Earl Fruit Company

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Dried Fruit Packer,Fresh Fruit Packer

Armour and Company, Di Giorgio Fruit Company

The Earl Fruit Company was a California-based fruit and vegetable packer and wholesaler. The company handled fresh and dried fruit, and also handled vegetables. Although a pioneer in shipping fruit, the company was sold to Armour and Company in 1900. In 1911, the Supreme Court forced the meat packers to divest their refrigerator cars because of their monopoly power. Joseph Di Giorgio of the Di Giorgio fruit brokerage business in Baltimore bought Earl Fruit from Armour for access to the fresh fruit market[1].

Earl Fruit was founded by Edwin Tobias Earl, a prominent fruit shipper in California. Earl was also an early proponent of shipping fruit east from California. The company often charged for packing but let the grower get the risk or reward from the fruit sale. "Growers would bring in their fruit, and Earl would manufacture the boxes and sell them to the grower and pack and sort the fruit, and then ship it for the account of the grower and charge them for the freight in each refrigerated car in addition to the freight charged by the railroad for transportation. So it was a very, very lucrative business for the Armour family."[2] In 1901, the company provided all supplies and advanced money to Chinese farmers in the Los Angeles area to raise celery [3]

The company's fruit was shipped both across the United States and to Europe under its Red Flag trademark[4]. In 1903, pears, peaches, and plums were being shipped from San Jose to Australia[5]. In 1893, the company shipped 4,000 carloads of fruit[6].

An 1897 photo of an orange packing house in Redlands, California states the company's presence in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia[7].

Earl Fruit and Armour

The Earl Fruit Company was closely tied with the Armour meat interests, both as an ally and competitor. In 1888, the California Fruit Transportation Company started shipping chilled fruit via refrigerator cars. Earl initially worked with C.F.T.C., providing 75% of their traffic out of California. In 1892, Earl appeared in Chicago and demanded a discount or commission for the business he directed to them. When the C.F.T.C. officers turned him down, Earl "went straight to the office of the Armour Car Line. Before the end of the day he had contracted to rent 1,000 Armour refrigerator cars at $8.33 a month each. When the California fruit season reopened, the C.F.T. found that wherever it went, the Earl Fruit Company was there also, making war and using an familiar and effective weapon; that is to say, it was offering rebates and getting the fruit."[8] Earl Fruit attempted to work with the new company because of its strong presence in the California packing market. When talks broke off, Earl instead contacted the Armour company about using their refrigerator cars, and organized a pair of refrigerated car lines for his own use[9]. Backed by Armour, Earl dominated the refrigerated fruit transportation business. (The competitors, meanwhile, sold out to Swift and Company. Armour later backed Porter Brothers, forcing Earl to sell out to Armour in 1900. By 1903, Armour had taken control of Earl Fruit, with Earl keeping a minor ownership role[10]. Earl took his profits from his fruit shipping empire, built a large mansion on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, and started a new career as publisher of the Los Angeles Express newspaper[11].


Location Years Address Details
Locke River Road Rented space in Southern Pacific warehouse[12].
Newcastle 1915 In freight shed along railroad[13].
Placerville 1910 Spring Street at Lincoln Highway. Placerville. 1910 Sanborn fire insurance map.
Redlands 1897 100 x 160 foot packing house for oranges[14]
Sacramento 1908 1014 Second Street Head office[15].
San Jose 1892, 1900 Bassett near San Pedro
San Jose 1893, 1896, 1902, 1906, 1907 Bassett Street at Terraine Street

Northeast Corner.

San Jose 1936, 1938 395a North First Street
Winters 1951 Abbay St., across tracks from depot.[16]
Wright 1911 On Sunset Park spur (now Wrights Station Road), on north side of road on north side of creek, east of road bridge.


Earl Fruit Company, Walnut Grove California State Library, California History Section


  1. Ruth Teiser, Robert Di Giorgio and Joseph A. Di Giorgio: The Di Giorgio's: From Fruit Merchants to Corporate Innovators". Oral history, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1983.
  2. Ruth Teiser, Robert Di Giorgio and Joseph A. Di Giorgio: The Di Giorgio's: From Fruit Merchants to Corporate Innovators". Oral history, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1983. "The Earl Fruit Company was headed up by a man named E. T. Earl from Sacramento, who owned a small portion of it and who was the manager of a company for the Armour family."
  3. George W. Moore, History of the Celery Industry. In Samuel Armor, History of Orange County, California, with Biographical Sketches. Historic Record Company, 1921. "(In 1901...) Mr. [E. A.] Curtis bethought himself of the Los Angeles Chinese market gardeners and their knowledge of celery growing, and at once entered into negotiations with a leading Chinaman to undertake the work of growing eighty acres of celery on contract, the Earl Fruit Company to furnish everything, including implements needed in the cultivation of the crop, also money advanced for rental of the land and the supplying of water where needed by digging wells..."
  4. The Earl Fruit Company: Leading Fruit Shippers.. November 26, 1908 Sacramento Union.
  5. Our Fruits Find Favor in Markets of the Workd. August 29, 1903 San Jose Evening News.
  6. The Fruit Shipping Industry. In Sacramento County and Its Resources. JH. McClatchy and Company, 1895.
  7. Earl Fruit Company. In Illustrated Redlands, 1897.
  8. Charles Edward Russell, The Greatest Trust in the World. Part 1: The Great Yellow Car: the Bandit of Commerce.". March 1905 Everybody's Magazine.
  9. Ray Stannard Baker, Railroads on Trial: Private Cars and the Fruit Industry (part 4). February 1906 McClure's Magazine.
  10. Failure: Porter Brothers Company Forced to the Wall Earl's second major competitor, meanwhile was forced into bankruptcy. In May 23, 1903 Fruit Trade Journal and Produce Record. "It was reported in San Francisco that the failure was due to Armour, who recently gained control of the Earl Fruit Company. Armour has an ambition to monopoloize the shipping of California fruit" says the dispatch.".
  11. 2425 Wilshire Blvd. Historic Los Angeles: When Wilshire Boulevard Was Residential. Earl's mansion was designed by San Francisco architect Ernest Coxhead in 1897. Article also contains a short biography of Earl.
  12. The Community of Locke. Walking tour. Walnutgrove.com.
  13. Earl Fruit Packing Company. Sacramento History Online. Producer's Fruit is next door, which apparently was another Di Giorgio business.
  14. Earl Fruit Company. In Illustrated Redlands, 1897.
  15. The Earl Fruit Company: Leading Fruit Shippers.. November 26, 1908 Sacramento Union.
  16. Winters: Retire Packing Shed. Southern Pacific Western Division Drawing W-1814, August 7, 1951. In collection at wx4.org.