Above and below are some of our latest crate label scans. Click the images to see their respective pages.



Welcome to the Box of Apples blog, where you'll find updates to the site and links to our latest scans. Get real close to the screen and you can practically smell the freshness.


Where Does the Time Go?

In the world of fruit crate labels, there's hasn't been a whole lot new in the past, oh, 50 years. Which may account for this being our first blog post since 2006.  We've done a land-office business in prints since we hung out our shingle back then, so I guess it's time to add some more, lest anyone think we're defunct. When just the opposite is true: Box of Apples is funct. You couldn't get any functer. And now for the new labels.

Alexander Kielland

Circa 1910, a beautiful eight-color label from this Wenatchee Valley “fruit rancher.”

All American

This Yakima Valley packer took a patriotic approach.

Best Bite

An obvious biblical allegory here. Or maybe Newton's Laws of Motion.

Congdon Refrigerated

Refreshing, but you're liable to lose a tooth or two.

Waverly Growers

The orange that just couldn't eat another bite.

Golden Spur

The apples that say yee-haw.

Mountain Goat

These apples, legendary climbers, hardly ever lost their footing.

Oh! Mama

Note that the overturned yam crate has a label showing an overturned yam crate with a label showing an overturned yam crate with a label showing . . .

Plen Tee Color

I have a soft spot for "Tee" brand names — My Tee Fine pie crust is another.

Up N’ Atom Carrots

Root vegetables for the atomic age, with a mascot who lives in a hole in the ground.


Yam Bowl

Many crate labels were basically folk art in the service of commerce, and this picture of a ginormous buttered sweet potato in an enamelware bowl is a great example.

Killer Vegetables

“Have you tried our spinach?” Technicolor gamecock with steel talons.

Possum Sweet Potatoes

Maybe the reasoning here was that if you put a mangy marsupial on the label, the homely sweet potato acquires a certain glamour, relatively speaking. Works for us.

Best Yams What Am

We’ll go out on a limb and hazard a guess: No graphic designers or ad agencies were harmed in the making of this label. And whatever happened to Smitty Smith?

Western Hoe

From the Imperial Valley by way of Virginia, special art for your special lady.

Oscar Brand Porto Rican Yams

And the Academy Award for best tuber in a supporting role goes to  . . .  Colloquially called yams, these were technically sweet potatoes. The Unit 1 Porto Rican, developed by Dr. Julian Miller of Louisiana State University from a mutation of the Porto Rican variety introduced to Florida in 1908, made its debut in 1934 as the first sweet potato suitable for commercial cultivation. Itís something of an heirloom tuber nowadays, having been supplanted in 1960 by the Centennial.

Frisco Vegetables

The Ferry Building in San Francisco at 5 in the morning, circa 1940.

Sun Oranges

This beautiful label printed by Western Litho of Los Angeles in 1923 was  gilded with zillions of tiny gold flecks, back when oranges were something of an exotic treat.

Kiltie Grapefruit

An eye-catching design from Corona Foothill Lemon Company of Riverside County.

Jasper Oranges

Something astronomical and possibly apocalyptic seems to be going on here, a la the final scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Index Lemons

The finger points to the box with the finger pointing to the box with the finger  . . .  In the early part of the 20th century, citrus fruits, shipped thousands of miles on ice by rail car from groves in California, were in transition, somewhere between  exotic delicacy and mass-market commodity. Each lemon here was wrapped in tissue paper.

Hell’s Canyon Apples

A few years ago we went camping along Hellís Canyon in Idaho, and in the middle of the forest right next to the tent was big apple tree growing wild. Guess this explains it.


King Pelican

Nothing says nice fresh salad like a skeevy-looking green pelican wearing a crown, does it? Our new favorite label comes from Clarksburg, California, and the 1930s.

Deer Mark Sweet Potatoes

Yams, which lack a certain something when it comes to visual appeal, relied on a variety of critters and kids to move the goods. Here itís a deer. Two for a buck.

Vitamin Yams

It might seem cute at first glance but then you wonder if this unhappy little drama is really the best way to get those yams out the door. Take a second glance, though, and what do we see? Little Johnny pointing at the delicious sweet potatoes on the table! Mama, how bout some of those ’stead of this yucky cod liver oil?  Sophisticated, no?

Golden Power

One yam not that appetizing? Then how about the big Pyramid O’ Potatoes. Irradiated by Golden Power Yam Rays, no less, and in a big Yam Coffin.

Gold Bond

Lacking a green pelican, the Horgans of Watsonville made do with a blue squid.


Southern Cross

This mission-style structure was depicted on numerous crate labels for the San Fernando Heights Lemon Association, often at night. Here it’s under the Southern Cross. Does anyone know if it was a real building, or if it still exists?

Indian Belle

This grapefruit label from 1916 shows the citrus groves of Porterville, and a young brave squeezing his belle. We wonder if she’s seedless.

Epicure Oranges

Once upon a time the only way to have orange juice was to squeeze some oranges, or get the kitchen staff to do it for you. The butler here looks particularly perplexed.

Big Chief Apples

Back in the day, produce was classified similar to the way meat is graded. Ascending in the fruit-quality hierarchy were Grade C (yellow or green label), Grade B (“Fancy,” or red label) and Grade A (“Extra Fancy,” or blue label).

Wynco of Yakima

The Sontheimers produced apples as well as the man who invented the Cuisinart, although we don’t know if they were on the same branch of the family tree.


Gay Johnny

He was only eight years old, but somehow people could tell.

Orchard Boy

Long before he made it big in New York, Conan O’Brien was
shilling for the apple packers in Washington state.

Hy-Land Kids

Just seconds after this picture was completed, the knife sawed through,
and little Billy was applesauce.

Bite Size Apples

“Steve” must have been too obvious a nickname for Stephen Scurich,
the man all Watsonville knew as Bob.

Heigh-Ho, Orange!

Spanish fruitpacker Antonio Escandell featured a mounted orange on its labels through the years; this one probably dates to the 1950s.


Another Spanish orange-crate label from the 1950s, this one featuring the “noble Moor” of Shakespeare’s 17th-century tragedy.

Turnbull Citrus

The Indians are mostly gone from the Indian River, and the orange groves are mostly gone from Oak Hill, a Florida community near Daytona Beach.


Indian Weaver Veggies

“Grown at Bluewater New Mex,” says this label for label for Navajo Marketing of Grants. Google Bluewater and you’ll find it on a list of ghost towns along Route 66; it was also the site of the Bluewater Trading Post and a now-abandoned motel.

Yum-Yum Apples

Skookum Packers of Wenatchee, Washington, used a lot of Native American imagery on their labels, too. The Wenatchee (or Wenatchi) Indians, part of the Salish nation, numbered only 66 in a 1910 census. We wonder who the model was for this illustration and whatever became of him.

Blue Tip Citrus

This label from a Florida citrus packer has no overt Indian imagery but something of a Native flavor by virtue of the feather. Here at BXOA, thematic unity is everything.


Sunny Heights Oranges

A friend from Redlands says the orange groves are all condos now.

Fashion Plate Apples

Mister Potato Head has nothing on this gent, who we were thinking might make a good mascot for the site. All he needs is a name. Suggestions?


Welcome to Box of Apples!

We are just about ready to throw the doors open for business. Please, no shoving. And remember: There are only 66 shopping days left before Christmas.


A Closer Look

We started out posting crate labels on the parent site (Plan59) but decided they deserved their own domain. A Plan59 visitor writes that one reason these labels are so pretty is that instead of the usual four-color printing (where cyan, magenta, yellow and black are combined to produce the desired hue), they used eight- and twelve- color printing. And he is right. Instead of a zillion little halftone dots, you see solid colors of many different shades, and beautiful stippling effects that look like the old- time engraving on paper money. Here are some examples below (click to enlarge).



Where Is Our Personal Assistant?

The site is a-building, with the content (crate labels) arriving every day on the doorstep thanks to eBay and the postal service. Today's standout: The Dynamo Apples label. It has kind of a Constructivist look. The scanning is a bit of a chore.


The Story of Crate Art

A history of crate labels by Thomas Jacobsen, written in 1988:

Since Western settlers discovered there was more wealth in oranges than in gold, the fruit-crate label has more truly represented the California dream of striking it rich than the early cries of “Eureka!”

Although the California soil may have been as rich as gold, fruit farmers needed a way to market their golden globes to East Coast buyers. To attract the eye of buyers, the fruit-crate label business was born.

In the 70 years between the 1880s and the 1950s, millions of colorful paper labels were used by America's fruit and vegetable growers to advertise their wooden boxes of fresh produce that was shipped throughout the nation and the world.

Collectors value crate art for its colorful design and its ability to trace the social and political history of American agriculture.

Beginning primarily in the southern regions of California, labels became an industrywide necessity to communicate the appeal of fresh   [ continued  ]


The Very First Post

I had commenced to-day to organize my considerable holdings in fruit crate labels, and perhaps endeavor to disseminate them by mechanical means. (Revealed to me in a dream a fortnight ago was a wondrous apparatus, similar in conception to a network of pneumatic tubes, with all the advantages of telegraph and telephone, called the Inter-Net, by which such goal might be accomplished.) Alas, it has not come to pass.