Historically Polk County is the epicenter to one of Florida’s largest agricultural industries – citrus. Today a new driving tour allows visitors to explore our citrus legacy through the sometimes whimsical labels used to market fresh fruit shipped from our region.
What started in the 1500s with Spanish explorers successfully introducing the fruit to Florida soil blossomed into an industry worth billions of dollars. The heritage created by this culture is embedded in Polk County’s history.
The Citrus Label Tour of Polk County is a driving experience that explores part of the historic marketing portion of citrus through the artistic labels that once adorned the old wooden crates used to ship the fresh fruit off to northern markets in the 1900s.
The sometimes whimsical labels were also a form of colorized billboards for Florida as they depict native heritage, local flora and fauna, historical sites, military, animals and an array of artistry to entice not only buyers but also potential visitors to the state. The artwork was often done by recognized artists early in their careers when they were under staff contract to lithographers and publishers.
- Auburndale Citrus Growers Association, 214 Orange St.
- Polk County History Center, 100 E. Main St.
- Boswell & Dunlap, 245 S. Central Ave.
- Central Florida’s Visitor Information Center, 101 Adventure Court
- Wilson Park, 5 N. State St.
- Merchant’s Square, 124 W. Bay St.
- Citrus Processing and Packing Plant, 315 N. 17-92
- Fort Meade
- Atlantic Coastline Railroad Depot Peace River Packing Company, 221 W. Broadway
- Haines City
- Railroad Park, Corner of Main St. and Park Place.
- Lake Alfred
- MacKay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve, 900 MacKay Blvd.
- Lake Alfred Historical Society, 210 N. Seminole Ave.
- Lake Wales
- Lake Wales Public Library, 290 Cypress Garden Lane
- Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center, 325 S. Scenic Highway
- Tigertown Complex, 2220 N. Lake Ave.
- Florida Southern College, Corner of Frank Lloyd Wright Way & Johnson Ave.
- Florida Air Museum, 4175 Medulla Rd.
Enlarged reproductions of these vintage labels can be found on various buildings and sites throughout the county. Each carefully selected citrus label displayed represents the history of the land, the building, the family or the historic site in relation to the industry. A brief history of each label, its design, utility and artistry is included on the driving tour map. The map is available at the Polk County History Center in Bartow.
History of Citrus Labels
The history of citrus crate labels portrays an account of marketing fresh fruit to other markets to help distinguish one brand form another. Labels were prolific advertising, not only for citrus, but also vegetables and other produced shipped in wooden crates at that time.
Crate labels lasted until after World War II when shortages of wood and metal brought about the invention of cardboard boxes with pre-printed brand names. The 60-year span in which the labels were used represents the history of early product branding.
Watch PCHCs Label Tour Video
A partnership between the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, Visit Central Florida and the Polk County History Center’s History and Heritage Trail inspired the creation of this tour.