The Second Gold Rush: Citrus Crate Labels

Florida experienced a “gold rush” almost as soon as the first Spanish soldier spit out an orange seed and kept marching through the palmetto and myrtle oak in 1513.

It’s no mystery as to why California and Florida became dominant citrus-growing regions. Moors (Arabs) ruled Spain for over 800 years, and citrus – particularly oranges – sweetened and flavored many of their recipes. After the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella – the Catholic Monarchs – reclaimed Granada from the Moors, they financed the long sea voyages that brought them New World gold. Ironically, since scurvy could be prevented by eating citrus, the Spanish sea captains and settlers took citrus seeds with them on those voyages and planted trees wherever they could in their New World colonies.

Including Florida.

Fast forward to 1885, as Calfornia began shipping oranges across the Great Plains to the East coast of the United States, thanks to the transcontinental railroad and an eager market of buyers. The plain wooden shipping crates, slatted to keep air circulating through the boxed fruit, looked plain and uninteresting. Growers in California organized and set rules for crate label size and content. But when it came to art, diversity and imagination ruled. Florida growers followed suit.

The following examples of Florida orange crate labels fascinate me:

Citrus became a luxury item for snowbound households across the nation.


It’s not hard to imagine the dreams of a warm, exotic place when one of these crates arrived on a snowy front porch.

And these labels reinforced the image of a happy paradise.