from The Los Angeles Times


Southern California’s great citrus had its crate advertising

For decades, citrus growers labeled their wooden crates with colorful brand names and images, letting consumers know that the oranges, lemons and grapefruit were something special.

 The Three Star brand logo, designed in 1934 by the Carton Label Co. for the Murphy Ranch in East Whittier, reflects the “Commercial Art” era in label design. (Gordon McClelland / March 27, 2011)

By Alison Bell, Special to the Los Angeles Times

They’re bright. They’re bold. They’re eye-catching.

California orange crate labels are viewed as quaint kitchen decor today, but there was a time when the colorful logos were cutting-edge innovations in national marketing.

Packinghouses often created three different labels: one for high-grade fruit, one for mid-grade and one for the bottom of the barrel — citrus that was small, poorly textured or off-color. The fruit in this last category didn’t necessarily taste bad, but it looked bad. Growers sometimes chose scruffy dogs or ugly old ladies to represent these grades. One Villa Park brand, “Camouflage,” carried the slogan: “The Quality is Inside.” Another brand, “Mutt,” proclaimed: “Not much for looks, but ripe, sweet & juicy.”

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