Railroad Museum to debut a new crop of fruit crate art

By From page B6 | April 04, 2012

“Pick Me!” Exhibit Opens April 10

SACRAMENTO —Due to popular demand, the California State Railroad Museum will debut phase two of a visually-powerful exhibit titled “Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art & the California Dream” on Tuesday, April 10.

A whole new crop of more than 100 fruit crate art labels from the 1880s through the early 1950s will be on display as part of the second phase of this vibrant exhibit located inside the Museum’s restored 1924 Fruit Growers Express Refrigerator Car and along a re-created loading dock/icing station.

Chosen from the museum’s collection, and on loan from the California State Library and private lenders, the evocative art portrays vibrant hues and whimsical motifs that romanticized life in the Golden State and served as an alluring call to “Go West.” Beginning in the 1840s, early railroads experimented with shipments of perishables cooled by ice.  In the decades after 1869, when the Transcontinental Railroad connected West with East, techniques for cooling insulated wooden railroad cars —using ice — were perfected. Suddenly a vast new market opened up for California’s farmers.

As the primary means of transport, the railroad was instrumental in the early expansion and success of the Golden State’s agriculture industry. But along with sharing luscious fresh produce with new markets, these refrigerated cars (known as “reefers” in railroad slang) inadvertently delivered something more to a wider population — the California Dream.

Filled with fresh California produce, wooden shipping crates were identified on their exteriors by artistically and fantastically designed labels. Dripping with color, these labels communicated the powerful allure of the Golden State. Many labels depicted verdant fields and idyllic pastoral scenes, subtly suggesting that California was a magical place — a place where it was always sunny and the grass was somehow greener.

Visitors to the second phase of the “Pick Me!” exhibit will enjoy seeing new selections of historic labels and exploring how fruit crate art developed over time as a graphic art form, a printing technique and a means of marketing. This exhibit will also explore the mechanics of how ice was packed into the top hatch of each “reefer” car to keep it cool in this era before mechanical refrigeration.

Additionally, museum visitors will also have the hands-on opportunity to create their own labels using magnetic cut-outs of typical design elements. “Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art & the California Dream” will remain on display through Oct. 31, 2013. For more information visit www.californiastaterailroadmuseum.org or call (916) 445-6645.

Press Release


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