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.
Some of the items you see here are now being displayed at
View rotating selections from the Washington Banana Museum, a premiere collection of memorabilia depicting our favorite fruit.We're located 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. Hours are changeable; call ahead if you're planning a visit. We'd hate to miss you!
Two beautiful illustrations by Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) for Chiquita bananas. He was a famous American illustrator and muralist working in the 1920s through the 1950s. You can find many of his illustrations in Life, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping and Redbook. He also illustrated books by Ernest Hemingway, Edna Ferber, W. Somerset Maugham among others.
The use of props in photographs and cabinet cards in the early 1900s was common, especially with children. Here a young boy is holding a banana - a reward to be eaten when he is done posing.
An old NutriBanane tin - a breakfast drink made from bananas.
Dorothy Mackaill starred in the 1929 movie "His Captive Woman." In one scene she wears a banana skirt. She's no Josephine Baker, but she does have a pretty good banana skirt. Here's a postcard of her wearing the skirt, and the poster for the movie.
Original sheet music for the 1944 song "Please No Squeeza da Banana" by Louis Prima, Jack Zero and Ben Jaffe. Coming some twenty years after another novelty hit song, "Yes! We Have No Bananas," it was a wartime hit.
Three pinbacks inspired by Louis Prima's song "Please No Squeeza da Banana."
Three postcards from 1908-1909. The original 1899 photograph, called “Boy with banana” was a studio portrait by renowned Canadian photographer Reuben R. Sallows (1855-1937), which was then used in these three postcards. Sallows documented all manner of Canadian life in the early 1900s and his amazing work can be seen at The Reuben R. Sallows Gallery (http://www.sallowsgallery.ca) located in the mezzanine of the Goderich Public Library in Goderich, Ontario. For more information about The Reuben R. Sallows Gallery please contact email@example.com or call 519-525-5559. West Indian Bananas was a subsidiary of Elders & Fyffes, the British produce giant. The postcard with the green background was produced in Manchester, England while the other two postcards were made in Canada.
Stereoview - kids having a tea party and eating bananas
Stereoview - man with heavy load, Jamaica 1899
Stereoview - station at Rambukana, Ceylon 1903
Stereoview - loading bananas onto ship, Santos, Brazil
Stereoview - wharf at Port Antonio, Jamaica, 1900
Stereoview - laborers loading bananas, Cuba 1900
Stereoview - unknown location, 1902
Stereoview - Chagres River, Panama 1904
Stereoview - shipping station, Zent, Costa Rica
Stereoview - Costa Rica
Stereoview - loading train in Costa Rica
Stereoview - harvesting bananas in Costa Rica
Stereoview - carrying bananas to market, Jamaica 1900
Double-sided cardboard signs typically used in grocery stores to promote bananas during the 1930s into the 1940s.
My earliest banana-related sheet music - this one from 1904. The Banana Man was sung by popular vaudeville star Elizabeth Murray, and also Raymond Teal and Willie Tilden.
Red Rooster bananas hang tag. The A. Levy & J. Zentner Company started in Sacramento, California. They got out of the produce distributing business around 1997.
Bananaland in all its' glory. Postcard from "The Original Frozen Bananas" in Balboa, California. Don Phillips had the first successful frozen banana shop in the early 1940s.
Small locomotive built for the Snyder Banana Company. They were doing business in Panama between 1890 and 1899, then was bought (along with several other banana companies) and incorporated into The United Fruit Company in 1899. The locomotove was built by the H. K. Porter Company out of Pittsburgh. They built light-duty railroad locomotives starting in 1866.
Cover of a 1923 prospectus for the Lake Gatun Banana Company based in Panama. Potential investors could buy an acre for $300 and were told to "Put your lazy dollars to work with Lake Gatun Banana Company, for larger profits with safety." The President and General Manager of the Company, John A. Walker, previously worked with the Panamanian government in building the Panama Canal.
Huntley & Palmers Bana Biscuits trade card. This company was founded in 1822 in Reading, UK.
Banana cart in 1906 New York (reproduction).
Street urchins selling bananas in the United Kingdom, early 1900s.
Rare Banana Band Sweet Music wood harmonica, c1925. A harmonica like this one was supposedly used in a Marx Brothers film. More later when I find out which film it was. Made by F. A. Rauner in Klingenthal, Germany.
Two favorite old photographs of people feasting on our favorite fruit.
An early billhead from the Frank Brothers. Carl Augustus Frank is widely thought to be the first banana importer. He set up his business with his brother Otto in New York in 1867, but had been importing bananas from Colombia and Panama since the 1850s. The transaction presented here was twelve years after they started their import company. Dozens of other banana importers, along with the Frank Brothers, would be bought out when The United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands) was formed in 1899.
Paperweight from the Bluefields Steamship Company, based in New Orleans. This was another banana importer bought out by United Fruit in 1899.
Three tokens from United Fruit Company stores, circa 1900. The silver one, I believe, is from the Portland, Jamaica location. When I see these, I think of the blood, sweat and tears shed by the workers in the fields and the sacrifices they made. Years later, when workers sprayed fields with various poisonous insecticides they suffered the health consequences.
A get well postcard, sent from Budapest to Trieste, Italy (postmark obscured), and a German kewpie with two giant treats.
Taking a banana break while cruising the highways of the U.S. Both taken during the 1920s.
From the September 1917 issue of Fruit Dispatch, this photo was submitted by Hafer & Bro. in Reading, Pennsylania, along with a glowing letter stating their exclusive banana-buying business with Fruit Dispatch. Also shown is this envelope from Hafer & Bro with a July 6, 1914 postmark. The early Fruit Dispatch magazines (published monthly) were filled with photos from various fruit vendors showing their creativity in banana displays.
Two birthday postcards, published in London. The first was published by Wildt & Kray. The second was published by E. A. Schwerdtfler & Co. and was postmarked 1913.
Tintype showing some mighty serious folks displaying their banana bunch.
Cover and inside pages of 1958 booklet explaining the benefits of cold weather protection for bananas. Made for grocers, it was published by Fruit Dispatch Company, a subsidiary of United Fruit.
Turn of the (last) century boy with a fine bunch.
Mechanical trade card advertising the health benefits of Banan-Nutro, a coffee substitute made from bananas, c1910.
Recent visitors to the Washington Banana Museum. We encourage entourage invasions!
Victorian trade card for East India Banana Syrup.
Another trade card from the same era.
Two examples of banana marketing from the United Kingdom during the late 1920s. The first showcases a centerpiece for a window display while the second spotlights a permanent display in a British fruit shop. Elders & Fyffes (now called Fyffes) was their principle importer.
Fyffes lapel pins and a paper mache banana bunch much like the ones used in the photograph above (right).
Red banana syrup advertising tin from Beach & Clarridge Company, Boston, c. 1890s. 7" with wood frame, glass front and chain hanger. Beach & Clarridge were manufacturers and dealers in soda water flavors for the popular soda fountains of the day. Sign made by Kaufmann & Strauss Co., New York.
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 5x11 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.
Meloripe Bananas wood shipping crate from Boston.
Meloripe Bananas box and lighter. The company was based in New Toronto, Ontario.
A fine example of the marketing and display of bananas in a Rochester, New Hampshire general store, c1899. photo courtesy of Gail Varney
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.
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."
Eat Bananas Token, 1923. Issued by Elders and Fyffes in England for a promotional campaign.
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. photo copyright Washington Banana Museum. The company made tokens for its employees to use in the commissary.
Leigh Banana Crate watch fob, ca 1930s.
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).
Elvepe Bananas chalk display piece (Belgium). A reproduction from the 1980s, originally from the 1930s.
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)....
Bananas.org International Banana Society - Bananas.org contains many ongoing discussions about bananas, banana care, banana identification, recipies, members from around the world. Photo Gallery, Map, Resources for the banana enthusiast.