United Fruit Company

United Fruit Company
Item# 880

In 1899 Minor Copper Keith's bank, Hoadley and Company, goes bankrupt. Keith loses $1.5 million. In order to solve his difficult financial situation, Keith goes to Boston and arranges with Andrew Preston a merger of his company and the Boston Fruit Company. Prior to the negotiation Preston, Baker, and Keith control 75% of the banana market in the U.S. On March 30th, they establish the United Fruit Company.

In 1903, the plant disease known as "Panama Disease" appears for the first time in United Fruit's plantations in Panama. The disease attacks the plant's trees roots cutting off the water supply. Thousands of acres of banana plantations had to be abandoned. Also, United Fruit launches the S.S. Venus, the first refrigerated produce boat.

In 1912, after a fierce price competition against the United Fruit Company, the Atlantic Fruit Company declares bankruptcy. Atlantic had been United Fruit main competitor in Costa Rica; after the bankruptcy United Fruit takes control of the country's banana exports.

In 1913, the Senate Finance Committee of the United States includes bananas in the proposed Underwood-Simmons Tariff. Bananas would be taxed at five cents a bunch. This initiative faces strong opposition from the New York Times, the Tariff Reform Committee of the Reform Club, The Banana Buyers' Protective Association, and the Housewives' League. The lobby made by these organizations eventually succeeds and the US government permits the tax free import of bananas to continue.

In 1922 improvements in banana-drying technology encourage United Fruit to promote consumption of dried banana chips. The company wanted to use this as a way to market discarded bananas or plantains.

In 1923, the song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn reaches incredibly high levels of popularity, selling 25,000 copies a day. Afterwards, Silver tours the country with his Banana Band.

In 1924, Dr. Sidney Haas makes it public that bananas are a good cure for children suffering from celiac disease. United Fruit used this finding to promote banana consumption in the following decades. Also, the United Fruit subsidiary Fruit Dispatch Company publishes a recipe book promoting the consumption of bananas with dry cereal, suggesting in particular corn flakes with bananas and milk. This combination proved to be an incredible success among consumers. In the following years cereal companies made deals with United Fruit to advertise this new breakfast. One of them was to include a coupon for bananas in cereal boxes.

In 1929, United Fruit's subsidiary, Fruit Dispatch, hires a group of consultants to do a market research on American banana consumption. The consultants' results says that bananas were consumed by a large sector of the country's middle class and were considered the perfect food for babies. After this report, United Fruit doubled Fruit Dispatch's advertisement budget and begins an aggressive campaign in national newspapers and magazines targeted to middle class families.

In 1944, United Fruit hires cartoonist Dik Browne (the creator of Hagar the Horrible) to create a cartoon based on the Latin American singer and movie star Carmen Miranda. The cartoon was baptized as Miss Chiquita Banana and was part of the advertisement campaign the company was preparing for when the war was over. One year later, Miss Chiquita Banana debuts in the technicolor movie advertisement "Miss Chiquita Banana's Beauty Treatment" in which she sings to revive an exhausted houwewife.

In 1959, Thomas Sunderland becomes the new President of the United Fruit Company. Sunderland begins to promote the larger sized Cavendish banana over the Gros Michel, and the company begins to transport the bananas in cardboard boxes instead of free bunches. He also pushes the Chiquita brand-name by having labels placed on the bananas.

In 1963, Herbert Cornuelle becomes the new President of the United Fruit Company. He begins a process of diversification of United Fruit's investments in order to reduce its dependence on bananas. During this process the company acquires A&W; Root Beer Company, Foster Grant.

In 1967, United Fruit distributes 90,000 full-color illustrated recipe cards for Chiquita banana and peanut butter sandwiches to schools in the United States, promoting these sandwiches for lunch.

In 1970, United Fruit merges with AMK-John Morrell to form the United Brands Company.

In 1989, the company changes its name to Chiquita Brands International.

Close Up of Vignette:

Certificate: Capital Stock, issued in the 1960s

Printer: American Bank Note Company

Dimensions: 8 (h) x 12 (w)

State: NJ-New Jersey

Subject Matter: Famous Companies | Food and Drink

Vignette Topic(s): Allegorical Featured | Food Featured | Ship Featured

Condition: Vertical fold lines, punch hole and stamp cancels in the signature areas and body, markings and some toning and edge faults from age (including some paper loss outside border).

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