The letters on Dow's labels designated the area of origin.

The letters on Dow’s labels designated the area of origin.

On occasion, fruit box labels bearing a prominent and distinctive blue C, O, E, or W surface in antique shops or at fruit label collector meetings. These labels were all used by the Dow Fruit Company, which was headquartered in Wenatchee, Washington, from 1924 to 1937. The letter was used to designate a packing location—"C" for Cashmere, "O" for Okanogan, "E" for Entiat, and "W" for Wenatchee. All of these labels are prized by collectors no matter what the background color—blue denoting Extra Fancy grade apples, red denoting the Fancy grade, and green or yellow denoting the lowest saleable ("C") grade. As always, the green or yellow background labels tend to be more valuable because custom labels, being more expensive to ­produce, were not as frequently used on the lowest grade fruit.

The man behind the Dow Fruit Company was Warren O. Dow, who moved to Wenatchee in 1911 to become principal of Wenatchee High School. After two years, Dow resigned and was succeeded as principal by his brother-in-law Wellington Pegg. Dow accepted the position of secretary of the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce and became involved with the establishment of the Wenatchee North Central Fruit ­Distributors. It was this company that originally used the label designs illustrated here. When Dow saw a future for himself in the fruit business and incorporated the Dow Fruit Company in 1924, he took these designs with him and replaced the North Central Fruit Distributors designation with the name of his own company. The headquarters for the business was located in a large brick warehouse (still standing) on Columbia Street in Wenatchee. The company lasted for 13 years; it was ­dissolved in 1937, just a year after he ran unsuccessfully on the Republican ticket for U.S. Congress.

Warren Dow was the father of four sons (Edson, Huston, Wellington, and William). When William’s grown ­children became interested in collecting Dow Fruit Company labels in the 1980s, William expressed surprise and dismay. Recalling the hours he spent as a young boy making wooden apple boxes for his father and ­gluing Dow Fruit Company labels on those boxes, he exclaimed, "Why in the world would you want those?" His children never had the courage to tell their father that they not only collected the labels but also actually paid money for them! 

Information for this article submitted by Don and Shirley Franklin. Shirley is the granddaughter of Warren Dow.