All About Fruit Crate Labels

In the 1880s the advent of the Southern Pacific and other railroads gave farmers the opportunity to ship their produce to distant markets. The produce was packed in wooden crates and a method was needed to identify the type of fruit or vegetable as well as the producer. Paper crate labels, glued to the end of each crate solved this problem.

As markets grew, producers soon realized that wholesalers would bid on large batches of produce, almost sight unseen. In addition to providing identifying information, crate labels became advertising for the produce.

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Designs were created using bright colors showing pastoral landscapes and orchards or healthy people enjoying life by eating the fruits or vegetables. The designs were directed at both the wholesale buyers as well as the neighborhood markets where the produce would be displayed for customers.

The use of crate labels began in Southern California where lemons and oranges were shipped across the United States, but soon the labels were being used worldwide. Nearly every agricultural area in the world, especially Europe and South America had their own designs.

As rail transportation became more efficient and refrigeration became available, many other types of perishable produce were shipped long distances and new labels were crated for those products.

The labels were printed on durable paper. Produce would be shipped, sometimes thousands of miles, and it was important that the labels survived undamaged.

The labels also needed to be bright and colorful, often using striking and original color schemes. This required running the labels through the printing process many times to achieve the correct colors and brightness. The durability of the paper and quality of the printing are the main reasons so many crate labels remain in excellent condition today.