top

Fruit label collectors, apple aficionados come to the museum

Fruit label collectors will converge on the Wenatchee Valley Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. The free swap meet is a great opportunity to add to existing collections or just to peruse an art form that died out after the advent of the cardboard box in the late 1950s.

jim-hill-labelA social hour with light refreshments, heirloom apple tasting and a no-host wine bar runs from 4 to 5 p.m. followed by an apple industry lecture and slide show by Dr. Don Elfving.

Fruit labels identified and promoted Washington State fruit on the ends of wood fruit crates starting in the early 1900s. From the valley to the orchards, the art on the ends of the boxes has left an enduring history of the early days of Wenatchee and North Central Washington fruit growers.

Collectors are as interested in the tales of the past as much as the discovery of a rare label.

“I got into collecting because I was working in the industry and thought the old labels were cool,” said Mike Doty. “Then I started to get to know people who had worked in the industry when labels were still used. All of us collectors try to gather as much information as we can when we add to our collection. We love the stories.”

Doty, who has about 2,000 labels in his private collection, says there are about 8,000 labels in circulation from the extremely rare (and valuable) to the prolific.

Label designers inspired by the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest painted idyllic scenes filled with flowing rivers and quaint villages, rosy-cheeked children and a country brimming with perfect fruit.

rose-applesThe work of producing the labels, did not stop in the artist studio, however. Fruit label lithography was not a Xerox process. It was a slow and highly crafted profession. The printing process required using heavy limestones, careful alignment, specially treated paper and meticulous attention to detail.

That craftsmanship is part of the lure for avid collectors.

Switching gears from the art of marketing to the science of fruit crops, Elfving’s lecture explores the perfect conditions that led to the multimillion-dollar fruit industry that made Wenatchee the “Apple Capital of the World” and the critical role played by agricultural technology in helping the industry remain competitive in an international marketplace.

In 1993, Elfving was hired by the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee where he worked on research related to apple, pear and sweet cherry trees and taught a fruit crops course. He retired in 2012.

The lecture is free and open to the public with a suggested donation of $5. For more information, please contact the museum at 888-6240.

Read More stories

Early Wenatchee Stories: Lost Treasure

Native Heritage Bus Tour a Success!