Scope and Content
Title: San Joaquin County Historical Museum Product Label Collection
Date: ca. 1880-1970
Collection Number: Ms86
1.3 linear feet
San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum
11793 North Micke Grove Road
Lodi, CA 95240
Language of Material: Records written in English
Abstract: The Product Labels Collection consists of more than one thousand fruit and vegetable, canning, and wine bottle labels donated
to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum between 1970 and 2009. The labels have given California farmers, canners, and
vintners a way to advertise and attract customers. The collection is noteworthy for its representation of the growers, canners,
and vintners from San Joaquin County and the products they created, as well as the variety of artistic and technical styles
used to produce the labels.
Collection is open for research by appointment.
Conditions of Use
The library can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claimants of literary
Preferred citation: [Item name], San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum Product Label Collection, Ms86, San Joaquin
County Historical Society and Museum, Lodi, California.
Lodi (Calif.) Grape and Wine Festival Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1907-1990 (Ms43)
Mettler (Raymond) Bear Creek Winery Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1934-1974 (Ms33)
The Product Label Collection offers a window not only into agricultural practices in San Joaquin County for the century that
started during the 1880s, but also into a colorful advertising medium integral to it.
Some of the labels in this collection are among the first printed in California. The practice of attaching labels to fruit
crates arose as construction of a national railway system afforded rapid access to markets throughout the United States. This
development enabled sellers to reach buyers with fresh agricultural goods, many of which would otherwise spoil rapidly. Attaching
product labels enabled the sellers to establish brand identity and advertise their merchandise.
Products sent from San Joaquin County included grain, watermelons, and grapes. Starting early in the twentieth century, the
list also included wine, whose packaging and labeling varied widely over the years depending on the preferences of each winery.
As elsewhere in California, fruit crate labels in San Joaquin County evolved in several distinct stages. To begin, the ends
of wooden crates were simply branded with a farmer's trademark or with stenciled images. Starting in the late 1880s, they
became more artistic and elaborate. As color lithography became more affordable, the images were transferred onto paper sheets,
which were then attached to the ends of the crates.
In the early years (the mid-1880s to 1920), designs were influenced by a romanticized version of naturalism, an artistic and
literary movement that tended to depict objects in natural settings. The labels portrayed California as people imagined it.
They included images of the Old West, flowers, birds, palm trees, rosy-cheeked women, and farmers’ homes.
In the golden years of fruit and vegetable labels (mid-1920s to the 1940s), the style of art turned toward urban themes. Brand
names were shortened and the labels simplified. Growers focused on health benefits and their labels often depicted young women.
Subjects also included storybook and fairy tale characters, sports themes, transportation, the motion picture industry, and
The end of the golden years can be dated from the mid-1940s, when growers switched from wooden to cardboard boxes. With this
development came diminished involvement by great lithography houses and a decline in the quality of artistic crate labeling.
Echoing practices of an earlier time, the colorful and artistic labels of fruit crates were eventually replaced with simple
Scope and Content
The Product Labels Collection spans the years from the 1880s to the 1970s. The bulk of the collection covers the period from
1920 to 1950. It is divided into four series, each arranged alphabetically. They are: 1. Fresh and Canned Fruits and Vegetables;
2. Wine and Liquors; 3. Scrapbooks; and 4. Oversize. The collection documents San Joaquin County's agricultural economy, memorializing
growers, canners, and vintners who showed pride in their produce through the expressive labels they chose.
San Joaquin County (Calif.)--History