Capitalizing on Native American images to sell fruit, Skookum and Yum-Yum labels were developed in competing regions of Washington State.
After large-scale irrigation systems and a railroad network became operational in the Pacific Northwest, there was an exponential growth in the amount of fruit being harvested and marketed. This put an enormous stress on the systems that had been put into place when the annual output was much smaller. By 1910 the movement of apples, peaches, pears, and other fruits to the market was a mess. There were no organizations larger than local districts dedicated to the movement of the crop, and the inefficiencies were creating serious losses to the growers and packing houses.
The situation reached a crisis point, and in 1910, the local fruit districts formed a single exchange organization to oversee the movement of fruit into markets. This new organization, the Northwestern Fruit Exchange, provided growers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho with an effective and economical means to broaden the market for their products, insure their direct movement to the consumers, and receive returns based upon actual market value, as regulated by supply and demand.
The Northwestern Fruit Exchange was originally composed of local associations, with all its functions being completely under the control of the growers. The Fruit Exchange leaders were themselves fruit growers, but they realized that the welfare of the entire Northwest fruit industry was essential in the protection of their own interests. In the first year, the Fruit Exchange sold 700 carloads of fruit in 125 markets in practically every state in the Union plus some overseas. By 1911, it had grown to include over 30 growers and advertised that it would ship 3,000 cars of fruit.
Growth continued so rapidly that just two years later, the Fruit Exchange directors saw the need for an active national marketing campaign. Advertisements were placed in newspapers seeking suggestions for the best trademark or brand name that all the exchange growers could use to identify their fruit as part of this cooperative effort. The winner was Mrs. M.W. Starks of Peshastin, Washington, who submitted the name Skookum, which some considered to be based upon the Chinook Indian word meaning special or extra nice. Others believed the word meant bully or the best thing in its line. A logo depicting an Indian brave with headdress was developed. At first, the Fruit Exchange used just this original logo, but by 1915, Growers Service Company of Yakima developed the Yum-Yum brand with an Indian eating an apple.
Because of the growth and success of the Skookum brand, the Fruit Exchange created a new nonprofit organization called the Skookum Packers Association in 1916. Headquartered in Wenatchee, Washington, it originally consisted of nine grower groups, and was based on the bylaws of The California Fruit Growers Exchange Sunkist organization. That same year the Fruit Exchange and the new Skookum Packers Association entered into a 20-year agreement, by which the Skookum Packers Association members would exclusively use and promote the Skookum brand, and such branded fruit would be sold exclusively through the exchange. For the next four years, both the Fruit Exchange and the Skookum Packers Association shared the use of the Skookum Indian boy logo, but in 1920, the exchange granted Skookum Packers the exclusive use of this colorful label.
In 1934, some former members of the Fruit Exchange board opened their own sales agency in Wenatchee to handle some of the Skookum Packers Association fruit. By 1954, Northwestern Fruit Exchange agents had all disappeared. Five years later, in 1959, the exchange, which had become a wholly owned subsidiary of American Fruit Growers (who marketed under the Blue Goose brand), was liquidated. The organization, which had appeared on the scene at the opportune time to assist the fledgling Pacific Northwest fruit industry, had lasted almost 50 years.