Museu da Banana (isso mesmo, da fruta)
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” —Groucho Marx
The Washington Banana Museum
The Washington Banana Museum
…. an on-line museum (see below for public viewing location) ….
Take a virtual tour and feel free to email with any questions or if you’d like a picture of a certain item. Be sure to sign the guestbook at the end.
An average American eats 26 pounds of bananas every year – that’s about 150 bananas.
Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in the early years (1892-1920s) were given bananas to eat. Many had never seen them and didn’t know how to eat them – some ate the whole thing, peel and all.
Bananas were introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the same expo that introduced Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.
A tip of the hat to RJ Jackson for this haiku:
A banana sits topic of conversation later to be bread
The Washington Banana Museum curator is Ann Mitchell Lovell. Ann has assembled close to 4,000 items, a melange of artifacts, folk art and other cultural oddities devoted to the world’s perfect fruit. Assembled by a longtime scholar of banana consciousness, it features a compendium of whimsical and serious representations of the #1-selling fruit in the United States.
Even as a child, Ann knew her calling. Her parents even called her Anna Banana! But it was not until a trip to Hawaii in 1980, that Ann began this quest to assemble the greatest collection of banana artifacts. “A friend and I found a bar there called Anna’s Bannanas [that’s right, it’s misspelled], and I bought a T-shirt with its logo.” Over time, she found other items that made their way into her home. “I started finding banana things and saving them. Friends began noticing and would also seek out banana stuff. Though I never really intended to collect bananas, the collection just came in a bunch!”
Bananas, bananas, who’s got the bananas? YOU can help me get the bananas! C’mon, cough up the green and help me get some mellow yellow. Today, instead of getting an extra latte, make a donation to my future banana artifacts fund. You will see them posted here. Thank you so much!
Some of the items you see here are now being displayed at
in beautiful downtown Auburn, Washington at 120 E. Main St. (98002) 253-804-8041 – open Tuesday-Thursday 10:00am-1:00pm, Friday 10:00am-3:00pm, Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm, and other times by chance. View selections from the Washington Banana Museum, a premiere collection of memorabilia depicting our favorite fruit.
Two examples from the banana valentine collection….
This sign commemorates the first full cargo of bananas to arrive in Boston at the Long Wharf in 1871. The sign reads, “The first full cargo of bananas to reach the United States was landed at this wharf in 1871 by The Schooner Telegraph – Capt. Lorenzo D. Baker. THEN bananas were taboo for children NOW infants are fed bananas on doctors’ orders Green tipped or yellow-ripe bananas cooked as a vegetable have a useful place on every menu. Brown-flecked bananas are a nutritious delicious fruit for young and old.” Can anyone in Boston tell me whether the sign is still there?
The banana cello being played by Brian Wharton, cellist for The Auburn Symphony. Thanks for restringing it, Brian!
A 1924 Moore System Ventilation Banana Room Thermometer, measuring about 5×11 inches, and two later Chiquita thermometers. “In rooms properly built and equipped, bananas are ripened most successfully at temperatures ranging from 62 to 66 degrees, provided the relative humidity of the surrounding air is maintained at approximately 85 per cent until the fruit is well on the ‘turn.’ —-from “The Banana; It’s History, Cultivation and Place Among Staple Foods,” by Philip Keep Reynolds. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927.
A banana ripening room, circa 1941.
Meloripe Bananas wood shipping crate from Boston and a Meloripe grocery store display, circa 1930s.
Meloripe Bananas box and lighter. The company was based in New Toronto, Ontario.
This banana crate was used to ship bananas to Edna Wilhelm’s country store in Pryor, Montana during the 1930s or 1940s. The crate originally arrived from the tropics at the warehouse of the Billings, Montana-based Northwest Distributing Company managed by William Melville MacDonald. Inside the wood framework was a burlap bag in which to place the banana bunch for safe transport. There may or may not have been a lid. Tarantulas sometimes made the journey along with the bananas. —–Kind thanks to Lee Ann Bourcier, maternal granddaughter of Edna Wilhelm and paternal granddaughter of William M. MacDonald.
A fine example of the marketing and display of bananas in a Rochester, New Hampshire general store, c1899. photo courtesy of Gail Varney
This fabulous banana fish face jug is by the charming and talented Maine artist Steve Weslow.
Lawrence Wilbur poster created for the United Fruit Company, ca. 1930s. He had created several others for them during the same time period.
Josephine Baker art deco bakelite, wood and aluminum card holder from the 1920s, and a photo of her wearing the famous banana skirt in the Folies Bergere, Paris 1926.
Banana merchant Nicholas Zeo of Springield, Massachusettes proclaimed on his building, “I am the Banana King.” Here, a partial billhead from 1921 and a Zeo-Ripe pinback button.
John J. Campbell Fine Bananas storefront, with a couple of fine bunches
Stork’s Fruit Co. roadside stand
Good King Banana – a cloth children’s game obtained free by mail from The Fruit Dispatch Company in the 1930s. “Lots of fun for home, school or parties.”
French banana cart, early 1900s.
Banana vendors at Battery Park in New York City, 1920s-1930s.
Kirby & Diefendorf storefront in Canajoharie, NY, with hanging bananas, 1890s.
Another storefont, probably Chicago, 1920s-1930s.
Eat Bananas Token, 1923. Issued by Elders and Fyffes in England for a promotional campaign.
The Frank H. Lester Company was one of over a hundred importers of bananas to the U.S. in the late 1800s. By the time the United Fruit Company was formed in 1899 many of these companies had gone bankrupt. He was doing business as late as 1910, possibly longer. Below is an 1896 plea from Frank himself to potential banana buyers to give the Lester company a chance in supplying the best bananas on the market. Note the dramatic language.
The Leigh Banana Case Company was founded in 1905 by Charles Q. C. Leigh near Ellenton, South Carolina. He patented a wood-veneer slatted crate which was built specifically to fit one banana bunch. Sales of these banana cases started to decline in the 1930s and the company started producing containers for other kinds of fruits and vegetables. The company had 52 assembly plants in the U.S. and annually produced about 5 million containers. The town of Leigh was born when the company built housing for its employees. The Company was closed in 1952 when the Savannah River Plant of the Atomic Energy Commission took over the land. Below is an envelope from the company postmarked 1916 with an illustration of the case and a photo of two crates much like the Leigh Banana Case. The company made tokens for its employees to use in the commissary.
Leigh Banana Crate watch fob, ca 1930s.
Carved bone banana, origin unknown
Milo Winter illustrated this 1927 calendar (left). On the right, a 1912 double-sided 42-inch heavy cardboard sign from United Fruit.
Seattle artist and all-around great person Cindy Small created this mixed-media piece especially for the museum. It takes a special place in the collection. The fortune says “You constantly struggle for self-improvement.”
“Eat Bananas” – a 24″x36″ porecelain enamel sign from Fruit Dispatch Company, probably from the 1920s, and a grocery store price marker of the same era
Banana consumption by Winona College students and others in front of the Beyer home at beautiful Winona Lake, Indiana, c1909. Just out of sight is a large outdoor amphitheater. A huge water carnival was held here in August 1909 and was probably part of the Chatauqua programs or a Bible conference. Grace College would later be founded here. Photograph by Starr of Valparaiso, Indiana. [Many thanks to Mr. Charles Moffett.]
A Chicago theater troupe featuring Bertha West (2nd from right), a relative by marriage, of Betsy Ross, c1900 (photo courtesy of Randall Wells).
Paperweight from the Bluefields Steamship Company, based in New Orleans, c1900, and some miscellaneous treasures including a 1961 5-franc gold coin from Katanga , Chiobitti Banana Co., Ltd, watch face and another banana watch
Elvepe Bananas chalk display piece (Belgium). A reproduction from the 1980s, originally from the 1930s and Fyffes display piece
Chiquita Banana ride-on toy, c. 1969 and a 1971 photo with a happy girl
Fiberglass banana cello instrument, 4-feet tall, bought in Brimfield, MA. Also, a small banana band.
Ban the Banana, poster made in 1967, Bedford Fruit & Produce Co. wood sign
Carmen Miranda from “The Gang’s All Here” (1943)….
A vintage 1920s-1940s banana shipping box.
From the library…
See the complete bibliography here.
Want to see the museum where these things are on display? Click on one of the thumbnails, sit back with a tasty banana, and wait for them to appear before your eyes.
I’m always on the lookout for cool banana items.
If you have any tips or comments please e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!