Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fruit Crates

Most people don't realize this, but California is an agrarian powerhouse. If you live in the States and have canned tomatoes in your pantry, there's a good chance they're from Sacramento. If you have a jar of applesauce in the refrigerator, it probably came from Sebastopol. California is the only US state that commercially grows almonds, and one of the few that produces rice and olive oil.

In the early to mid 20th century, more and more California produce was shipped to other states, with growers realizing that labeling their crates was an easy way to advertise (those of you who've read Steinbeck may recall Adam Trask's failed attempt to ship Salinas Valley lettuce back East). The labels gradually became fancier and more colorful (the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica had an exhibit on fruit crate labels in 2005). I used a real vintage "Sebastopol Apples" crate as the model for these crates. They'll be scattered in and around the house, serving various practical storage purposes.

Incidentally, my 1:1 crate was used as shelving in Acres of Books, a Long Beach landmark, for decades until the store finally closed in 2008. I'd link to Ray Bradbury's 1989 essay immortalizing Acres of Books ("I Sing the Bookstore Eclectic"), but it sadly seems to have vanished from the internet.


  1. Hi Anna, you've made wonderful crates! I also made them a while ago and showed them on my blog:!! And you already said it: they are very useful on every spot in the house :D! In the 70's every young person had those crates in their studyroom as a book shelf or nightstand.
    Hugs, Ilona

  2. I've always found crates like this beautiful and you have done a great job with them =)

  3. Hi Anna! I love the look of your crates! I never knew most of the information that you have shared. There are so many things that we never think about as to where they come from, but we sure notice if suddenly they are no longer available. The labels on your crates are wonderful! I am a great crate lover too! They just never seem to go out of style, do they?


  4. Ilona - thank you! In the States in the '70s/'80s, younger people tended to decorate with plastic milk crates (even though it was illegal to take them), but thankfully lots of old wooden crates have survived in garages, attics, and (in my case), a dusty, cavernous bookstore.

    Hannah - thank you! I love them too. So much more interesting than plastic storage boxes...

    Elizabeth - thank you! I do also see a lot of wine crates being used for storage or re-purposed (for obvious reasons), but I prefer fruit crates for their colorful, retro labels (and, to be honest, I know nothing about wine because I don't drink!).