IE*: A narrow navel band (more on the history of citrus)

In Matt Garcia’s A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970  he writes:

Among oranges, Valencias and Washington navels occupied different places in the citrus belt. Since Valencias possessed seeds and were used primarily for juice, farmers cared more about their quantity than quality. Consequently, ranchers grew Valencias near coastal ranges and further down the inland valleys. In the interior, a combination of dry desert breezes, low atmospheric moisture, and the threat of high-elevation frost produced oranges of higher sugar content with a deep reddish-orange hue. Farmers took advantage of such conditions by planting the seedless navel in these districts. Regarded as the sweetest eating-orange and the “autocrat of the price list,” the navel thrived in a narrow belt that extended along the San Gabriel Valley’s inner-mountain foothills from Pasadena to San Bernardino and Redlands.

Which is probably common knowledge, but news to me.  It helps to explain why the citrus colonies (Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, Pomona, Claremont, Cucamonga, Etiwanda, Alta Loma, Ontario, Fontana, Upland, San Bernardino, Redlands, Riverside to a lesser extent, and probably others) were located where they are: there’s water from the mountains, transport in the form of the new transcontinental railroad, and the right climate for the “autocrat of the price list,” the newly invented (in the mid-nineteenth century) Washington navel orange.  But to this list I think you have to add the lure of a healthy California lifestyle, an idea that is older than the place itself.

(By the way, it’s worth noting that the Inland Empire developed independently from Los Angeles; many of the same factors, for sure, were in play, in the growth of both regions, but they are actually fairly distinct.  The fact that people commute to LA now makes the IE a distant Los Angeles suburb, which is how I initially understood it.  This, however, is a new reality and not productive for understanding the development of the region, which, still, in many ways, is very different from Los Angeles.)

What might be called “the colony mechanism” helped this process along.  There were many colonies established in the citrus belt during the crucial 1880 – 1910 period.  For example, Pasadena was settled by a group of investors from Indiana, fleeing the cold and looking for a better life, and lifestyle, in the orange groves of southern California.  They delegated one of their members to search out the right spot and, like the mother mallard in Make Way for Ducklings, he searched and searched:

San Diego seemed an ideal spot, and the price was right, but a series of windmills would have to be set up to pump water. The Company rejected the idea. Of San Bernardino he said, too hot. Of Anaheim he didn’t care for the superabundance of fleas nor the number of “musketers” (gun toters). Of San Fernando he said, the price at $2 per acre was acceptable, but the area was only good for growing grain. There was too little access to water for citrus growing. The Indianans had their hearts set on orchards. Rancho Santa Anita was the collective lands of today’s Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, El Monte, and Baldwin Park. The property had absolutely everything required for citrus growing, but at $20 per acre the place was too expensive.

Eventually he had a good night’s sleep in what was to become Pasadena, although for many years the name of the town was actually the Indiana Colony (quoted above).  The Etiwanda Colony — like Upland and the “model colony” of Ontario — was made possible by the Chaffey brothers’ Etiwanda Water Company, bringing water down from the mountains to the productive but dry soil at their base.   Likewise, further afield, Anaheim was settled by a group of German-speaking immigrants looking to set up a new life, although for them the lure was grapes for winegrowing rather than oranges.  Their first house, and one of the oldest in Orange County, was called the Mother Colony House, now a museum.  I’ve heard, but not been able to confirm, that Israeli kibbutzes were at least partly inspired by the citrus colonies, especially Ontario.  But I’m not sure that’s true.
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What’s interesting about this colony mechanism, to me, is that it was not a typical immigrant dynamic.  The people in the Indiana Colony, for example, had enough money to invest in a venture that would not bear fruit, if you’ll pardon the pun, for many years.  They were not looking to escape oppression or to seek riches; instead, they were looking for a better life, the evergreen promise of the California lifestyle.  In the case of the Pasadena settlers, an especially cold Indiana winter motivated them.  They came with money and built idealized post-urban communities, often with street names harkening back to Chicago or Indianapolis, so that they could live their supposedly healthy lifestyles amongst their orange groves.

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