Arts & Culture

Fruit Crate Art and the American Dream

January 9, 2012 12:00 AM

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(credit: courtesy California State Railroad Museum)

(credit: courtesy California State Railroad Museum)

By Michelle Ventress

The California Railroad Museum
125 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-6645
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Cost: Adults- $9, Children-$4
Website
csrm sign Fruit Crate Art and the American Dream

(credit: courtesy California State Railroad Museum)


Located in Old Town Sacramento, The California Railroad Museum offers both an educational experience and entertainment. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The museum is actually a series of buildings which include the 100,000 square foot Railroad History Museum, the Freight Depot, the reconstructed Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station, 1849 Eagle Theatre, and two commercial buildings in Old Town. “Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art & The California Dream”, a display featuring more than 80 fruit crate art labels from the 1880s through the 1950s, will be on display inside the restored 1924 Fruit Grower’s Express Refrigerated Car and along the dock/icing station.

Beginning in the 1840s, railroads experimented with sending perishable food items packed in ice. Then, when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, food could be sent across the country. California, as a strong agricultural center, was able to ship produce to a hungry America and reap the profits.

csrm fruitcrateart Fruit Crate Art and the American Dream

(credit: courtesy California State Railroad Museum)


Today, we’re familiar with produce crates and the corresponding logos. But in the late 1800s, can you imagine how luscious the deep red, painted apples and perpetually green fields looked to people in the Midwest in the dead of winter? The display will showcase the evolution of fruit crate art and how this art helped form the nation’s perception of California. From the start, fruit crates were a way of marketing a product the state was offering. As the art style changed, so did the marketing, and the labels suggested not just a product, but seemingly a lifestyle as well. California seemed to be the land of opportunity where it was always sunny and gardens were always bountiful.

In addition to the label display and the history of label art, visitors will also be able to see how the ice was packed into the refrigerated cars. Children and adults will get to experience designing their own label with the help of magnetic cut outs of common label design elements.

“Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art & The California Dream” will be on display through March 30, 2012.

Michelle Ventress is a freelance editor and writer who lives in Sacramento with her husband and their
two dogs. When not writing, Michelle enjoys traveling, gardening and spending time with her family.
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