Although the air may feel brisk and many areas of the country are still getting snow, Spring has officially arrived, and soon will the leaves and the flowers.
Over the next few months, events like the Tulip Festival, Daffodil Parade, and Apple Blossom Festival will celebrate the coming of spring, flowers, and warmth. And Wenatchee and its environs may start looking something like this:
While I love the touristy nature of this 1950s postcard, it’s a memento of the times before the Space Needle and before the wineries when apples and apple tourism were a big deal in Washington state.
Apples first came to what is now Washington in 1826, before the organization of either the Washington or Oregon Territories. By 1889, the year of Washington’s statehood, commercial orchards were planted near rivers and advanced irrigation systems. Apple production continued to increase, and by the end of WWI Washington’s apple industry was booming. However, high production and transport costs as well as cheap (yet lower quality) apples from competitors drove the need for some sort of advertising campaign.
In 1926, Pacific Northwest Boxed Fruit formed to promote Washington apples in major markets around the country. Two years later the Washington Boxed Apple Bureau, but funding was voluntary and uncertain and by 1934, its future looked dim.
March 17th marked the 80th birthday of the Washington Apple Commission, the day Governor Clarence Martin signed into law the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission in hopes of helping an industry that had been hurt by the Depression. Over the next several decades, the commission researched better growing, storing, and shipping methods and developed a strong advertising campaign.
During the 1950s, advertisements praised apples for their nutrition and dental benefits, calling the apple “nature’s toothbrush”, and in 1961 Washington Apples released its first trademarked logo. In tandem with the unveiling of the logo, apple ambassadors traveled across the country to promote Washington State Apples. Throughout the 1960s and beyond, print, radio, and TV ads promoted Washington apples throughout the country. In the 1970s, Washington apples were available worldwide for the first time.
Currently, Washington is the #1 producer of apples in the United States, producing 64% of the nation’s supply.
My uncle remembers seeing a Washington Apples TV ad as a child. He thought they looked so good that he told my grandma, “We should get some of those Washington State Apples!”
Grandma pointed to the orchard outside and said, “What do you think those are?”
If you have 30 minutes to spare, check out this Washington Apples educational film, Appleland, from 1954. Happy spring!