The Citrus Label Tour, comprised of 81 signs in Florida, has been established to educate the public about the history of the citrus industry through citrus crate labels. The tour is a partnership of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, Polk History Center and Visit Central Florida. The tour is now in four counties — Polk, Indian River, Lake and Manatee.
In the late 1800s, citrus was transported to northern states via rail. Looking for a way to attract buyers, growers coordinated with the Florida Citrus Exchange to create an artistic advertising campaign using crate labels. These bright and bold pieces of art had unique and personal features, typically depicting family members, pets and a vision of the Florida lifestyle. The labels were attached to individual wooden crates in citrus packinghouses. It has been said that citrus crate labels were Florida’s first billboards.
In addition to being impressive marketing and branding pieces for growers, labels also aided customers in distinguishing between fruit grades. Labels with blue backgrounds were for Grade A citrus, which was the highest quality. Grade B had labels with a red background. Labels with green backgrounds were on citrus that was reserved for animal feed.
The use of crate labels lasted until World War II, when wood and metal supplies became harder to obtain. At that time, the industry shifted to cardboard boxes with the grower’s label printed on the box.
While many crate labels ended up in attics of old packinghouses, some Floridians salvaged and preserved this piece of citrus history. Many labels can be viewed in collections at the University of Florida, Florida Southern College and the Indian River Citrus Museum. But thanks to the Citrus Label Tour, travelers can also see them around Central Florida.
Learn more about the Citrus Label Tour.
Source: Florida Department of Citrus
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