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The Irrigation

Irrigation -- The Gage Canal
Lured by land promoters and railroads in Southern California with such slogans as, “Citrus for health, California for wealth,” the dreams of large and small investors took root in the California soil.  Riverside, a pioneer agricultural settlement, was established in 1870 by the Southern California Colony Association.  Major conflicts over water erupted, and by 1885 the newly formed Riverside Water Company began construction of an irrigation canal between the Santa Ana River and Riverside.  In order to gain title to 640 acres on which he had filed a claim, Canadian jeweler Matthew Gage had three years to bring water to the land.  Between 1885 and 1889, he built a canal 11.91 miles long from the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino and later extended it an additional 8.22 miles.  The flume of the original canal—later replaced by the Mockingbird Reservoir dam—crossed Mockingbird Canyon.  The canal effectively doubled the citrus producing area of Riverside and today supplies water to local citrus ranches and the groves of California Citrus State Historic Park.

Between 1891 and 1893 growers united to form  cooperative organizations for marketing citrus.  By 1908, a partnership between the California Fruit Growers Exchange (later Sunkist) and the Southern Pacific Railroad launched advertising campaigns to promote the sale of citrus in the mid-west and eastern U.S. markets.  Among the most enduring creations of the citrus industry were crate labels.  Though packing companies introduced the labels to identify their particular products, buyers soon began ordering fruit by specific labels.  The labels became more and more ornate—reaching their peak between 1900 and 1930—and were designed by some of the era’s best artists.  Today these works are collectible, garnering top dollar for rare originals in prime condition.