By Heather Stapleton
From the 1920s to the ‘50s, citrus labels were printed on lithographs and cheaply pasted on the ends of wooden shipping crates. The point of the labels was to distinguish one grove’s product from another, all while catching the eye of potential buyers in dimly lit, cold auction houses in northern cities. The more colorful the better – tropical waters, swaying palm trees and bathing beauties helped, too!
When citrus companies switched to cardboard, there was no longer a need for labels. Packers just printed directly on to the cardboard. Today, authentic labels have become collectors’ items with some of the rarest fetching unbelievable sums.
Capitalizing on the interest in the crate labels, the nonprofit Vero Heritage, Inc. is excited to announce the “Vero Heritage Citrus Label Tour,” modeled after what has been successfully done in Polk and Manatee Counties. This exciting “art in public places” tour explores the historic marketing portion of citrus though artistic labels that once adorned the wooden shipping crates. Each carefully selected citrus label displayed will represent the history of the land, the family or the site in relation to the Indian River Citrus District. It is a unique way to celebrate the heritage and get people engaged or re-engaged with world-famous Indian River Citrus.
To date, the private nonprofit has unveiled three signs. Indian River Exchange Packers funded a sign just outside the Indian River Citrus Museum featuring “Flo.” The bathing beauty evolves from a brunette in a one-piece bathing suit to a blonde in a bikini. “It’s fun watching how Flo changes through the years,” Executive Director Heather Stapleton said.
There are also signs at the Indian River Chamber of Commerce and the Indian River Historical Society’s Train Station Museum. With funding from the Tourism Development Council of Indian River County and private donors, Vero Heritage will install 10-12 outdoor signs within the city of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
The developing driving tour is a way to expand the Indian River Citrus museum’s educational reach and to give the museum a presence throughout the entire county. Each sign will also have a QR code linking to the museum’s website for more information. Vero Heritage will be working with the Indian River County Historical Society to create a companion video detailing the history of packing labels.
Vero Heritage, Inc is the private nonprofit that stewards the Vero Heritage Center and operates the Indian River Citrus Museum. The “micro museum,” as Stapleton refers to it, now welcomes almost 5,000 guests annually, up remarkably from 1,275 guests in 2014.