A Spoof and a Secret Cubby
The story goes, a boy tells his dog, "My ass caught!" which elided into "Mascot." The original label was printed in the early 1920s. During the Depression, the label was simplified.
The Richey and Gilbert Company, founded in North Yakima, Washington, in 1897, was one of the most recognized names in Washington State fruit growing and packing into the 1950s. Their primary R&G brand was in constant use for over 40 years, and their Mascot brand, believed to have been originally designed as a gag, became so popular that it is still in use today by the Richey & Gilbert Company's successor firm, Gilbert Orchards, even though it has been redesigned a number of times.
The origin of the Mascot label is the subject of several stories. One of the most favorite and fun versions attributes the name to a company sales manager in the 1920s. Horace Mark Gilbert and his father-in-law, James Richey, the firm's founders, both lived in Yakima, and neither family drank alcohol. The sales manager, however, was prone to "taking a drop" every now and then. In fact, he had, in his office, a beautiful roll-top desk with a secret compartment on the back lower left side. This compartment pivoted out and supposedly always held a bottle of good bourbon. His lapse was tolerated because a good apple salesman was as valuable then as he (or she) is now—minor lapses could be forgiven.
The story goes that this manager, feeling somewhat cocky one day, designed the Mascot label as a somewhat sly spoof on the Richey and Gilbert family tendency to be more serious and sober. On the surface, the label appears to be exactly what the name suggests: an adorable boy with his dog as his mascot. However, many believe the boy was stealing the apples and, while trying to make his escape, caught his pants on the barbed wire while climbing through the fence. Thus, he is actually telling his dog that "My ass is caught"—Mascot! We may never know if this is exactly accurate, but the desk with its secret compartment still exists in the Gilbert Orchards offices in Wiley City, Washington.
To date, the Mascot label has been printed in 11 different versions in four different formats. The original is the "spiky-haired" version, printed by the Columbian Artworks of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the early 1920s. The second version features a cleaner and better-groomed lad and was printed in the late 1920s by the Ridgway Lithographic Company at their first printing plant on East Marginal Way in Seattle. In both of these versions, there are 32 apples hanging on the tree, and the boy is holding four apples in his hat.
The third version was probably printed at the height of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Details have been changed, simplified, or even eliminated in an evident effort to save artist and printing costs. The dog is wire-haired; the boy is wearing coveralls; the hat holds five apples; over two-thirds of the apples are gone from the tree; one of the fence posts has been removed; and the trunk of the tree is no longer visible. The Ridgway Company in Seattle also printed this label, but at their new plant, where they moved in 1931.
The fourth and final version is another variation, but times were better, and the "new" Mascot label, printed by Schmidt Lithographic of San Francisco on July 9, 1946, is much more artistic. The hat once again contains only four apples; the boy's overalls are a darker blue and rolled up higher on his shins; the background orchards are clearly defined; a red-roofed house appears; the mountains are smoother; the grass is short; and 18 apples are back on the tree.