Produce crate labels


Before the austerity imposed by World War II, produce in the US was shipped in wooden crates with colorful, carefully designed and illustrated labels, meant to set each producer apart from the others.

The relatively sudden advent of cheaper cardboard boxes left many of the crate labels unused and they have become collectors items.

A recent post on MetaFilter has pointed out several sources for images of some of the labels, and other sources of information about the market for them as collectables.

The Boston Public Library’s Flickr set has the best and largest images, along with the Los Angeles Public Library.

There are more, with smaller images, on BlueSkySearch. The Crate Label Museum is most extensive, though the images are unfortunately small (note the dropdown at lower right to select categories, and note that many categories go on for several numbered pages).

6 Replies to “Produce crate labels”

  1. Nice post Charley. I have always had an affinity for crate labels.
    What was once the ubiquitous wooden (fruit) crate is now the cardboard or plastic crate, not the same charm.

    While researching a former packing plant a while back a while back, (slated to be torn down?), I was happy to find the site was taken over by a local college instead, some of it turned into art class studios!

    Here is another source for labels, although few of them, you can zoom in close enough to see the printing dot patterns.

    http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/themed_collections/subtopic3d.html

  2. Thanks Charley, great post, and thanks David, I have had a quick look at your link , as above – fantastic ! The zoom capability is great, to see the printing dot method. Apple Crate labels here in New Zealand are now similarly collectors items, or have been incorporated into various tourist items 🙂

  3. Fantastic post – I remember doing a post about California Labels a long time ago. The Legion of Honor in SF has a nice collection of images in their data base. A caution – the search function sucks. It’s amazing to think that something as transitory as a fruit crate had all this really fantastic art plastered on it. As always, I’m impressed by your posts and astonished at your productivity.

  4. I’ve been collecting various labels for a long time and have hundreds. There are a lot of wonderful ones out there. Product can labels are also great and can be very evocative of their periods. Dover has a couple of collections available in their digital series. Google ‘fruit crate labels’ and most of the reputable US dealers will come up on top, it’s worth a browse of their sites just for the range of images.

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