The Vero Beach Railroad Station is one of the stops on the citrus label tour.
ered that the Indian River Lagoon on central Florida’s east
coast proved to be the best location for growing citrus.
The combination of the area’s calciferous soil, temperate
weather, humidity and high-water table created a higher brix
ratio making the fruit sweeter than any other. Brix refers to
the number of soluble solids in the fruit’s juice…the higher
the brix, the sweeter the fruit. Testing by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture has determined repeatedly that Indian River
citrus has the highest brix levels in the world. It wasn’t long
before the Indian River citrus label became one of the most
envied in the country.
By the early 1920s, Indian River citrus was being packed
and shipped in wooden crates to northern markets. In order
to market the region’s citrus, artists created bright, colorful
10-by-10 labels that were glued to the end of the crate to attract
These whimsical labels depicted native heritage, local
flora and fauna, sunny skies, sand beaches, palm trees and
beautiful women. They changed with the times as reflected
in their style, and trends. The label’s color denoted the grade
of fruit and registration with the Florida Citrus Commission.
They attracted so much attention that they doubled as mini
billboards for the tourism industry and started reflecting local
boating and fishing activities.
“The labels reflect a vibrant, nostalgic time in the history of
Florida citrus,” said Heather Stapleton, executive director of
Vero Heritage Inc., which operates the Indian River Citrus Museum.
“We have a beautiful display of the original, authentic
labels in the citrus museum along with reproductions available
for sale. The labels even made it into a Broadway show.
“It was an early example of product placement when a
local grower arranged to have a Bruce box adorned with a
colorful Indian River Citrus label used as a prop on the production
“Now we’re very excited about our joint venture between
private sponsors and the Tourism Development Council to
develop a citrus label tour to pay homage to the first economic
driver of this area,” she said. >>