Frank Shields is credited with developing the Billion $ and Million $ labels used by his family’s fruit business.
Shields Bag is one of the Yakima Valley’s most successful family-owned businesses, employing 500 people in the manufacture of plastic bags, plastic film, and other related products. Developed after World War II under the leadership of Gene Shields, the company has its roots in the fruit industry. Gene’s grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Shields were originally teachers in Morrow County, Oregon, but eventually planted apple orchards, started a fruit-packing house, and founded the Shields Fruit Company in Freewater, Oregon (now Milton-Freewater). They raised their son Frank in the fruit business, and Frank is credited with developing the Billion $ and the Million $ apple labels used by the company to market its fruit. Family lore says the young girl pictured in the Shields label is a relative.
After graduating from college and getting married in 1909, Frank left the family business and moved to Walla Walla, Washington, to join Valley Fruit Company. He worked for this company for 13 years, serving as general manager and partner and overseeing marketing under the V label, which is now rare and highly prized by collectors. Encouraged by his success, Frank left Valley Fruit in 1927 and opened his own fruit and produce sales office in Walla Walla. Business was good, and he added offices in Wenatchee and Yakima, Washington; and Weiser, Idaho. He lived in Walla Walla in the spring and summer selling potatoes, onions, and prunes. He would sell apples and pears during the winter months, living in Yakima while his family remained in Walla Walla.
Frank decided to use the same labels as had been used in the family business in Freewater. The Extra Fancy grade was identified by the Billion $ label, the Fancy grade by the Million $, and the "C" grade by Tru-T-‘Form. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s hit the region’s agriculture-based economy with a vengeance. The price of apples fell to 50 cents a box. As a fruit broker, Frank struggled to support his family and business. He closed all of his offices except the office in Yakima, and in 1932, his wife and four sons moved to Yakima.
Fortunately, Frank Shields was not only a fruit broker. He loved to write. He published a resource book on apples, which was used in schools, wrote articles for trade publications on marketing topics, and wrote industry briefs relating to transportation, labor, and both foreign and domestic trade. He printed each copy and personalized each with the customer’s name. About the same time he moved to Yakima, Frank began writing a weekly bulletin for his customers, with updates on the movement and availability of fruit.
Therefore, when Frank realized he could no longer support his family solely on his fruit brokerage business and needed income from another source, he listened to his bulletin customers and turned his hobby of writing into a business. He took the bulletin one step further in 1935, converting it into a monthly magazine for fruit buyers and sellers called Appleland News. As circulation grew, advertising by local fruit companies increased. He was soon able to open his first print shop, Appleland Press, and then later purchased Rainier Printing Company of Seattle and moved the company to Yakima. In 1939, he founded the Yakima Valley’s first fruit-marketing association, United Marketers. In 1943, Frank went to work as secretary-manager of the Yakima Valley Traffic Association. In 1945, United Marketers merged with the Yakima Valley Traffic Association, and Frank remained as secretary-manager.
Frank Shields had a vision of the tree fruit industry in Washington State and decided to portray it in a magazine. The Goodfruit Grower made its debut in 1946. After only a year, Shields sold the magazine, then a four-page tabloid, to the Washington State Fruit Commission for a nominal sum, and his company continued to print it. In paying tribute to the magazine’s founder in its 50th anniversary issue, the magazine, now known as Good Fruit Grower, said, "We hope our reporting embodies the justness and sincerity that Shields ranked above all."