PIECES OF THE PAST: Teaching Northerners How to Eat Florida Grapefruit

Tacy Callies History, Pieces of the Past

By Brenda Eubanks Burnette

I recently came across an article by Frank Kay Anderson in the June 1922 issue of Citrus Industry magazine and found it quite interesting, as I have never seen this version of a grapefruit “preparer.” It also made me wonder if this was one of the first fulfillment programs in the industry. So, if you have any background on it, I would love to know!

Here are excerpts from the original article:

“To a Floridian it is often difficult to realize how new is grapefruit to many thousands of northern residents; and how unfamiliar are many, many northern families in fairly good circumstances with this most delectable fruit. Yet the fact remains that grapefruit still is in process of introduction throughout the North, and that this introduction must continue for several years to come, if a market is successfully to be made for the constantly increasing production from Florida groves.

“One difficulty which constantly has stood in the way of making more consumers of grapefruit has been a general lack of knowledge on the part of would-be users as to how grapefruit should be served properly. As might be anticipated, for one of the uninitiated to endeavor to eat a grapefruit in the same manner as an orange is eaten is likely only to produce a wry face and a dislike for the fruit, as the bitterness of the inner ‘rag’ makes itself manifest to the offense of the palate. How then to serve grapefruit properly always has been the burden of the message of Floridians engaged in making wider markets in the North for grapefruit.

“One very successful campaign in this direction is that which has for several years now been carried on by Chase & Company, in connection with the distribution of their ‘Sunniland’ brand grapefruit. It is both ingenious and highly practical, and the results to date have been very gratifying to the originators.

In 1922, the patented Sunniland preparer was available for just 35¢ and included a recipe booklet.

“Imprinted attractively upon each ‘Sunniland’ grapefruit wrapper is an advertisement which under the heading of ‘Important Offer to Consumer’ issues an invitation to send to Chase & Company at Jacksonville thirty-five cents for a book of proven recipes and the patented Sunniland Orange and Grapefruit Preparer (pictured above), which easily removes the seeds and properly prepares the fruit for serving. Up to this writing thousands upon thousands of northern housewives have taken advantage of this offer. They have sent the required amount and received the ingenious preparer in return. That they have put it into use is attested by the big file of testimonial letters in the office of Chase and Company. There are a great many letters which say in effect that the use of the preparer and the directions given in the booklet gave the writers their first proper impression of grapefruit, and that in consequence their families now are enjoying its delights regularly.

“The preparer itself is a very clever and practical device. It was originated and patented by William H. Houser, sales manager for Chase and Co., who realized the need for something of the sort and set about devising something which would make the proper preparation of grapefruit for the table practically a foolproof operation … At one end is a curved grapefruit knife, at the other is a fork device for the quick and easy removal of seeds without destroying the natural arrangement of the pulp or bruising the rag. A special sheet of instructions accompanies each preparer …

“So important has the advertising and sale of this preparer grown to Chase and Company that there is now a special department in operation at their offices each winter for its distribution … As might be expected, the introduction of the preparer and the instruction of housewives and others in how properly to prepare grapefruit for serving results in increased grapefruit consumption. In localities where this work has been carried forward aggressively, the consequent increase in grapefruit sales is readily traceable.”

Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.