Citrus labels tell the tale of Florida's past

Imagine when citrus groves covered more of Florida.  If time were turned back, you’d find the art of the orange groves on the labels of citrus boxes. 

They’re especially interesting to Elizabeth Lee Barron.  "Each time I found a new label it was like I won the lottery," said the longtime librarian at the University of Tampa. 

She has traced her family roots through citrus box labels. 

One label shows a baby who would later grew into Elizabeth’s Aunt Pep.

"She is now 103 years old," continued Barron. "She lives in Orlando and it was the first label that my grandparents produced." 

Her family story begins when her great-grandfather, D.C. Lee, settled on Lake Thonotosassa in the late 1800’s. 

To sell oranges, growers added color to their labels.  

"When they shipped the citrus to market, the labels actually attracted buyers," explained Barron. 

The state citrus commission supplied advertising art to many growers, but the Lee’s put their family images on their labels.

"Three aunts and my father, so I have four labels that have my aunts and my father on them," Barron said.

She’s found dozens of her family labels. Her brother made them into a poster for Christmas gifts. 

"He pulled me aside and said don’t find anymore because I’ve got the poster where I want it." 

But she’s not so sure that's the end of it.  "I’ve actually found one since then, but I haven’t told him yet," she laughed.

She hasn’t placed a value on her citrus label collection. "To me, they’re priceless."