National Apple Museum
Biglerville, PA 17307
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Early History
of the
Apple Industry
in Adams County

 A is for apple

Apple Labels

The first wooden fruit boxes were made by Columbia River orchardists in the 1890s. Identifying labels were placed on the ends of these boxes...and the Fruit Box Label was born. These labels were widely used in the Yakima Valley after 1910. The brightly colored and attractively designed labels soon became an effective advertising tool. Since the fruit was packed inside the box, the labels were a "window" through which the fruit could be seen.

Each packing house had its own easily recognizable label, capturing the identity of the orchard; and the bold images played a major role in the competition for national and international attention. Images on apple labels were animals, Indians, landmarks, slogans, patriotic figures, flowers, and even family name a few. The background color of the label identified the grade of apples packed inside.

Blue was extra fancy.
Red was fancy.
Green, yellow, or white was "C grade."

Before World War II there were over 4,000 different apple box labels in the Yakima Valley alone, representing about 150 packing-houses. These labels carried the name of Yakima across the country and around the world. Other fruit industries and other agricultural regions have also produced labels, and countless designs have been produced. But, when the cardboard box replaced the wooden fruit box in the 1950s, these colorful examples of American commercial art became a thing of the past.

Although the trademark images were often printed onto the new cardboard cartons, the unique nature and graphic quality of the labels could not be reproduced. With time, the significance of the individual orchard has become less important than the simple "Washington Apples" logo, and a wide variety of images is no longer necessary.

 Don't Worry label

 Indian Head label

 Lamb label

 Snowy Owl label
Today, original apple box labels are becoming widely recognized as a valuable piece of American history-both as art and as documents of our agricultural past. Collectors aggressively seek out unique labels; some rare examples may sell for thousands of dollars.

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The Biglerville Historical and Preservation Society
and The National Apple Museum
154 West Hanover Street - P.O. Box 656
Biglerville, PA 17307-9442 - Telephone: 717-677-4556

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