Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Produce box labels

An important part of my layout operation is perishable traffic from packing houses, typical California regional products of both fruit and vegetable varieties. I have four packing houses on the layout, and of course they would all have shipped their products in the shipping crates of the time. I model 1953, and that was toward the end of the time of wooden fruit boxes; by 1955, the cardboard carton had taken over. But the packing houses I model all still use wooden boxes.

Two of my packing houses ship citrus, one of them a lemon packing house, the other shipping Valencia oranges in the spring. Both would have used the classic “orange crate,” as they were popularly known; technically they were citrus shipping boxes (internet photo below). For more on this, see the very informative Department of Agriculture Bulletin 2013, which I described in a previous post:

In this photo, you can see the label on the end of box, both its square shape and the fact that it nearly covers the end. Boxes like that shown above were somewhat over-filled for shipping, and in fact that was on purpose. When the top was nailed on, it made a self-springing support. You can see that below (Sunkist photo) in the crates already loaded.

Note in the photo above that the reefer has been pre-iced, that is, ice placed in the bunkers before loading the cargo. These orange boxes, when loaded, weighed about 75 pounds, and since the standard load was 462 boxes, the typical carload of oranges weighed 34,600 pounds, far below even the oldest PFE reefer capacities of 30 tons. 

A somewhat flatter two-compartment box was often used for lemons, and you can see that shape in many surviving lemon box labels. The photo below shows lemons being packed in two-compartment boxes (Ontario City Library collection; from the excellent book, Selling The Gold, Upland Public Library Foundation, 1999). 

A few years ago, I showed in a series of posts my modifications to actual prototype fruit and vegetable box labels, modifying them for the packing houses and towns on my layout. For one of those posts, this would be a good start: . In that post, to choose an example, I showed this original lemon label for the “Sea Breeze” brand:

and I simply modified it for the name and town of the lemon shipper on my layout, as well as changing the quality level from “Red Ball” to the premium level, “Sunkist”:

For another example, I show below a “Big Western” brand label from the prototype Western Packing Co. in the immediate area of my layout locale, which I have modeled as a vegetable packer in my layout town of Ballard. Here is the original label, lacking only the name of my layout town:

and here is my modification:

You will notice that in both these examples, I have striven to retain the “look” of the original design and typography, in a few cases creating letters not in the original, but doing so from segments of the original letters. 

If you are interested in purchasing original labels, there are a great many available, of all kinds and from many growing regions, at such sellers as: .

The purpose of these modified labels was to produce something that could be put onto HO scale packing boxes at the packing houses on my layout. I will continue with that topic in a following post.

Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Referring to the Jack Delano photo of the man loading the oranges, at 75 lbs. each, loading those crates must have been some back-breaking work!