Apple Advertising
Through the Ages

For nearly 70 years, the Washington Apple Commission’s main focus was publicity and marketing for the state’s apple industry.

These days, the Commission is exclusively dedicated to foreign trade programs, industry organizations, and logo protections. But our archive of magazine ads, TV spots, and promotional displays dates back to the early 1930s — and showcases our long history of celebrating everyone’s favorite fruit.


THE 1930s

The newly formed Washington Apple Commission used assessments from apple growers to expand their advertising program to include full pages in Life, Woman’s Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, and other magazines. Radio ads, subway posters, and billboards started popping up around the country as a strong interest in the powerful “health” story for apples started to develop.

Two examples of apple magazine ads from the 1930s. One is titled "The Health Fruit of the State where 'Huskies' grow" and the other is titled "State of Washington Where Huskies Grow Proclaims 'The Apple Hour'"
Magazine ads from Woman’s Home Companion and Life magazines, 1937

THE 1940s

During World War II, advertising paused — price controls made it unnecessary — and the Commission instead invested in industry research around fruit maturity, storage, retail handling, and packing. Professor Earl Carlson from Washington State College was hired to organize a full-time research department, which led to bruise reduction practices in the orchard and packing house, as well as in transit. He also explored early tests of packing apples in plastic bags, automatic box filling, and mechanical packing equipment.

Three cartoons promoting apple bruise reduction practices. The first one is titled "Ouch!" The second one is titled "Apple's Ain't Coconuts" and the third is titled "Don't be a bruiser"
Industry ads promoting new Commission research on bruise reduction.

After the war, the Commission and apple shippers united to restore demand for apples and increase sales in a competitive market. Their biggest-in-history sales push in 1948 cost nearly $500,000 — and was a huge success.

Left: A black and white photo of a young woman holding four apples standing behind a box heaping with Washington apples. Right: A cartoon of a man with a bow and arrow aiming at the Washington apple sitting on the head of a winking blond boy. It's titled "You can't miss pop! It's a Washington apple."
The Commission’s 1948 ad campaign included 90 days of newspaper and radio advertising, as well as direct promotions with major food chains.

THE 1950s

In the early part of the decade, the National Apple Institute, an association organized by the Washington Apple Commission, directed its campaign at the dental and medical profession, dietitians, and schools. By 1953, more than 500 copies of dental health films were circulated throughout the country, promoting the apple as “Nature’s Toothbrush” – with the blessing of the American Dental Association.

Cartoon of two kids and a red apple that says "For better dental health brush teeth regularly, eat fresh fruit daily"

Banner of a young boy holding two apples that says "Enjoy apples 'nature's toothbrush'"

Newspaper advertising used the vast majority of the Commission’s promotional budget in the early 1950s — but television and radio spots were beginning to become more popular.

The Commission celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 1957, along with its position as a leader in the nation’s marketplace. Grocery chains on both coasts believed in the power of Washington apple growers. According to the Produce Manager for Von’s Grocery stores: “We sincerely believe that the enterprising policies of Washington apple growers have, to a great degree, set the promotional pace for many other segments of the fresh produce industry.

Four vintage illustrated apple magazine adds. The first says "Washington state jet-a-kite free with every bag of Washington apples." The second is of a baseball player eating an apple captioned "Here's big league energy!" The third is of a box of red apples captioned "Give America's Favorite Apples for Christmas." The fourth is of a kid's drawing of a person holding up a giant red apple captioned 'The apple for teacher!"
In the 1950s, these promotions would have been circulated in newspapers around the country.
Ads like these were beginning to show up on TV. You can see more TV spots from this time period on our YouTube channel.

END OF THE APPLE BOX

Wooden apple crates were replaced with cardboard boxes by the late 1950s. Their colorful labels are now popular collector’s items.


THE 1960s

By the spring of 1961, the first official trademarked logo was unveiled to the Washington state apple growers to help drive continuity across the industry.

Red, green, and blue versions of the original Washington Apple logo: a circle with the outline of an apple inside and the word "Washingotn"
The first Washington apple logo

At the time, the advertising and merchandising program was spending around $1 million per year to help drive the sale of Washington apples.

TV viewers could mail the Commission to request a new apple slicer.

By the mid-60s, the Commission had started coordinating large regional sales and display contests amongst retailers. Retailers would submit a photo of their display, then be entered into a drawing for radios, watches, boats — even a Thunderbird.

Two magazine ads from the 1960s. Left: A raffle to win a 1965 Thunderbird. Right: Ad for a "profit bonanza"

Black and white photo of a 1960s grocery store Double Delicious apple display with balloons and streamers
Contests like these were popular with retailers since everyone, regardless of size, had an equal chance to win a great prize.

THE 1970s

Large promotions and aggressive advertising campaigns dominated TV, newspapers, magazines, and radio during the 70s.

You can find more vintage TV ads on our YouTube channel.

Starting in the 60s, the Washington Apple Commission had a food page publicist to create new and interesting uses for apples, then distributed those ideas through newspapers and other media. By the 70s, apple recipes were increasingly popular, and drove promotions.

Vintage 70s Washington apple magazine ad with an array of meals sitting on a yellow background including am, apple pie, and apple salad.

Magazine ad showing Washington apples in a woven basket with other ingredients for a Waldorf salad including grapes, celery, and walnuts. The caption reads "Take a Waldorf Salad home for dinner."
Recipes like the Waldorf Salad were popular and posters showed shoppers the ingredients they needed at the grocery store.

THE 1980s

In 1981, the biggest investment out of a $2.4 million advertising budget was in television, with some ads showcasing Will Rogers, Jr., who had worked with the Washington Apple Commission for six years. The influential Paul Harvey News radio show also included a spot each week.

Black and white photo of Paul Harvey holding a yellow and red apple behind two boxes that say "The world's finest apples"
Paul Harvey promotes Washington Apples.
Will Rogers, Jr. served as a goodwill ambassador for the Commission and spokesperson for Washington Apples.

The new Washington Apple logo was unveiled in December 1982, which amped up the Washington name through the middle of the apple.

The new, modern Washington Apple logo is still in use today!

By 1985, TV advertising was reaching more than 300 million people. There were over 2,000 radio spots running on nearly 50 stations, and thousands of pieces of direct mail were hitting the desks of produce executives across the nation. Full-scale activities were happening throughout the year, and the Commission proposed a 5-year plan to increase assessments from 15 cents per box up to 25 cents. The increase would help meet the challenges of moving larger crops into the future, and more than double the Commission’s budget, from $7.4 million to $16.1 million. More than $5 million of that increase would be dedicated to advertising.

A magazine ad showing red apples in a shipping box labeled "Washington the world's finest apples." The title of the ad is "Washington Apples. The Original Health Food."

A magazine ad. In the foreground is a golden delicious apple with its peel spiraling off. There is some text behind it, and a young girl holding a red apple. The title reads "A snack so good, people even eat the wrapper."

Washington apple ads from 1984 and 1985. For more TV spots from the 80s, check out our Youtube channel.

THE 1990s

One of the last major promotions before the Washington Apple Commission pivoted away from advertising in the US was the World’s Greatest Granny contest. Each year, the Commission sponsored the search across the US and Canada for the perfect granny to be the “spokesgranny” for Washington apple growers.

The 20 finalists would come to the Commission’s headquarters in Wenatchee during the Apple Blossom Festival to participate in the Granny Finale — the winner would be featured on posters and at events throughout the year.

Greatest Granny winners had to “personify the healthful attributes” of Washington apples, including being “sweet to the core,” being “hand-picked by children, grandchildren, spouses, and friends,” and featuring “beauty that’s more than skin deep.”

HISTORY OF THE COMMISSION

learn MORE

PUT AN APPLE ON IT

SHOP APPLE MERCH

You’ll find all sorts of unique Washington apple gifts at the Visitor’s Center gift shop and on our online store.