Thematic labels were used to attract brokers' attention
The Ryan & Newton label was printed using the original stone lithography process
The Chief Joseph label is known as a thematic label—i.e., a label designed around a particular theme that was believed to be able to attract attention from the fruit brokers. This Indian-themed label was first used by the Ryan & Newton Company of Seattle, Washington, before World War I.
Copies of this version are some of the best --examples of the original stone lithographic process using earth-toned colors and featuring an apparently older Chief Joseph in full traditional dress. These labels are extremely rare. Later versions all depict Chief Joseph as a younger man in the prime of life. Also, on these later versions, the company name had changed from Ryan & Newton to simply Ryan Fruit Company, and the background became blue.
Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce chief who converted to Christianity, influenced by the Protestant missionary Henry Spaulding of Lewiston, Idaho. It is believed that apples were planted at Spaulding's Mission as early as 1837, and this fact encouraged the use of Chief Joseph's name and face in apple marketing. Chief Joseph, however, is best known as the man who led 650 Nez Perce warriors, women, and children in 1877 on the long journey from the tribe's --ancestral home in Idaho to a spot just miles from the Canadian border. Fighting all the way, they were pursued by the United States Army from July to October and surrendered only when faced with starvation and freezing in the coming winter. At the surrender, Chief Joseph uttered the unforgettable words "I shall fight no more forever." Two years later, Chief Joseph went to Washington, D.C., to plead for better treatment for his people.
The Chief Joseph label is just one of many Native-American-themed fruit box labels used to sell pears as well as apples. Chief Seattle, Chief Tonasket, and Pocahontas are among the Native American personalities depicted, and the totem pole and canoe are also clearly drawn from the Native American culture. Contemporary label collectors could easily assemble a high-quality collection with great visual images by restricting their acquisitions to only the Native American theme.