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Uneeda Banana: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "National Fruit Co." Salvatore Scalco's produce business on Louisiana Avenue. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "National Fruit Co." Salvatore Scalco's produce business on Louisiana Avenue. National Photo glass negative. View full size.


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Joe Tortorice

This is amazing. My great grand uncle Joseph Tortorice was a banana deliveryman for National Fruit from the 1920s until sometime in the '30s. I wonder if that's him in the photo?

Salvatore Scalco

Salvatore Scalco was my Grandfather. Thank you for posting the articles about him.

Back to old Louisiana

Another view of the "old" Louisiana Avenue, a section of which survives as Indiana Avenue NW:

It apparently had a long run as a hub for produce, dairy, and meat wholesalers - here's a view from 1906:

Gone Bananas

I believe those bananas on the cart are of the Gros Michel variety. Bigger and better tasting than the ones we find in the supermarket today. Apparently they are nearly extinct, victims of a banana disease.

I wish I could go back in time for a taste test.

Banana Benefit

Washington Post, Nov 15, 1925

Sales of Bananas Net $100 For Red Cross

About $100 was collected for the Red Cross yesterday by Salvadore Scalco, local fruit merchant, who auctioned a wagon load of bananas to government workers at the Munitions and Navy buildings. A crowd quickly gathered and purchased the fruit as Scalco, with true Italian fervor, delivered an impassioned plea in favor of the District roll call fund of the Red Cross.

The groups of government employees appeared particularly impressed with the orator's eloquence after Gen. John A Johnston, chairman of the roll call for the District chapter of the Red Cross, explained that "this native Italian is doing this to show his gratitude toward the great country which gave him is opportunity." Scalco himself referred several times to his appreciation of the advantages accorded him by the United States. He said he had "not forgotten, either, the help the American Red Cross gave Italy."

So enthusiastic was the auctioneer that many who came to stare remained to buy. Once a policeman, on duty in the vicinity of the Navy building, interrupted the speaker, but Scalco presented credentials from Maj. Hesse, superintendent of police, authorizing him to hold the banana sale. His cry of "Bananas! Buy a nice bunch for the benefit of the Red Cross!" sometimes brought more that a dollar for a single bunch of fruit.

Last year Scalco held a similar sale for the Red Cross, netting about $200 to the organization fund. He did not appear entirely satisfied with the proceeds of yesterday's work, and promised the chairman of the roll call to arrange for another sale for the benefit of the organization.

Years ago Scalco came to the United States as a poor immigrant. Today, he has established himself in a profitable fruit business, officials of the Red Cross stated. Annually, he holds a sale of bananas to evidence his appreciation of the opportunities afforded him here.

Washington Post, Jan 31, 1926

Banana Ban Stirs City Fruit Dealer

Salvatore Scalco, Head of the Largest
Company here, Protests Ruling at Jail.

Maj. W.L. Peak's reported ban against receipt of bananas by prisoners in the District jail has roused the ire of Salvatore Scalco, president of the National Fruit Co., Inc., one of the largest dealers in bananas in Washington.

"Bananas," said Mr. Scalco, "are very nutritive, enjoyable fruit and are not more susceptible to being made carriers for hidden saws than apples and oranges may be made vehicles for poisons or what you will."

Not content with his own efforts to have the ban raised, Mr. Scalco has forwarded to national fruit companies copies of the story printed in the Post and insists they get busy against the ban. "If bananas are left on the stalk nothing can be inserted in them without breaking the skin and this can be detected easily," he declared.

Sure it's Washington?

It is Lawrence Ave, not Louisiana - check out the canvas sign - and I can't locate a Lawrence Ave NW.

Unless DC has changed street names.....

The tag on the building sign says "OJ Guide CO. N.Y.". Now would they be painting walls in Washington?

[You're confusing the name of a business with the name of the street. Lawrence, Abell & Co. was the wholesale grocer at 723 Louisiana Avenue. O.J. Gude (later General Outdoor) is the New York-based ad agency that sold space for the sign. - Dave]

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