Category: Agriculture

All-American Canal


Image: United States Bureau of Reclamation photo from Library of Congress

1939 view of the Imperial Dam at the headwaters of the All-American Canal. The dam was completed in 1938 and the first water was delivered in 1940.

Excerpt from

The All-American Canal System, located in the southeastern corner of California, consists of the Imperial Diversion Dam and Desilting Works, the 80-mile All-American Canal, the 123-mile Coachella Canal, and appurtenant structures. The system has the capacity, through water diversions from the Colorado River at Imperial Dam, to irrigate about 530,000 acres of fertile land in the Imperial Valley and about 78,530 acres in the Coachella Valley.


X-raying of fruit


Images: from brochure distributed at 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.

“…in the past it has been impossible to detect certain kinds of imperfection by external appearance alone. Frost damage and granulations in oranges…leave no indications on the surface…”

“This X-ray inspection unit permits the operator to look right through the fruit instead of at its surface only.”

Excerpts from the brochure.

Original grape vine


1939 image at the San Gabriel mission: Frasher Foto via .

“The “Old Mother Grapevine” was planted in 1861… and is one of the most beloved plants in California. She’s kind of a celebrity and has been since the turn of the century. At one point she covered 10,000 square feet…”

Ravenjake (at link above) quotes Ken Payton, from Reign of Terroir, “…the historically important Mission grape is still being used in California for blends and even for 100% variety bottlings. About 1000 acres of Mission remain under cultivation here, roughly the same acreage as Petit Verdot! Though a far less distinguished grape than PV, nevermind Cabernet or Zinfandel, the other ‘founding’ California vine, the Mission grape possesses an unrivaled caché in the state.”

More from Ravenjake: “Here’s another wrinkle in the whole ‘how old is she?’ debate, and that is that Mission grapes were planted maybe as early as 1771 – that sign sayin’ 1775 is about right. Mother Grapevine is maybe 500 feet from the mission, and could have been from the original vineyard. ‘Could’ve been,’ not ‘was.’ Now apparently, the 1861 date was based on an affidavit that the vine was planted by someone named David Franklin Hall of the Michael White Ranch (aka the Mission yard) in that year. Well folks, I’m not entirely convinced! I’m gonna keep an open mind until some more information comes in. All this tells me is that the minimum planting date is 1861, and she might be older – almost 100 years older! If the real date is 1775, then the old girl is 234 years old.

“The San Gabriel Chamber of Commerce newsletter says that when she was at her productive peak (as opposed to the petite decorative mode she’s in now) she produced one ton of grapes per year – enough to make 400-600 barrels of wine. They also say that despite her advanced age, she’s low maintainence – just periodic prunings to keep her on the arbor.”

Read more about it at the link above.

Today’s date could be written 3/9 so it could be considered ’39 Day.


Protecting orchards from freezing


Image: undated photo.

“While some thrifty growers still burned stacks of old tires, the majority turned to the coke burning units (‘smudge pots’) as they became available and later invested in the more efficient oil-fueled heaters. All methods of orchard heating are costly, not only in the price of the fuel consumed, but in the wages paid the manpower required for the operation and maintenance of the system. I recall that as a general figure it was estimated that fuel oil costs accumulated at a minimum of $50 per hour (1939 dollars!) for every ten acres heated.”  — G. Carrol Rice

“Excerpt from . Click on the link to read more about recollections of protecting citrus orchards from freezing.

Also see—— for more info.


Burpee’s Seeds


“Burpee’s ‘Hall of Fame’ was enhanced by… Red and Gold Marigold (1939)…Marigolds were… Burpee’s most popular flower seeds so it is not surprising that a great many of the world’s most outstanding marigold varieties have been developed at Burpee.”

“W. Atlee Burpee had established Floradale Farms at Lompoc, California, in 1909 [in addition to the original farm in Pennsylvania]…The Floradale site was chosen because it was situated in an ideal valley, protected by a mountain range that runs from east to west (rather than the more usual north-to-south orientation). It has what might be called a “European climate,” cool but without great temperature fluctuations, and constantly humid rather than subject to heavy sporadic rains. Indeed, Lompoc remains one of the rare spots for outdoor flower seed production in the world…”
The Burpee story is well worth reading. See it here: .

Excerpts from link.