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Hi,


I am in the UK, so I cannot answer this query: I want to build some fruit or vegetable crates for a building that is being made, so could anyone giove me the approximate size for them please?

The time scale is 'early', say 1885 if that is needed.
 

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Peter

The size of packing crate depended to some extent on what was being packed ... but ...

for apples, and most vegetables, a standard crate that was 2 feet long, 18 inches wide and 18 inches high was often used. These were stackable and normally had handles cut as openings in the ends. Larger sized crates were sometimes used but they were heavy to lift, required unpacking and transshipping at packing houses for all but the largest commercial buyers and often led to spoilage or damage to the crop.

These crates, at least here in Canada, could be homemade but were normally made commercially by coopers out of scrap maple or oak. All farms dealing in vegetables and fruit had a substantial supply ... the crates when filled were brought by horse and wagon to the nearest station where they were shipped express to city packing plants for wholesaling. Return of crates was initially practiced but soon a method for regular customers/packing plants of settling accounts and sharing crates emerged. This differed from the dairy industry where farm owned milk cans were always returned to their specific owner.

Passenger service was frequent and express traffic very heavy on most rail lines through southern Ontario. Express reefers and baggage cars made up more than half the Canadian passenger car fleet at the turn of the century - much of the express traffic involved the movement of perishables - fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, dairy and especially cut flowers.

Stations with their overworked agents were located so that it was a rare farm that was greater than 8 miles away ... a roughly three hours return trip by horse and wagon. One of these little stations with its agent office and flagstop passenger status was located on the New York Central line (from Ogdensburg NY to Ottawa) very near where I live today. Its purpose was only rarely to entrain or embark passengers - it was almost totally dedicated to the express shipment of farm produce.

Regards ... Doug
 

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Hi All,



Thanks for the input, I have plenty of ideas from them, heck I may even have to add an undertakers building to the rest now!

At least it can/could be combined with a furniture shop as they quite regularly went together.


Another website I have found is at http://cratefarm.com/displaycrates.html for interest, though I think that these are 'display' crates and NOT shipping crates
 

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Hey Peter,

Maybe the following links will be of help.

Monte Package Co.
In the Shop by Category box click the Wooden Products, then click the View Items. It's a long page and the square/rectangular wire-bound crates are toward the end, however, there are other types of containers that were used along the way too, but they do give dimensions.

Antique Produce Crate Labels
Just figured that you might want some example labeling to go with the packaging.
 

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Peter,
I think with a little more looking you will find that vegetable crates and fruit crates were different animals.
Fruit crates were generally lower so that only one or two layers of pears, peaches, apricots, and even eating apples
would not squash and bruise from their own weight during transit.
Remember back in those days that fruit was tree ripened and shipped soft and ripe not like the supermarket crap of today.

Back in the late 50's the family was shipping apples to the packing house and we used two methods. Every morning us kids had to go
through the orchard and gather windfalls in field boxes about the size that Dougald described. Dad or one of the hands would drive through
with the pickup later and haul the boxes to our loading ramp. The ramp was a wooden dock that the old 1&1/2 ton flat bed was backed up to
loaded with tubs supplied by the packing house. These tubs were 4' square and 4' high set on pallets for easy handling by the packing shed.
The field boxes were hand dumped into the tubs to fill them, these apples were used for sauce, pulp, juice, etc. so bruising was not an issue.

Eating apples were hand picked using sizing rings ( a metal wire loop) about 3" round if memory serves. Only the apples that fit that ring were picked
and loaded in the picking apron that was in turn carefully emptied into field lugs. These lugs were about 2' X 18" by about 8" high and were
stacked on the old flatbed for transport to the packing shed. THe apples that were picked but didn't ring true were emptied into field boxes and
transported that way.

I know, way more than you wanted to hear but check on crate size differences.
Also don't forget that from about 1910 to about 1950 that fruit/vegetable boxes was the largest single
uses of Pine wood products on the West coast of the USA.

Later
Rick Marty
 

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Rick gave some interesting observations based on his experience in the west coast fruit and vegetable industry. My research into the industry here in eastern Ontario likely shows the regional differences that were inevitable based on local conditions.

About the only fruit that could be commercially grown here was apples ... and they were likely not as high a quality as apples grown elsewhere in somewhat warmer climates. Pears and some cherries were also grown but generally not commercially due to the late spring and early fall frosts.

I studied some pictures of fruit handling from the Niagara Peninsula in southern Ontario. There, peaches, plums and cherries are much more prevalent. I noted a smattering of "full sized" boxes and also the "half boxes" that Rick referred to. The photos dated to the 1910-25 era.

The construct and handling of empty fruit and vegetable boxes (and dairy milk cans) has always been a great interest to me. Over time there was a movement to disposable boxes but initially at least, farmers (in eastern Ontario) owned their own boxes. They were well made from scrap local hardwoods. Rick noted that boxes in California were made from pine ... Rick, do you recall if the farms owned their own or if boxes were treated as disposable or perhaps they were owned and provided by packing plants? What era was this and were there changes over time?

Regards ... Doug
 

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Hi Doug,

Been a long time since the apple ranch days.
In the 1950's-60 in our case, the boxes were owned by us as they never left the ranch except on our truck to be hand dumped into tubs at the packing shed.
The field lugs (what you called half boxes) were supplied by the packing shed and hauled by us to the ranch for filling. The hand picked "eating apples" had to be handled more carefully to prevent bruising.
The field lugs were loaded and unloaded by hand onto and off of the truck. Once the lugs reached the packing shed they were handled by their people and I have no knowledge
as to what they did with them.

If I recall my history correctly.
Originally most boxes, lugs, and flats were contracted for and owned by the producers (farms). They would contact some small mill/box factory and order what they needed then use them to contain and
haul their crop to the packing shed or rail head. Every box was carefully stenciled with the farm name and the empties were returned much as your milk can descriptions.
Later as farming moved into mass producing and the packing companies became major forces in the food industry this system became unmanageable. The co-ops (packing companies) were formed and these companies
would supply the boxes needed to each of "their" co-op farms. This worked well but soon the large co-ops were having trouble getting the sawmills to commit to large orders for box shook. They solved this problem by going out and buying their own sawmills.

One of the best known in Northern California was "FRUIT GROWERS SUPPLY COMPANY" who by the 1940's owned sawmills/box factories in Hilt, Susanville, Westwood, and Burney, California.

Definitive dates are hard things to pin down but this box supply and ownership gradually emerged through the
post depression years. By the late 40's good Pine lumber was becoming more scarce and more expensive so alternatives were sought. Perhaps you remember the veneer era in the 60's where wood veneer (usually Fir) was held together with twisted wire and formed into crates. As far as I know these were used primarily in the valleys of California for vegetable crops like lettuce. Of course even these eventually became too expensive and everything was changed over to cardboard.

Box shook production and box building from wood is pretty much a thing of the past now. In our area in the 1900-1950 era there were probably at least 50 box factories at one time or the other, now I know of only one.

The one is a real exception to the rule they are a family owned (since 1897) steam powered sawmill with a box factory that has been in production since 1946. Instead of fruit boxes, they now produce gift boxes for wine, cheese, CD's and audio books, as well as other specialty items from timber grown on their own land.

The Pacific Coast box industry is a vast subject and there are several good books about it.
Later
Rick Marty
 

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Thanks Rick ... very informative description.

I have noticed here that in the last several years, the boxes have made a comeback to some extent. I see them at the roadside fruit stands filled with apples and sometimes vegetables with the farm name on the ends. These boxes are emptied into customer baags and I assume the wooden boxes (which appear to be well constructed out of maple) are returned to owning farm.

To be honest, I have never seen the fruit/vegetable industry modelled comprehensively. The odd model railroad has a packing plant or an icehouse for icing reefers but the rest of the industry is very seldom touched.

Regards ... Doug
 
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