Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Birth of Printed Fruit Wrappers in the US

In 1895, the Jersey City Printing Company issued this self-promotion sample book to advertise their Fair and Square printed fruit wrappers. It contained a stamped envelope, a price list, a letter discussing the successes of using their attractive printed fruit wrappers for marketing peaches, and sixteen square sample fruit wrappers printed one and two colors on a tissue-like paper. This remarkably preserved printing sample with the beautiful cover you see above, is an incredible find belonging to fruit wrapper collector Mark Wickens. (The large fly next to the fruit makes me laugh.) Wickens claims that fruit growers have been using printed wrappers since the mid-1880s and the growing number of printed designs produced since that time are estimated to be between 300,000 to 500,000 from at least 65 countries.

The Jersey City Printing Company was established in 1884, to print newspapers. By the early 1890s, they rebranded themselves as "Manufacturers of Fair and Square printed fruit wrappers". They offered one and two colors of ink, printed on at least eight colors of paper, but give no mention about printing custom designs. I presume they must have only offered these varied styles and had a lettering artist on staff in order to add the growers brand name in the illustration. 
     Fruit wrappers printed in New Jersey seem like a curious business plan in hindsight, as this wasn't exactly the fruit-growing belt of the nation. But they certainly presented a professional spin on their work at that time. Judging from the copy written on the inside front cover (above), printed wrappers must have been a fairly competitive business in the late 19th century. Evidently there were many unscrupulous printers who were shorting their customers of wrappers purchased in quantity. Their official tag line "Fair and Square" must have been a successful marketing tool as it appears it was also added on their building as you can see from this illustration printed on the back cover below. 


Full credit for this printed fruit wrapper sample goes out to Mark Wickens for presenting this on his site. If you can wade through the pop-up ads there, you can also find the 2002 book he authored on the topic of printed fruit wrappers, titled Extra Fancy.


  1. Awesome Blog ! Thanks for sharing.I Appreciate it.
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  2. Lovely & delightful. These vintage fruit labels should be used today instead of the tons of "fossil fuel produced plastic" which covers ALL our food, here in the USA & is a blight on the world./Biology Illustrator


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