At least three dozen companies designed and printed crate labels for produce growers. “California Orange Box Labels: An Illustrated History” by Gordon McClelland and Jay Last (2003), lists 19 lithographic firms headquartered in San Francisco, plus several firms in New York (including Rochester and Brooklyn), St. Louis, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, and six in Los Angeles:
- Gilbert-Jones-Rugg Co.
- Los Angeles Lithograph Co.
- George Rice & Sons
- Smith-Barnes Co.
- Union Lithograph Co.
- Western Lithograph Co.
Here’s a sampling of the San Francisco lithographic firms:
- Carton Label Co.
- H.S. Crocker Co.
- Galloway Lithographing Co.
- Olsen Brothers Litho Co.
- Louis Roesch & Co.
- Schmidt Lithography Co.
- Stecher-Traung Lithograph Co.
Although many of the commercial artists toiled in obscurity, the McClelland-Last book spotlights several of them and their creations. Artist Archie Vazquez of Western Lithograph Company designed the Western Queen and La Reina labels for the Rialto Orange Co.
Italian immigrant Othello Michetti’s designs, as an artist at Traung, included the Stage Coach label for the Riverside Orchards Packing Co. An “apple” drew an orange — designer Adrian Apple, to be precise — created the Highway label for the West Ontario Citrus Association. Carl Hague, whose career included a stretch at Schmidt Lithography Company, created the Redlands Chief label for Redlands Select Groves, featured on my “Citrus Town, Railroad Town, College Town” post.
Pennsylvania native J. Frank Derby, who had a long tenure with the Los Angeles Lithograph Company and Union Lithograph Company, created the Mercury label for Bryn Mawr Fruit Growers Association. Commercial artist Charlie Nittle, a Wisconsin transplant who worked at both Union and Western, designed the Hopi label for Redlands Heights Groves. Both images are featured in my “Citrus Town, Railroad Town, College Town” post.
“Label design,” McClelland-Last wrote, “was a high-pressure job. Staff artists were expected to work hard and produce quality work quickly.” The lithograph company was credited with each concept, because, “as is the case with most commercial art, few artists were allowed to sign their designs,” the book explains. Also, because of the high volume and swift turn-around demands of label design, many artists teamed up according to their specialities — namely, illustrators with lettering experts.