GEORGE D. PARKER
The citrus industry of California and, in fact, wherever citrus fruits are grown, is vastly indebted to the inventive genius of the late George D. Parker of Riverside, who created and manufactured the box-making machine which has become absolutely indispensable to individuals and corporations engaged in the growing of citrus fruits.
Mr. Parker was a native son of the state of California, his birth having occurred at Mariposa on February 2, 1870. He was a son of Robert and Henrietta (Patterson) Parker. The former parent was born in the Dominion of Canada, of English descent, and came to California in the 1868. His wife was also a Canadian by birth.
When George D. Parker was only two years of age, his parents moved to Orange county, California, and here he grew up and received a public school education. After school hours he was employed in farm and orchard work near his home and elsewhere, and so continued until he was about twenty-five years of age. During this interval it was natural that he should become thoroughly familiar with the fruit industry, and about 1900 he began to develop his first box-making machine. After working around his uncle’s ranch in Washington for three years, he returned to California, where he took over the management and care of Doctor Sterling’s orange orchards in the highland district near Redlands, and here began the invention and perfection of his first box machine. As noted in detail in a subsequent paragraph, Mr. Parker was married in 1900 and brought his bride to Riverside, there to establish his home and finish the automatic box-making machine.
The special feature of this machine is its automatic operation. It was the first machine ever made which would handle the box stock, assembling it to fit and form the box, as well as driving the nails. The advent of this machine meant much to the orange trade. The first completed machine was sold to the Riverside Heights Packing House, No. 10. For some years, Mr. Parker did some of his experimenting and some of his manufacturing in the Stoner Iron Works plant on Eighth street. It was afterwards sold to Mr. Landwehr and became the Riverside Foundry & Machine Works, and later, in 1909, Mr. Parker purchased all of the other interests in the plant and became sole owner, the name being changed to the Parker Machine Works.
In this location, Mr. Parker continued to work and perfect his invention, and at the time of the World’s Fair in San Francisco he exhibited his automatic box-making machine, also his universal box machine, which was a larger mechanism which operated automatically and manufactured boxes at the rate of eighteen per minute. These machines attracted much attention among the thousands of visitors, and especially among those who were interested in citrus fruit culture. Mr. Parker was awarded gold medals for the quality of his exhibition and the advertising worth of placing his work before the people was of tremendous value. The one large machine which was there exhibited is now, after thirty years, still making boxes in Watsonville, California.
After the completion of his invention of the automatic box-making machines, Mr. Parker continued in his inspired work of inventing. He acquired many patents, including those on automatic nailing machines, on fruit separators, fruit sizers, fruit dryers, presses, fruit weighers, conveying systems, box emptying and elevating machines, combined elevators and conveyors, and pasting machines. It may be said that by 1920 there was not a carload of fruit shipped from California or Florida which did not pay tribute to Mr. Parker through the agency of his devices.
In 1920, Mr. Parker consolidated the citrus packing house business with the Fred Stebler interests. Mr. Parker and Mr. Stebler had had many suits and trails over packing house machinery and after Mr. Parker won several of the cases the two men decided to become friends. Consequently, they formed one corporation, with the two of them as principals. Mr. Parker retained his box-making machine business, which he left to his estate. During his business career, he was employing as many as one hundred and twenty-five mechanics. All making citrus packing machinery and box-making machinery. His plant is still developing and making the latter and box-nailing devices, and is the only plant in the United States specializing in automatic box-making machinery. Mr. Parker’s basic patents are all established and settled by court examination and decisions. There are many of these patents on automatic nailing machinery, eight on fruit sizers, four on fruit separators, six on fruit sorters, and other automatic machines. Mr. Parker had between fifty-five and sixty patents, thirteen of which were in foreign countries. His automatic machines have a capacity of twenty-five boxes each minute and Mr. Parker anticipated to increase this to thirty boxes a minute. Machines manufactured under the Parker patents make seventy-five per cent of all the fruit boxes made in California. Six years after they consolidated, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stebler sold their combined business to the food machinery interest for seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Mr. Parker, however, left his box-making machinery and the Parker wire-tying enterprise to his estate, which was held in trust for his widow.
Among the possessions of Mr. Parker were many letters from outstanding packers which fully prove the appreciation they held for his efforts to improve the facilities for handling oranges. One important packer stated in his letter that, aside from the price of the machinery, the purchaser was under decided obligation to the inventor for the improvement he made in the packing house machinery and business. The machines are now also placed in Porto Rico, In New Zealand and in Sweden.
In La Center, Washington, on June 6, 1900, Mr. Parker was married to Miss Clara Barr, who was born in Oregon of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. Her parents were George and Catherine (Baltes) Barr, both of whom are now deceased. George Barr, a native of Ohio, was a pioneer lumberman in Oregon and Washington, his mills being located in La Center, Washington. He was a natural mechanic and an able millwright. His wife was also a member of a pioneer Oregon family, but was born in Kentucky. Mrs. Parker survived her husband for about four years, passing away late in July, 1934.
The death of George D. Parker occurred on the 24th of August, 1930 , and California lost one of her most representative citizens, one who had many friends and was sincerely admired for his achievements in an industry so close to the hearts of Californians. Southern California is proud to include his imperishable record in its history.
Transcribed By: Cecelia M. Setty.
Source: California of the South Vol. V, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 85-88, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 Cecelia M. Setty.