A Collection of Vintage Fruit Crate Labels Offers a Voluptuous Vision of the Sunshine State

Ah, Flori­da… The Sun­shine State.

Tourists began flock­ing to it in earnest once the rail­roads expand­ed in the late 19th cen­tu­ry, drawn by visions of sun­set beach­es, grace­ful palms, and plump cit­rus fruit in a warm weath­er set­ting.

The fan­ta­sy gath­ered steam in the 1920s when cit­rus grow­ers began affix­ing col­or­ful labels to the fruit crates that shipped out over those same rail­road lines, seek­ing to dis­tin­guish them­selves from the com­pe­ti­tion with mem­o­rable visu­als.

These labels offered lovers of grape­fruit and oranges who were stuck in cold­er climes tan­ta­liz­ing glimpses of a dreamy land filled with Span­ish Moss and grace­ful long-legged birds. Words like “gold­en” and “sun­shine” sealed the deal.

(The real­i­ty of cit­rus pick­ing, then and now, is one of hard labor, usu­al­ly per­formed by under­paid, unskilled migrants.)

The State Library of Florida’s Flori­da Crate Label Col­lec­tion has amassed more than 600 exam­ples from the 1920s through the 1950s, many of which have been dig­i­tized and added to a search­able data­base.

While the major­i­ty of the labels ped­dle the sun­shine state mythos, oth­ers pay homage to grow­ers’ fam­i­ly mem­bers and pets.

Oth­ers like Kil­lar­ney Luck, UmpireSherlock’s Delight, and Watson’s Dream built brand iden­ti­ty by play­ing on the grove’s name or loca­tion, though one does won­der about the mod­els for the deli­cious­ly dour Kiss-Me label. Sib­lings, per­haps? Maybe the Kissim­mee Cit­rus Grow­ers Asso­ci­a­tion dis­ap­proved of the PDA their name seems so ripe for.

Native Amer­i­cans’ promi­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tion like­ly owed as much to the public’s fas­ci­na­tion with West­erns as to the state’s trib­al her­itage, evi­dent in the names of so many loca­tions, like Umatil­la and Immokalee, where cit­rus crops took root.

Mean­while, Mam­myAun­ty, and Dix­ieland brands relied on a stereo­typ­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of African-Amer­i­cans that had a proven track record with con­sumers of pan­cakes and Cream of Wheat.

The vibrant­ly illus­trat­ed crate labels were put on hold dur­ing World War II, when the bulk of the cit­rus crop was ear­marked for the mil­i­tary.

By the mid-50s, card­board box­es on which com­pa­ny names and logos could be print­ed direct­ly had become the indus­try stan­dard, rel­e­gat­ing crate labels to antique stores, swap meets, and flea mar­kets.

Begin your explo­ration of the Flori­da Crate Label Col­lec­tion here, brows­ing by imageplacecom­pa­ny, or brand name.

Via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1886, the US Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sioned 7,500 Water­col­or Paint­ings of Every Known Fruit in the World: Down­load Them in High Res­o­lu­tion

An Archive of 3,000 Vin­tage Cook­books Lets You Trav­el Back Through Culi­nary Time

Browse a Col­lec­tion of Over 83,500 Vin­tage Sewing Pat­terns

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Novem­ber 4 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates Louise Jor­dan Miln’s “Woo­ings and Wed­dings in Many Climes (1900). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


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