What does the expression “to keep one’s eyes peeled” (or skinned) mean and Where does it originate?

The expression “to keep one’s eyes peeled” means to be very observant or extremely alert; to keep a sharp lookout.

No record of this American expression has been turned up earlier than 1833, but the fact that it then appeared in a newspaper (The Political Examiner, of Shelbyville, Kentucky) is a fair indication that it was already well known to any reader.

The meaning was not explained.

The passage read: “I wish I may be shot if I don’t think you had better keep your eyes skinned so that you can look powerful sharp, lest we get rowed up the river this heat.”