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Feature Article

The Eadington Family’s Involvement with Citrus: From Imperial to Donald Duck
By John B. Bowen

Eadington Imperial Brand
Imperial brand label
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The Eadington family first became involved in citrus fruit in 1916 and continued for more than 80 years. The family lived in northern Orange County, California, and their citrus activity flourished before dwindling as the land that produced the oranges and lemons was switched from orchards to residential homes.

In 1950 Eadington Fruit Company’s expanded citrus packing and distributing operations became the largest in California. It is interesting that fruit grown in Florida supplied Eadington’s last California venture in frozen concentrated fruit juice.

Donald Duck juice plant
Donald Duck juice plant
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The Eadington family’s myriad of changes in brand names and attendant images exemplified the citrus boom and decline in Southern California. Changes included the acquisition, transition and demise of shipping box brands with replacement of images and takeover of previous owner’s brands complete with images. The redesigns followed the advertising graphic trends of the industry.

Label historian and label collector Gordon McClelland has classified three periods of label design: Naturalism (landscapes, flowers, and animals), Advertising (Indians, children, and pretty girls drinking juice), and Commercial Art (just brand name in three-dimensional bold letters). These periods evolved by the wholesaler’s need to quickly recognize quality brands when the fruit boxes were stacked in auction warehouses.

The brand names that the Eadington family was associated with ranged from the aristocratic Imperial Extra Fancy fruit to the common Disney character Donald Duck frozen juice. The family brand names totalled more than 30, which consisted of original ones, those acquired from purchases of other companies such as T.R Davies and Benchley Fruit Company, and those from companies going out of business such as Sunny Hills Citrus Association and Yorba Linda Citrus Association. Eadington Fruit held legal rights to the brands, but did not necessarily actively use all of them.

Eventually the citrus fruit brands were gone when Eadington ceased its fruit packing in 1996, but some of the frozen juice brands such as Donald Duck, Tip Top, Real Gold, and Minute Maid that Eadington associated with lived on.

Benchley Fruit Company

The first member of the Eadington family to enter the citrus industry was Thomas James Eadington. He was a native of Lancaster, England, and came to Fullerton, California in 1911. He became secretary and manager of the Benchley Fruit Company in Fullerton in 1916. Benchley Fruit was founded in 1900 by E.K. Benchley, and was purchased by W.L. Benchley in 1912. Benchley was shipping at a capacity of 500 cars a year in 1921.

Benchley designed the Acme, Friar, Good Oranges, Premium, and Superior brands. Both their Superior and Premium brand labels underwent complete redesigns as shown below.

Benchley Pack ACME Benchley Superior Brand Benchley Premium Brand
Eadington ACME Brand Benchley Superior Brand Benchley Premium Brand
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Placentia Packing Company

In 1920, Thomas James Eadington severed his connection with Benchley Fruit, and purchased the orange and lemon packing business of R.T. Davies in Placentia. Eadington called his new business the Placentia Packing Company. He packed under the Friar brand originated by Davies with Friar Blue for Fancy fruit and Friar Red for choice grade.

Benchley Good Brand A Arena California Maid Brand
R.T. Davies Friar Brand A Arena Friar Brand
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Fullerton Packing Company

In 1923, Thomas James Eadington sold the Placentia Packing Company, including the packinghouse and equipment to J.H. Strait & Co. of Redlands. He then built a new packinghouse in Fullerton doing business under the name of Fullerton Packing Company, where he packed using the following brands: California Maid (Choice and Orchard Run), Friar Blue (Fancy), and Friar Red (Choice).

Eadington Fruit Company

In 1924, Thomas James Eadington, in partnership with Carl Hollingsworth, bought Benchley Fruit Company. He later changed the name of the company to Eadington Fruit Company. Eadington Fruit was the last operational packinghouse in Fullerton when it was dismantled in 1996.

When his father died in 1933, Thomas James Eadington, Jr. joined the firm. When the president, Carl Hollingsworth, retired in in 1945, Thomas Jr. became president. When he died of a heart attack in 1965, Secretary D.A. Collins became president.

Also, in 1965, grandson Thomas Eadington joined the firm. Tom worked his way up in the organization, and by his fifth year he became vice president, and was in charge of one the largest privately held citrus businesses in California. He became president of Eadington Fruit Company in 1983, and was elected to various boards of directors, including the Board of Sunkist Growers. Tom remained a key board member at Sunkist for more than seven years.

Thomas Eadington was probably the last family member to be active in the citrus industry. He left Eadington Fruit after 1996, when the Fullerton packinghouse was demolished, but before retiring, probably participated in some of Eadington’s joint citrus enterprises.

Originally the company was an independent distributor, but then joined regional cooperatives. A review of box labels reveals that Eadington distributed at different times through Sunkist, American Fruit Growers (Blue Goose), and Mutual Orange Distributors as well as independently.

Eadington Superior Brand Eadington Premium Brand
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Eadington acquired Acme, Superior, Premium, and Good Oranges brand labels from Benchley, and Eadington's first use of both Premium and Superior blacked out “Benchley Fruit Company” on the outer ring of the label image, and overprinted “Eadington Fruit Company” on the inner circles.
The shipping box with the boy still had Benchley on the side slats of the box as well as Benchley on the box label graphic.

The next Eadington version was a new design with “Eadington Fruit Company” replacing “Benchley Fruit Company,” but the image was the same except the “Benchley” names on the shipping box graphic were erased. The last images used on Eadington’s Imperial, Montezuma, Premium, and Superior brands include family crests. It is possible that the Imperial, Premium, or Superior image was the crest of the Eadington family.

Other Eadington brands included Dulce, and Imperial. The Dulce brand had a photographic image of a glass of orange juice and a bowl of oranges, as pictured below. A file copy of this label, dated July 1947, has annotations by Eadington staff including the deletion of the glass of orange juice as well as “OK” signed by T. Eadington. The modification suggested the design of two new labels: one without the glass of orange juice, and the other with just three oranges and nothing else. In the bottom right border is “Flavorseal,” the name of a commercial wax. Another printing of the label is known that does not have the Flavorseal annotation. Most Eadington fruit labels were printed by Western Lithography of Los Angeles.

The Imperial brand was originally used by Foothill Valencia Growers of the City of Orange. Foothill was organized in 1912, and Eadington probably obtained rights to the Imperial trademark in 1923 when Foothill was purchased by Red Fox Orchards.

The Montezuma brand remained popular in the 1960s when all shipping boxes were constructed of corrugated cardboard instead of wood. The brand image was pre-printed on the cardboard with no more than two colors. In the example below, “Eadington Fruit Co.” is printed beneath "Oranges."

Eadington Dulce Brand Foothill Imperial Brand Montezuma Oranges box end
Eadington Imperial Brand Eadington Premium Blue Goose Brand
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Sunny Hills Citrus Association and El Ranchito Citrus Association

The Sunny Hills Ranch packinghouse was just west of Spadra Blvd. (now Harbor) at Bastanchury in Fullerton. The packinghouse was served by three spurs of the Pacific Electric Railway in 1916. In addition to Sunny Hills Ranch, the Eadington Fruit Growers Cooperative had a packinghouse in the complex where empty refrigerated cars were dropped off for their use. It is believed that Eadington acquired the right to use the Montezuma Brand from El Ranchito Citrus after 1947, as trademark records show El Ranchito to be the owner at that time. Eadington probably obtained the Esteem brand from Sunny Hills Citrus Association in 1948.

El Ranchito Montezuma Brand Eadington Montezuma Brand
Sunny Hills Esteem Brand Eadington Esteem Brand
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Interaction with Other Fruit Companies

The Yorba Linda Citrus Association started in 1912, and used its top quality brand, Yorba, the following year. According to trademark records, Eadington obtained the right to use the Yorba brand next, and then California Citrus Corporation finally acquired the brand in 1942. Trademark records indicate that Eadington obtained the Thrift brand in 1923 which was previously held by Yorba Linda Citrus. There is no known use of the brand by Eadington, but it was used by Yorba Linda for standard quality oranges and lemons.

It is interesting to note that circa 1938 Thomas James Eadington Jr. married Elizabeth Bastanchury who was a member of the Fullerton Bastanchury family. That family owned the Bastanchury Ranch Company which boasted the world’s largest orange and lemon orchards, totalling 2,000 acres. Whether the marriage affected the Eadington and Bastanchury operations is unknown.

Yorba Brand Yorba Linda Thrift Brand
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Expansion to Other Locations and Produce

The Year 1950 was big for Eadington Fruit Company. It became the largest packing and shipping operation in the State of California. It entered into handling and packing lemons that year. At the time, Thomas Eadington, Jr. was president and his brother Paul was the secretary-treasurer of Eadington Fruit Company. By 1956, Eadington Fruit Company was affiliated with packinghouses in Lindsay, Santa Paula, Saticoy, Pomona, Upland, Redlands, Highland, and Yuma, Arizona. These houses, combined, shipped nearly three million boxes of citrus a year.

In 1959, they formed Davis-Eadington Enterprises and started an acquisition program, which in addition to citrus, marketed California deciduous fruit (for example, Rivermaid pears). In 1970, the company managed 13 packing operations and more than 25,000 acres of orchards. Eadington officers served on the boards of Sunkist Growers and Blue Goose.

Additionally, Eadington was the largest marketer of apples and peaches in the Southeastern United States. In California, Eadington also grew avocados, had officers on the Calavo Growers Board, and was a member of the California Avocado Society.

Golden Citrus Juices

In 1949, Eadington’s citrus fruit operations expanded to include frozen concentrate products, although they were late comers. Much earlier in 1932, Val Vita citrus juice plant was established in Fullerton, and in 1938 Mutual Orange Distributors started a new by-products plant, Cal-Juices, in Anaheim. Eadington Fruit Company and American Fruit Growers incorporated Golden Citrus Juices in 1949, and Thomas James Eadington, Jr. became president. The principal product was frozen juice concentrate, but they also produced other citrus products such as lemonade. Oranges were supplied directly by conveyor belt from Eadington’s packinghouse. However, other orange produce came from as far away as Arizona. Florida orange juice was shipped to Fullerton by rail until they switched to tanker trucks.

In its first year of operation, the plant produced 15 million, six-ounce cans of frozen orange concentrate and several hundred thousand cases of assorted canned juices. The frozen juice was marketed under the Blue Goose label.

Minute Maid Corporation

Minute Maid Corporation acquired a one-third interest in Golden Citrus Juices in 1953, and the frozen juice was then sold under labels of Minute Maid for lemonade and Tip Top for orange juice. Finally, in 1959, Eadington sold its share of Golden Citrus Juices plant to Minute Maid.

World Citrus West

Later, a series of exchanges took places on the Golden Citrus Juices property. It became home to Holly Pak and Paramount Citrus in 1965, Polar Orchard Products in 1975, and World Citrus Inc. in 1981. World Citrus, owned by a Florida citrus cooperative, packed "Donald Duck,” a brand of frozen orange juice. In the early 1980s, they created a unit called World Citrus West which in turn purchased the Golden Citrus Juice plant in Fullerton. The oranges were shipped from Florida and processed and canned in Fullerton. See the can label below with the annotation ”Frozen Florida ORANGE Juice.”

The local redevelopment agency purchased the former World Citrus West property (also known as Donald Duck Orange Juice) late in 2008, in collaboration with the Orange County Transit Authority and Caltrans for the construction of a parking structure. The plant was demolished in late 2010.

Minute Maid Pink Lemonade Donald Duck Orange Juice
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Eadington Fruit Company Presidents

Since there were three consecutive generations of Eadingtons with the same given name of Thomas, and one named Paul, all who were presidents of Eadington Fruit Company, this may cause confusion. The table below provides some distinguishing facts.

Name Born Married Died Term
Thomas James Eadington 1881 Mary Winifred Cottram 1933 1924 to 1932
Carl Hollingsworth       1933 to 1945
Thomas James Eadington, Jr. 1916 Elizabeth Bastanchury 1965 1945 to 1965
D.A. Collins     1972 1965 to 1972
Paul Francis Eadington 1925 Oma Amanda Read 1980 1972 to 1980
Thomas Eadington 1940 Linda Cromwell 2006 1983 to 1996

Primary Sources:

  • Thomas Pulley, Southern California citrus industry historian
  • Fullerton Public Library, Local History Room
  • Pomona Public Library, Special Collections website
  • Citrus Roots Brands website
  • Justia Trademarks website
  • Jay T. Last Collection of California Citrus Box Labels, Huntington Library
  • Noel Gilbert citrus label collection
  • Wil Bennett citrus label collection
  • John Bowen citrus label collection (jbowe3@earthlink.net)

Addendum

Since the publication of this article, the Fullerton Public Library has obtained and exhibited a photograph of an early Eadington Fruit Company packinghouse dedicated to packing and distributing walnuts. Processing walnuts is another example of the family's entrepreneurial spirit. Note "WALNUTS" appears directly beneath the company name in the photograph below.

Eadington walnuts packing house
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