Creating an Orange Utopia: Eliza Lovell Tibbetts and the Birth of Californias Citrus Industry

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With the first fruits shown to local residents in , and much more widely in at Riverside's first formal Citrus Fair, this new citrus variety -- sometimes referred to as the "Riverside Navel" but officially known as the "Washington Navel" -- quickly became the star attraction. Its taste and texture was found to be far superior than the seeded Valencia variety grown in California's coastal areas, including nearby Orange County.

In general, Valencia's are used for juicing while navels are considered much tastier for eating. As word of Riverside's new thick-skinned and sun-kissed orange spread, local growers began requesting -- and obtaining -- budstock grafted straight from the Tibbets' two original trees grafting was required due to the oranges' lack of seeds. As such, these "parent navel" trees eventually propagated California's entire navel orange industry, making them one of the most successful fruit introductions in U.

By , there were more than half a million citrus trees in California, with nearly half planted in the Riverside area alone. Soon, wealthy easterners began flocking to Inland Southern California, buying large tracts of land for groves and building impressive homes. As a result, Riverside was the richest city per capita in the U. Today, reminders of the city's citrus legacy are still present, two of which directly credit Eliza and Luther Tibbets.

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Interestingly, a late fracture in the Tibbets' family ended up creating two distinct historical markers, both with the same planting year of , but each crediting either Eliza or Luther independently for the trees and their eventual success. At any rate, the most significant of these two reminders is located at the corner of Magnolia and Arlington avenues where one of the two original parent navel orange trees still stands bearing fruit.

Over the years, "grafting" budstock from it remained popular enough that the city eventually needed to protect the remaining parent navel by securing it behind a fence.

A plaque placed here in credits Eliza. The other significant item directly related to the parent navels is a tiny marker located at the corner of Central Avenue and Navel Court, near where the two trees originally stood at the former Tibbets' home long since paved over. Both parent navel trees were later replanted, one in at the fenced-off city corner previously mentioned and the other in during a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt to a courtyard inside the Mission Inn, where it died in Wall , citrus machinery and shipping facilities, the Gage Canal irrigation system and large swaths of orange groves along Victoria and Dufferin avenues.

And of course, there's the California Citrus State Historic Park , which includes a museum with interpretive exhibits, lush picnic areas, walking paths and working citrus groves. And although several structures, such as the Mission Inn, Riverside County Courthouse and numerous homes, owe their opulence to the once mighty citrus industry, probably the most significant entity stemming from Riverside's citrus legacy is the University of California at Riverside UCR campus.

The campus, home to nearly 20, students, has greatly expanded beyond its initial focus of citrus research and plays a major role within Inland Southern California's economy.

Patricia Ortlieb collection on Eliza L. Tibbets

And to think, it all began with two, seemingly inconspicuous navel orange trees planted in a fledgling Riverside garden by Eliza Lovell Tibbets. Photo Gallery: Riverside's Citrus Legacy. Related Guy A. Wilson sculptor OregonLive. Hall , Sunkist, WikiPedia. I like the new statue, but it really doesn't come across as Eliza to me due to the fact that she was an older woman when she planted the trees.

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I like your idea about her holding an orange! That would have been better. However, it is nice to see a new statue in the middle mall and it is a lovely statue, plus I do like the writing on the front as well that gives a nice summary. Also, I like how you mentioned how people still dispute if it was Eliza or Luther who planted the trees.

Patricia Ortlieb collection on Eliza L. Tibbets

On the back of the postcard it says in part of the writing, "I am asking your kind aid in correcting an error by giving credit to whom it is due. Luther C. Tibbets planted the first navel orange trees - two years before Eliza come to California. Krystal -- Yes, the statue is quite impressive, even if it's not exactly the Eliza we're accustomed to seeing.

Those involved with its creation remind us that even older folks were once young hence, the "younger" Eliza. Btw, we will be adding some more images soon, including one of the older Eliza. Historically, most of the credit for the parent navel trees has been given to Mrs.

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This is likely due to the fact that according U. Department of Agriculture documents, the trees were given to "Mrs. Tibbets, Riverside, Calif.


Though has become the "official" date, is another year often mentioned and some say, the correct date due to the trees' fruiting history -- we've clarified the post a bit in this regards. And, according to the late Tom Patterson in his Riverside history book -- A Colony For California -- even Luther himself once said the trees were planted in To make matters worse, the fracture in the family -- namely Luther's daughter Minnie Tibbets Mills' attempt to ensure her father received credit over Eliza as seen with your postcard -- added even more confusion to the trees' history. Minnie's claim was that Eliza arrived in Riverside after the planting. Therefore, she said it was Luther who planted the trees. Patterson's book does indicate that Luther indeed arrived in Riverside first, in December , with Eliza joining him sometime in , though some say it was , which could give Luther the "planting" credit. Peter Economy is associate editor of Leader to Leader , the award-winning publication of the Leader to Leader Institute.

Eliza Lovell Tibbets and the Birth of California's Citrus Industry

He has also written for the Venture Edge blog and a wide variety of websites and magazines. He lives in San Diego. Highly recommended, especially for California history shelves. Navel oranges brought great wealth to Riverside, and the citrus industry expanded into new towns such as Redlands, Tustin, Corona, and Pomona, dramatically changing the landscape and the course of CA history. Search the Site.

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