Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Fruit of California's golden years


Back cover.

Excellent Fruit crate art book: ISBN 1555216641 and a Dover CD-ROM book ISBN 0486999823.

A fun look at those golden globes that helped make CA the new world paradise in the early decades of the last century. It is basically a picture book based around the author's remarkable collection of orange related ephemera with thirteen chapters taking a lightweight coverage of citriculture (but really only considering oranges) in the State. Before 1900 the perfect climate encouraged plenty of new arrivals to try their hand at running an orange grove though frequently they knew very little about cultivating, picking and shipping the fruit. To the rescue came the Washington navel orange, the perfect fruit, page forty-four mentions that 31, 422 carloads of these were shipped out of the State in 1904/5.

The orange industry really came to maturity with the formation of the California Fruit Growers Exchange in 1895. Collectively looking after quality, packing and marketing this organisation became Sunkist in 1908 and explored the wider potential of what to do with the millions of oranges that members grew. Wrapping them individually was one idea (save the wrappers for a free recipe book) another was crushing them for juice (selling an electric Sunkist juicer) how about making marmalade (an also ran of an idea because it needed few oranges but lots of sugar and jars). Orange juice, promoted as a healthy drink was a neat way to use the product though decades later Florida provides nearly all the oranges for (processed) juice.

Apart from the history and the industry the author covers all sorts of orange related subjects: National Orange Shows; oranges and popular music; Hollywood stars and promoting oranges; tourist tours through the groves and of course crate labels with fourteen lovely examples shown. Finally there is a very short piece about the decline of the industry because the huge increase of California's population which needed land for housing and industry.

As I said above this is a brief look at oranges in California, you could probably read the main text in one go, the long picture captions probably have more words. For a visual book it's a pity it wasn't more professionally produced. The publisher's seem to have a house style of having two columns, side by side on a page with the second column one line short and sometimes with two columns the lines don't line up. Having the long captions in small type and printed in orange means they are not easily readable in a domestic lighting environment. There is a comprehensive bibliography, image credits but no index.

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