Apple Barrel Labels

Last year about this time I wrote a blog about apple barrel stencils, because APPLES. With the new crop coming on the market, now is the appropriate moment to introduce you to the next way barrels were marked, the paper label.

P1040541These labels were a sweet meeting of  traditional packaging and colourful printing,  intended to introduce our Nova Scotian product to the British market .


These examples probably date from the 1920s and 30s.  A couple were printed by the Kentville Publishing Company, including this sunrise.


The best collection of labels that I’ve seen are at the Blair House Museum operated by the NS Fruit Growers’ Association, on the Research Station in Kentville. A few years ago I snapped a few out of focus images of their collection including this design, sure to appeal to the folks back home.


The bulldog and Union Jack design (and another) are available from Lost Cod Clothing Co. on all sorts of garments. Check out the short histories of the industry which Lost Cod provides.

Notice that many of these labels incorporate a six pointed star with “Empire” in the middle; point of origin branding when the British Empire was still intact.


The most exceptional label I’ve seen was for Eden Brand apples from Canning, depicting Eve accepting  the apple from the serpent. Both she and Adam have their naughty bits concealed by blanks where the variety and size of the apples would have been printed or rubber stamped.  The packers must have enjoyed stamping  Adam: “2 ½ inches.”


At some point apples started being packed in wooden boxes with paper labels on the ends.  Here is one (I guess from the 1950s) from a box that is out in our shed. Quite an amazing “S.”

03-01-2012 11;03;59AM

And in the spirit of full disclosure, here is a plastic bag I saved in the 80s.  First Nations imagery was gradually disappearing from packaging by that time.

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Today our wine industry often gets all the publicity (everybody drink). These labels are a decorative reminder that apples were once the star.

Post Script

  • If you want to see some context for the barrel labels look at photos on the Public Archives of Nova Scotia site. This picking scene c1930? is filled with material culture: barrels, picking baskets, specialized high ladders, big standard size trees, buddy dropping cigarette ash into a barrel.

MacAskill NSARM 1987 – 458 no. 4754

  • Boy Scout Apple Day still exists, which is a surprise to me.  I assumed I’d have to explain my tag from the 1960s but some traditions just keep going.

01-01-2012 10;51;27PM

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.