Brief Introduction to the History of Fruit Crate Labels Colorful paper labels were widely used on citrus crates between the 1880s and 1970s. Citrus was packed and shipped in wooden crates and the use of labels was closely related to the general rise of promotion and branding for things sold in the marketplace. According to The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, labels for crates of oranges, apples, peaches, and other fruit helped sellers identity on produce that looked and often ac tually were 1 Labels first came into production in California as a way to advertise the products of wineries, citrus groves, and (for Washington State) apple orchards. The use of labels to identify a grower or packer increased as more and more produce from California was shipped via transcontinental railroad to t he major markets of the East. As noted by Ann Barry, in a 1985 article for the New York Times : rate art originated in the 1870 s, when the railroads linked the two coast s. Originally, large consignments from various growers arrived at New York marketing houses packaged in fairly anonymous wooden crates. But it soon became apparent that some form of label was necessary to distinguish one grower, and one grade of fruit, fro m another. 2 Labels were glued to the end faces of cr ates where they could be seen easily by potential buyers at auction or unloading. For Florida, there was a certain irony that the center for creating and printing citrus lab els was in California. Florida had a much longer history of citrus growing. Oranges were introduced into Florida by Spanish colonists in the late sixteenth century. By the 1700s, vessel s regularly left St. Augustine carrying cargoes of the fruit, packed and insulated with moss in barrels, to ports of the nearby British colonies, such as Charleston and Savannah. By the 1820s, Florida growers were
writing newspaper articles, describing the most practic al way to pick and ship oranges to avoid spoilage. Despite this, it was the California growers who took the lead in branding their produce for the national market place. Spurred on by the Gold R ush, the wine industry, and transportation by rail , San Francisco was a hub of marketing activity for agriculture . In the 100 years bet ween 1872 and 1972, the city had at least fifteen lithography companies engaged in printing fruit labels . 3 Major customers included the California citrus producers. Sunkist was established as a marketing arm of the citrus industry in 1889 and the Califor nia Fruit Can ners Association began in 1899. 4 Eventually more than 500 differen t type s of fruits and vegetables grown around the country used labels and brands as marketing identification. 5 For example, The Antique Label Company ( http://antiquelabelcompany.com/ ) , an online seller of collectible labels, has examples for cauliflower, cherry, prune, sweet potato, yam, celery, plum, wine, soda, beer, avocado, peach, tomato, beside s apples, oranges and grapefruit . Most labels were printed using a proc ess called lithography, in with the image wa s fir st inscribed into stone. The stone was then inked and served as the printing pla te. This technique for lithography appears to have been create d in 1798 by Alois Senefelder. 6 One of the oldest San Francisco companies was Sc hmidt Litho, founded by German i mmigrant Max Schmidt. 7 The tagline for this company occu rs frequently in minute print at the bottom of both California and Florida citrus labe ls. identifies several important printing operations: During (as it has become known), printers like Schmidt Lithograph Company, Traung Label Company, Ridgway Lithograph Co., and others, turned out litera labels. Only in a limited degree, did Eastern lithograph companies create labels for Western growers. The most active of these was Simpson Doeller of Bal timore, Maryland, who concentrated one sales office on the Washington apple industry and Northwestern canners. Stecher Litho. of Rochester, New York, and the United States Printing and Lithograph Company of Ohio, were also among the few Eastern concerns t 8 Other prominent label printers included Woodward & Tiernan of St. Louis and the International Playing Card and Label Company of Rogersville, Tenn.
About Florida Citrus Labels and the Jerry Chicone Jr. Collect ion According to by Jerry Chicone Jr. and Brenda Eubanks Burnette, there were at one time approximately 5,000 different citrus labels in use in Florida, although only about 4,000 examples have survived. 9 Labels were a type of advertising media. G lued to the end s of the wooden packing crates used to ship oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines , they identified brands to buyers bidding for consignments at northern auctions . Florida growers studied and followed Cali fornia example in marketing the produce. The Florida Citrus Excha nge, operating with the branding logos of Sunkist of California. Crate labels were printed in various sizes: 9 by 9 inches for those used in the standard 1 3/5 bushel crate; 7 by 7 inches for the half box or 4/5 bushel crate; and a strip form, 3/5 by 9 inches, for tangerine boxes. 10 Color designations, in dicated in the label tex t or background color, denoted the grade of the fruit: Blue for Grade A, Red for Grade B, and Yello w or Green for mixed grade. 11 Beginning in 1931, growers and packers registered their label s with the Department of Agriculture 12 and registration slips can sometimes be found attached to labels. Producers also trade marked label designs to protect them. Th e digital archive of the Jerry Chicone Jr. Florida Citrus Label Col lection contains some 3,155 examples of print ed labels , including about 122 non Florida labels, mostly from Spain . There are 1,313 of the full size 9 by 9 inch labels; more than 250 of the 7 by 7 inc h; and 1,420 , as well as examples of blank templates for labels and other items. These labels were generously donated to the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida, where the o riginals are curated and maintained. All of the labels at the library were scanned and included in the online archive. The most commonly represented lithography company in the collection is the Florida Growers Press of Tampa , Florida. Second in frequency is Schmi dt Litho of San Francisco. O ther common printing companies include Woodward & Tiernan (St. Louis , Mo. ), Reynolds and Reynolds (Dayton, Ohio), the International Playing Card and Label Company (Rogersville, Tenn.), and Brandau Craig Dickerson C o. (Nashville , Tenn. ). About 5% of the labels in the archive are stamped with dates that document a year in which they were in use.
The collection can be searched by packer, grower, and lithograph er (refer to the provided lists for names). Description major co mponents shown in the art. A list of these keywords is provided for reference. In addition, the color code s (blue, red, yellow, green) can be sea rched and labels identified by Jerry Chicone as rare inclu de a note ( ) in the descriptive text that will be picked up by a search query . Finally, stock labels generic labels that could be printed quickly with names and logos of various growers and packers riptive tex t, to indicate they we re an often used generic form. Common images on stock labels include ones showing two Indians in a canoe, a woman with a basket of oranges in a grove, and various labels that feature oranges and grapefruit, or both fruits and a glass of juice. For additional information on Florida citrus labels, see Jerry Chicone Jr. and Brend a Eubanks Burnette , Labels ( Lake land: Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, 2014) ; the same authors, Florida Citrus Crate Labels, An Illustrated History ( West Palm Beach : Burnette & Associates, 1996); and Erik L. Melear, Brand Names Used by Florida Citrus Packinghouses ( copyright Erik L. Melear, Orlando, Fla., 1995). Florida Southern University, home of the Florida Citrus Archives, maintains the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Crate Label Collection of approximately 1 , 500 items, primarily from the collection of Jim Ellis, but including items from other collections , includi ng the Chicone collection : http://archives.flsouthern.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/labels The Pomona Public Library in California maintains a database of some 4,000 citrus crate labels from that state and other areas as a digital archive at: http://content.ci.pomona.ca.us/databases.php 1 The Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator, and Historian by Maurice Rickards. Edited and completed by Michael Twyman with the assistance of Sally de Beaumont and Amoret Tanner (New York : Routledge, 2000), 110. 2 New York Times 3 Collectors Guide to Fruit Crate Labels http://www.fruitcratelabels.com/insight chap1.html 4 From http://www.thelabelman.com 5 Ibid.
6 From http://lindaboyd.typepad.com by Linda Boyd 7 Ibid. 8 . 9 Jerry Chicone Jr. and Brenda Eubanks Burnette, (Lakeland: Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, 2014), 14. 10 Ibid., 11. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid.