From steel to apples
American Fruit Growers, Inc., was formed in 1919 by a group of investors who were prominent in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, steel industry. These individuals saw an opportunity to make money with a company that had fresh produce sales as its principal function.
One of the first major suppliers to American Fruit Growers was T.H. “Tom” Peppers of Riverside, California. Peppers had already built a large business growing and marketing citrus fruit in California, as well as packing and marketing other types of fresh produce in not only California but also Arkansas and several other states. Peppers had developed the Blue Goose brand in 1918 as the flagship of his marketing efforts. When American Fruit Growers was established, the new company’s managers asked Peppers to become a supplier and transfer the Blue Goose brand to them. Peppers agreed, and over the next several decades, hundreds of thousands of car lots of fresh produce were grown, packed, shipped, and marketed under the Blue Goose trademark.
In the early years of American Fruit Growers’ existence, apples and potatoes were the major commodities handled by the firm. The company operated in at least 25 states, and had its own fruit brokerage sales offices in several of the large terminals.
In 1922, the U.S. Congress passed the Capper-Volstead Act that made it legal for farmers and marketers to act together. The new law allowed for such newly formed associations to have marketing agencies in common and enter into the contracts and agreements necessary for this to happen. In April 1937, American Fruit Growers took advantage of this then-decade-old law to encourage the formation of a cooperative marketing organization to be known as the American National Cooperative Exchange, Inc. This new corporation then assumed control of the former American Fruit Growers brokerage offices, the broker representatives, and sales.