Last Bit - A double-duty fruit box label
One size fit all for the Ruebow Fruit Ranch.
The ranch house still exists but the sign identifying the property, which was unusual for an area fruit ranch, is long gone.
Ordinarily, this column begins with a history of an individual or company that was responsible for a particular label or label design. However, the unique quality of the two known labels of the Ruebow Fruit Ranch of Yakima, Washington, is the size. The two illustrated labels, one for apples, and one for pears, are exactly the same size. The only difference is that the apple label has a red apple in the upper left and the pear label has a yellow pear in the upper left corner. This is unusual because the common apple box was always larger than the common pear box. Each box held approximately the same weight and volume of fruit, but pears are heavier than apples and fewer were needed to fill a box. Among the thousands of apple labels used by growers and shippers, there are probably fewer than five or six examples of this sized apple label.
When the Yakima and Wenatchee Valleys of Washington State were first planted to apples and pears, many of the owners were absentee landlords who invested their money in the orchards but continued living back East. The Ruebow Fruit Ranch was just such an investment. The Ruebow name is a contraction of the last names of Robert C. Rueschau and William E. Bowes, who were partner-owners. They also were brothers-in-law, since Mr. Rueschau had married Mr. Bowes’s sister Mary.
William E. Bowes was born in 1873 in Indiana but completed high school in Chicago, where he started his business career as a messenger boy with the meat-packing firm Armour & Company. Because of his hard work, capability, and loyalty, he eventually became the general manager of the firm’s railroad billing department. Robert C. Rueschau, who was born in Chicago in 1865 and attended business college, began his business career with the Featherstone Company, manufacturers of baby carriages. He later moved to the Pope-Hartford Automobile Manufacturing Company, where he worked for 13 years before moving on to become vice-president of the Mitchell Motor Company of Racine, Wisconsin.
In early 1910, probably seduced by the promotional literature promising a fortune to be made on the newly irrigated lands in Washington State, Rueschau and Bowes entered into the fruit ranch partnership. Bowes resigned his position with Armour & Company, moved to Yakima, Washington, in May 1910, and became the general manager of the new Ruebow Ranch. Rueschau invested the bulk of the money, and the partners purchased orchard property located at 34th and Nob Hill Boulevard, known then as Valley View Road. The operation prospered for many years with fruit marketed under the Ruebow label and day-to-day management handled by Bowes until his death. Rueschau was very fond of the Yakima Valley and visited every year for over 30 years.
The picture at left was taken in the winter of 1930. The Ruebow Ranch tract, fronting on Nob Hill and extending back to the present location of Nob Hill Elementary School, is now a dense residential neighborhood. The World War II era and subsequent city expansion westward doomed the property as an orchard; the Ruebow Ranch is now covered by houses instead of fruit trees.