Sunday, October 14, 2012


In 1883, a group of New England civil engineers went to Oregon to survey for the railroad. One of them, David Loring, came from Massachusetts, and when the town was incorporated in 1885, he named it after his home town back east – Medford.

Medford offered a perfect climate for fruit trees – grapes, peaches, pears in particular. And, because it was on the railroad line, there was plenty of opportunity to ship the fruit back east. Eventually, due to the incredible local production, Medford was known as the Pear Capital of the World.

Before the 1800s, wooden packing crates and barrels were stenciled for identification: product, producer, or, more often, product only. Pretty simple, really – PEARS.

But when railroads opened up the markets to many different producers, farmers understood that in order to survive in this new market, they needed a way to make their product more attractive to consumers – to make their crate of pears more appealing to customers than any other brand. They had to capture the attention of wholesale dealers who might buy crates of their produce for shipping and distribution.

So they each designed an individual packing label – a bright, colorful paper label with catchy graphics to glue onto the end of the shipping crate – a 10x7-inch marketing tool for promotion, distribution and identification. There were hundreds of orchards, and each one generated its own label. Some brand names you might recognize: Anaco (still around today), American Maid, Diamond, Duckwall (guess what’s on their label?) Federated, Peacock (again, guess...).

And one of them was Medford’s Highcroft Orchards...Piggy Pears.

In the 1950s, the technology caught up with the times: cardboard was being mass-produced; information was printed right on the cardboard instead of having a label stuck on a wooden crate. Cardboard was cheaper, weighed less, and was far more convenient; wooden crates (and their wonderful labels) disappeared.

But I’ve got my Piggy Pear crate – with label – in my house in Maine. Don’t you love her little cloven hooves, her basket, her Mr. Spock ears?


  1. Hi Deb! This is a wonderful post. Medford is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from us, but I haven't spent much time there. I enjoyed learning about how it was settled and how the fruit industry began there. Lucky you to have that cute wooden pear box.

    Kathy M.

  2. I was hoping that Medford is closer to you -- if you ever get there, take lots of photos for me! Glad you like the post; thanks for your comment!

  3. I love the Piggy Pear label! I think Medford used to be a beautiful place. They still grow apples and pears nearby--and if you've ever heard of Harry and David, that's where they're based. I think you would be disappointed by current photos of Medford, but nearby Ashland is where my family lives, and it's a charming place.

  4. Harry & David's? I remember them -- I remember their catalogue, really, which used to arrive at our house family bought stuff from them! I was too young at the time to care a fig about where they were located, but now I know! If you're ever in the area, I'd love a shot of a pear orchard in bloom...

  5. Interesting.I Never Thought About Branding In Relation To Wholesalers Rather Than Consumers.I Must Say, Piggy Pears Would Get My Attention! A Very Attractive (almost Disney-Like) Label.

  6. I like it, too, Tony! If you do an internet search for "crate labels" or "wooden crate labels" you'll get a few hits for all different kinds of them -- the graphics, the colors, etc., are just astounding! Thanks for stopping by...

  7. I like it too, and I'm sure it caught on in it's day much like Mickey Mouse and etc. Very interesting thanks!

  8. Hi Deb, I loved your story. I lived in Medford most of my life and worked for Harry and David for 25 years. Now spending my Golden Years in Southern Cal and found comice pears in my local market. A friend in Medford sends them to me every year. To my surprise, the box the produce girl brought out said Piggy Pears, Medford, Oregon. No cute label of course and cardboard, but I had seen your label before. I miss the Rogue Valley, yummy pears! Jeanne W.