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The Northwest Fruit Exchange was still prominent on this label that featured the smiling Indian boy.

The Northwest Fruit Exchange was still prominent on this label that featured the smiling Indian boy.





The Skookum logo is a familiar graphic on a wide variety of labels, and there are label collectors who consider the Skookum brand as one of the most interesting stories in the history of fruit labels. Its story begins on July 29, 1910, when the Northwestern Fruit Exchange was established in Portland, Oregon. J.S. Crutchfield of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, saw the potential in a Pacific Northwest fruit-buying and marketing cooperative, but active management was placed in the hands of W.F. Gwin.

Company records indicate that the patronage of the Fruit Exchange was immediately scattered across the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, but over 42 percent of the members were based in the Wenatchee Valley of Washington. In the first two years of operation (1910-1911), the exchange handled approximately 35,000 boxes of fruit representing all varieties and all grades. The following year, however, was a boom year for tree fruit, and the number of both boxes and clients increased significantly in 1912.

This growth in the available product encouraged growers to think about increasing demand as well, and it was decided that a coordinated marketing campaign under a single name or trademark was needed. A contest for the name was announced at the same time an assessment of ten cents per box was made upon each grower to create the capital needed for the promotional expenses. Hundreds of names were submitted, and the board of governors of the exchange selected "Skookum," the submission of Mrs. M.W. Stark, the wife of a grower in Peshastin, Washington.

Skookum, a Chinook Indian word meaning special or extra-nice, was registered in 1914 as part of the original trademark logo illustrated in the Skookum Brand Apples label that also contains a totem pole. This original use of the name further included a circular lower right corner inset with a picture of an Indian with a headdress and placed over a map of the geographical area represented by the Northwestern Fruit Exchange.

In 1915, as documented on a Fruit Exchange company archived label copy dated September 22, 1915, the label was redesigned and a smiling Indian eating an apple became the main feature. Variations of this label were used into the 1950s.

Just a year later, in 1916, there was another change, and the most familiar version, one that depicts a smiling Indian boy with a single red feather, was created. How this developed is an interesting twist to the Skookum story. Even though the Northwestern Fruit Exchange used its new trademark in national marketing, wholesalers (especially those in larger cities) sometimes spent their own money for additional advertising in their local markets, as they believed this would be money well spent in increasing sales. One such local advertiser and wholesaler was the Jos. Chalona Company in New Orleans, Louisiana. A reproduction of a letter in which the Northwestern Fruit Exchange management acknowledges to Yakima’s Congdon Orchards that indeed it was the New Orleans distributor who created the new look. The Chalona Company letterhead shows the smiling Indian boy.

Thirty-two Fruit Exchange members who had joined together under the name of the Skookum Packers Association liked the "new" Skookum, because it gave increased attention to the Skookum trademark and less prominence to the twin globes logo of the Northwestern Fruit Exchange, even though there is no mention of a Skookum Packers Association on the first labels using the smiling Indian boy.

Relatively rapidly, however, the Skookum Packers Association name began to appear (although in small print) on the new labels, as can be seen on a 1916 Fruit Exchange label. By 1920, there were 33 such Skookum Packers Association growers—13 in the Wenatchee/Okanogan district, 8 in the Walla Walla district, 7 in the Yakima district, 3 in Oregon, and 1 each in the Spokane and Idaho districts.

In 1921, all rights and titles for the Skookum trademark were formally transferred from the Northwestern Fruit Exchange to the Skookum Packers Association. Subsequent Skookum labels no longer bore the exchange’s twin globe trademark, and the Skookum Packers Association name became prominent. Just a year later, the Skookum Packers Association faced a major internal upheaval with about two-thirds of the membership canceling their association contracts. Among those leaving were all the growers in the Yakima, Walla Walla, Oregon, Spokane, and Idaho districts. Even though this resulted in the Skookum Packers Association being reduced to only growers in the Wenatchee/ Okanogan district, the association quickly re-emerged as one of the strongest and largest grower organizations in the Pacific Northwest for the next several decades.