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Jos Eichelberger, Eustis FL

Sign sponsored by Jay Eichelberger

This label is one of 5 ‘bird’ labels that are in the Chicone and Ellis collections of citrus crate labels.  Mr. Eichelberger actually filed patents on at least two of his labels.  Florida Southern College has these patents thanks to Jos Eichelberger’s grandson, Tommy.  Unfortunately, Tommy or his cousin Jay have no idea why their grandfather selected birds for his crate labels.  They do note he had several bird feeders in his yard.  Just another unanswered question regarding crate labels!

The following information on Joseph Eichelberger is taken from his obituary and History of Lake County by W. T. Kennedy.  Mr. Eichelberger was one of those citrus grower/packer that was a strong supporter of his community.  He was a leader in many ways, especially in First Presbyterian Church of Eustis.
Joe Eichelberger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 18th, 1889, son of Joseph and Louise Eichelberger. He received his education in the schools of Cincinnati, and when a young man worked for the Southern Railway, at Cincinnati, as Delivery Clerk of Perishable Shipments.  He held this connection for five years, when he accepted a position with G. E. Markley & Company, as buyer for them.  After Mr. Markley’s death the business was taken over by his partner, Mr. Charles C. Oyler, the title of the new firm being Chas. C. Oyler & son.  He traveled in the interest of these two firms, out of Cincinnati, for fourteen years, and it was while working in their interest that he came to Eustis.  He was instrumental in this firm taking on a large packing house here, known as the Eustis Packing Company, which he managed for years, until going into business for himself.  For the past four years Mr. Eichelberger has been in partnership with Mr. R. D. Keene of Eustis, in the citrus business, now known as R. D. Keene & Co.  At present they jointly own about three hundred acres of bearing groves in Lake County, and operate packing houses at Eustis and Montverde.
Due to his long preliminary training in the fruit business Mr. Eichelberger was enabled to make a success, and is now one of the leading fruit men of Lake County. He is a member of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, also the Eustis Chamber of Commerce.  His fraternal affiliations are with the Masons and the Shriners.
He was married first to Bertha Frey, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who is deceased, and his second marriage was to Jennie Belle Chambers of Plant City, Florida.  He has three children: Robert J., by his first marriage; Josephine and Elwert, by his second marriage.

from: History of Lake County Florida, Wm. T. Kennedy, Editor-in-chief,  History of Lake County Florida Part II, Biographical.  Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Lake County, Florida  p203-204

Additional comments from obituary

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1889 Mr. Eichelberger left school after the 8th grade to go to work for the Southern Railway.  At the age of 22 he first came to Florida as a produce buyer for the Charles C. Oyler firm.  Having noted the possibilities for growth of the Florida citrus industry he was instrumental in his company’s purchase of an interest in the Eustis Packing Co. in 1914.  He served as manger for that company here for a period of ten years.

In 1924 Mr. Eichelberger purchased the interest of Barney Dillard, Jr. in the Dillard and Keene Packinghouse and operated the business as R. D. Keene & Co. along with several other packing houses which they operated together until 1933 when the partnership was dissolved.  From then until about 1940 he operated the business as the Jos Eichelberger & Co.

In 1922 he married Jennie Belle Chambers and the couple has lived in Eustis until the present.

Eichelberger became one of the largest independent growers in county in addition to his activities in commercial packing and later express fruit shipping in which he was engaged from 1946 to 1960.  As early as the mid thirties he owned better than 500 acres of groves.  In an article on Who’s Who in the Produce Business, a trade paper, quoted him in 1938 “while there is much talk about the overproduction of citrus in the United Sates.  I have not lost faith in the industry in this state.  And I believe that with proper advertising and strict regulations the citrus deal will take care of itself”.
In the early 30’s Mr. Eichelberger was among a group known as the Fruitman’s Club which successfully fought New Deal controls and rail quotas on Florida citrus.

He was also a leader in the practice of grove irrigation, and is one of the few growers whose entire acreage is irrigated from deep wells.  Since 1960 he had operated as one of the area’s few remaining large independent growers maintaining an office for his production firm, Lake Yale Groves on Bay Street in Eustis.

He was a former director of the Citrus Production Credit Association, a 32nd degree Mason, past Master of the Eustis Mastic Lodge, and a member and deacon of the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis.

Other Eichelberger Labels
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Most packers had several labels they could use.  The primary color of the label indicated the grade of the citrus in the box.  Blue was US #1, the best quality from the packer. Red was US #2, a step down and occasionally another color was used for fruit not making US#1 or US #2.  It should be noted that almost all the Florida fruit that did not meet US#1 standard was due to external appearance.  The internal quality was the same!  Florida conditions, namely a hot wet summer, produced a large number of pests that would damage the surface of the fruit.  The primary one is very small mite, specifically the rust mite.  This pest can produce a dark brown or russet blemish on the surface of the fruit.  Several fungal organisms also can cause damage to the peal. Melanose produces small raised spots producing a fine “sand paper’ feel.  When heavy these lesions can cover a large portion of the fruit surface as well. Windy conditions during spring when the fruit are small cause surface damage as well (this is known as wind scar – the small fruit would rub against leaves producing a superficial blemish to the peel).
Florida growers have to deal with these superficial blemishes because the consumer is looking for a perfect looking piece of fruit.  Sugar content cannot be determined by looking the fruit, so don’t be quick to decide that if an orange is not perfect on the outside that does not mean it will not taste good.  Florida citrus might not be the prettiest in the bin, but they cannot be beat for taste.

The Packing House

Jos Eichelberger packing house was located at Bay Street and Lakeshore Drive at the railroad tracks. 

To learn more about Lake County citrus click here

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