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Mss:1 1891-1962 U860

United Fruit Company Photograph Collection, 1891-1962 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:1 1891-1962 U860
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: United Fruit Company Photograph Collection
Date(s): 1891-1962 (inclusive)
Date(s): 1920-1960 (bulk)
Quantity: 85 linear feet (110 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The collection consists of seventy-five photograph albums that document the United Fruit Company's operations and holdings in Central and South America, the West Indies, and the United States.


Gift of United Brands Company, 1979.

Processing Information:

Processed: May 1999
By: Maggie Hale

Processing Note:

The collection was rehoused in the spring of 1999 as part of the Historical Collections manuscript photograph project. Each album was placed in a flat, acid-free box. A number of larger albums were divided in half and placed in two boxes. The albums were arranged in nine series based on geographic location or subject.
The existing finding aid—an inventory produced in 1979 when the collection was donated to Baker Library—was considerably revised and expanded. The current box inventory listed below reflects the numbers assigned to the new boxes. A key linking the former box locations with the new box numbering system is available if required. Please ask the reference staff for assistance.

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Conditions Governing Use:

Photocopying prohibited. The photograph albums must be handled very carefully to ensure that the photographs are not separated from their captions.

Digitized Images:

A growing number of photographs from the United Fruit Company Photograph Collection are available through, Harvard Library's Hollis Images. Specific albums have been completely digitized and links to those albums are provided in the finding aid.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: United Fruit Company Photograph Collection. Baker Library Historical Collections. Harvard Business School.

Related Materials

The Henry B. Arthur papers contain information on Latin America agribusiness and additional photographs of the United Fruit Company.
See also the Boston Fruit Company records and the Records of companies acquired by the United Fruit Company.

Historical Note:

The United Fruit Company was formed in 1899 when the Boston Fruit Company merged with several other companies that produced, imported, and marketed bananas from the Caribbean islands, Central America, and Colombia. The principal founder was Minor C. Keith, who developed banana plantations in Costa Rica beginning in the 1870s. During the early decades of the twentieth century, United Fruit's distribution networks spread throughout the United States and Europe. By 1930, the company had absorbed more than twenty rival firms and was the largest employer in Central America.
From its founding, the United Fruit Company acquired large, undeveloped tracts of land made available to it by Caribbean and Central and South American governments. The company cleared and planted these lands and developed extensive railroad and port facilities. It also built employee housing, schools for the children of employees, hospitals, and research laboratories. United Fruit's laboratories worked to develop disease-resistant crops, insecticides, and fungicides. The company operated a large fleet of steamships painted white to protect their cargo from the tropical sun. This "Great White Fleet" transported United Fruit's products to the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The United Fruit Company ultimately owned or leased property in Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, and numerous other Central American, South American, and the West Indian countries. It engaged in the production, transportation, and marketing of bananas, sugar, cocoa, abaca, and other tropical products.
In 1970, the United Fruit Company merged with AMK Corporation; the new corporation was called the United Brands Company. The company became Chiquita Brands International in 1990.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The collection consists of seventy-five photograph albums that document the United Fruit Company's operations in Central and South America, the West Indies, and the United States. The photographs were taken between 1891 and 1962, with the majority dating from the 1920s through the 1950s. The albums contain approximately 10,400 photographs that vary in size from 3 x 5 inches to 9 x 11 inches. Most of the photographs are accompanied by brief captions that describe their content.
The photographs depict agricultural operations, construction, and research activities undertaken by the company's many operating units. These units produced bananas, sugar, abaca (for use as hemp), cacao, palm oil, cattle, and mahogany. The operational activities illustrated include planting, spraying, irrigation, and harvesting. Photographs also depict the construction and running of railroads, the building of wharves, company towns, schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities. The photographs also include images of the damage cause to company properties by hurricanes, floods, windstorms, fires, and other natural disasters.

Container List