-year-old boy from Rotterdam, Holland, arrived in New York City. Almost 60 years later, that young man, now living in Harrison, changed the world for pipe smokers.

William Appel was born on May 28, 1867, in the French province of Alsace. His father was a Frenchman, while his mother was German. In 1871, young William became a German subject when Alsace was transferred over to Germany.

When he arrived in New York, Appel was by trade a tailor and skilled pants maker. He plied that trade in his new country, while also traveling the world working as a ship’s cook.

In 1895, Appel became a naturalized American citizen. He also enlisted in the Army, serving as a private in Company A, 15th U.S. Infantry at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and Fort Grant, Arizona. In 1898, when war broke out between the United States and Spain, Appel volunteered for service. He served in Cuba with the 2nd U.S. Volunteer Infantry. He was discharged from service in 1900.

Appel also served in the Army during the troubled times along the Mexican border prior to World War I. When that war broke out, Appel served as a sergeant with the 33rd Division, Camp Logan. He was discharged in 1919. In all, Appel received four honorable discharges.

On Jan. 15, 1903, Appel married Margaret Olivia Melville in Smithville, Texas. The couple moved to Harrison in 1937 and lived there the rest of their lives.

In Harrison, Appel became known as an artist, painter and woodworker. He also became well known as a manufacturer of tobacco pipes of his own design. He was granted a patent in 1942 for his design.

In his application for the patent, Appel wrote, “This invention relates to smoking pipes and the object thereof is to provide a smoking pipe equipped so the influx of air into the bowl; the passage thereof therethrough and into the shank and therethrough; is divided and forced into controlled multiple channels of draft, thereby eliminating the gathering of moisture at the bottom of the mass of tobacco in the bowl of the pipe and also greatly reducing the temperature of the smoke, by forcing same into contact with the surfaces of multiple channels in the stem portion of the shank.”

Appel died on Jan. 29, 1955, at the Veteran’s Hospital in Fayetteville. He had been at the hospital for two weeks after suffering a stroke and heart attack. According to his obituary in the Harrison Daily Times, Appel had three younger sisters, but he had lost track of them after World War I. He was survived by his wife, Margaret.

Appel was buried in Fayetteville National Cemetery. Margaret died in 1962. She was buried next to her husband.