Ripe, luscious strawberries grown in the fertile Tropico soil brought
fame to this region back in the early 1900s. The first strawberry fields
appeared around 1899 when 2 acres were planted.
Within just a few years, more than 650 acres were under production.
Most of the strawberries were of the Brandywine variety, which growers
preferred because they grew well in the soil. An average of 12,000
baskets were picked per acre per year during the height of the
A group of 50 growers met at Richardson's Hall in Tropico in 1904 to
sign articles of incorporation as the Strawberry Growers Assn. Wilmot
Parcher, who served as Glendale's first mayor and owned 10 acres of fruit
trees and strawberries on Glendale Avenue at Maple, was elected
president. By 1906, those serving on the board of directors were D.
Griswold, Parcher, E.H. Learned, S. Mihara and O. Tomikawa.
The strawberry production was detailed in a story in the Glendale News
that year, indicating that growers expected to plant between 500 and 600
acres. To house the huge volume of strawberries, the association built a
new warehouse on the Pacific Electric Railway. Five cars a day hauled the
berries to market in Los Angeles.
The berries were shipped in refrigerated cars, requiring large
quantities of ice, so they built a large icehouse to do their own icing
instead of having it done in Los Angeles. Most of the berries went to
Arizona, New Mexico and other points outside California.
To avoid glutting the market, surplus strawberries were sent to
canneries, keeping even the price for fresh berries. During the fall and
winter, berries were shipped to Chicago, New York and other Eastern
points for very high prices. Japanese immigrants worked the fields,
planting, tending and picking the strawberries.
The strawberries starred on the cover of an illustrated, paperbound
booklet titled "Tropico Beauty," published in 1903 by the Tropico
Improvement Assn. Printed in color, the cover showed an upturned basket
of luscious-looking berries, a tribute to the famed strawberries of
Tropico, Glendale and Burbank.
The booklet emphasized that while barley, sheep, alfalfa and dairying,
and grapes, fruits and nuts were paying propositions, strawberries were
now the most important crop. "A strawberry does remarkably well here,"
the booklet said of the Tropico Beauties.
Sadly, just a few years later, the strawberry boom was over. Amid
charges of overproduction, prices dropped sharply, and a few years later,
the strawberry fields were gone forever, giving way to one of the area's
first housing tracts.
KATHERINE YAMADA is a volunteer with the Special Collections Room at
Central Library. To reach her, leave a message at 637-3241. The Special
Collections Room is open from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays or by
appointment. For more information on Glendale's history, contact the
reference desk at the Central Library at 548-2027.