Ed Prentice and his younger brother Howard established Prentice Packing and Cold Storage Company in 1926 in Yakima, Washington. Organized primarily as a packing and storage operation, the company packed for a number of growers and marketed the boxed fruit under, first the OK, Inc., label, and then the Kare-Ful-Pak brand label. Railcars, each containing 840 boxes of fruit, were loaded and sent to markets in the Midwest and East.
In 1956, the company added the Mr. Apple label at the urging of fruit brokers representing Prentice in the central time zone. The company agreed to this addition because of a standard pricing policy in the industry at that time. Prices brought by certain labels (including Kare-Ful-Pak) at the first auction of the day in the major cities on the East Coast became the established price for that label throughout the day at all other auctions throughout the country. Because the East Coast is an hour ahead of cities in the Midwest, eastern auction houses opened earlier than those in the central time zone. This meant that brokers in Chicago and other cities in the central time zone were often then forced to sell fruit at the price brokers had obtained just an hour earlier in the East—even though the market demand in the Midwest could often be very different. However, if Prentice (and other firms) sent the midwestern brokers the same quality fruit under a different label available only in the Midwest, the midwestern brokers would then be free to sell at the best price available in the Midwest. Thus, Mr. Apple was born.
Mr. Apple was chosen because Prentice had already established a very successful Mr. Cherry label. Some collectors believe the Mr. Apple face is a caricature of Howard Prentice, Jr., who assumed control in 1967, but who had worked for the company since the 1940s. When the firm needed a new label for pears, the theme was continued in the creation of the Mr. Pear label.
The Mr. Apple label was so well received it was used on all the top grade apples packed by Prentice, and continued to be used on the corrugated box ends after the wooden boxes with their pasted-on labels were discontinued in the late 1950s.
Prentice Packing & Cold Storage remains in business today as an apple grower and packer. The company now sells, however, through the Oneonta Trading Company (also known as Starr Ranch), a marketing group that also represents a number of other Washington growers. The Prentice trademark brands are no longer used.
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