Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fruit Labels and Sweet Memories

This map, published by the Southern Pacific Railroad and the State Board of Trade, promoted the idea that California was a place of great natural beauty and with rich agricultural soil. Each county in the state is listed, with its acreage, and with the main agricultural products and extractive industries that happened in the county. Oranges, lumber, figs, almonds, honey, cereals, quicksilver and semi tropical fruits were some of the things listed. The images that decorate the map, and the text that was included which claimed California had the grandest scenery in North America's and that the air was as dry, pure, and invigorating and promoted tourism to the state.

Fruit crate labels began to be designed at the end of the 19th century . As refrigerated railroad cars helped make the long distance shipping of perishable produce such as fruits and vegetables possible, the industry developed labels so shippers and merchants could more easily identify what was in the crates. These vibrant and colorful paper labels were pasted onto the boxes they shipped around the country and were a lively mobile advertisement. Labels featured a wide range of designs. Although the produce in question be it orange, lemon, apple, strawberry or some other fruit's was usually depicted on the label, it wasn't always the case. Labels drew on a wide range of iconographic images--from idyllic pastoral scenes, women, animals, and patriotic imagery--in order to entice people to buy fruit.

This Blue Flag brand label's patriotic color scheme, and the reference to the Standard Apple Act of 1917, suggests that it was probably made during or immediately after World War I.
Fancy Quality Pajaro Valley Apples. Shipped by Gilmore & Copeland.Blue Flag Brand. Watsonville California. Guarenteed by the packer to comply with Standard Apple Act, 1917

Utility Brand fruit crate label
This 1920s fruit crate label put an idealized version of the apple in an idyllic and ordered pastoral scene. Apples were big business in the Pajaro Valley in the 1920s: there were 37 fruit packing houses in Watsonville in 1925. In that same year, Polk's Watsonville City Directory declared that the valley wasthe largest apple and berry producing center in California, and the third largest shipping point between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A woman, idealized idealised fruit, and a pastoral backdrop: this 1890s label evokes patriotic imagery and shows an idyllic rural America that (if it ever really existed) was disappearing under the weight of industrialization. As Watsonville's surrounds became dotted with apple orchards, packing and shipping the fruit from the trees became a big part of the region's economy. In 1908, there were over thirty packing houses in the area.

Watsonville, California

You may be wondering why a post about fruit labels? My mother, her younger brother D and my Grandfather live in a tent on one of the many farms in the area. They picked apples for basic survial. My mother had good memories of the people in the town, her family always had enough to eat even if it meant apples and strawberries everyday. She said the air was always sweet in Watsonville.

N Posted by Rain at 5/31/2006 12:14:00 AM


  • Anonymous Chickadee posted at 7:16 PM  
    I like the old illustrations for fruit crates. It's a shame they do not do that kind of thing anymore.

    I once knew an older lady who immigrated in from Mexico and as a child she picked fruit alongside her parents.
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