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S2:E5 | 6.20.2019

The OGs of America's Oranges

Every California navel orange you've ever eaten can be traced back to two trees in the front yard of Eliza Tibbet's Riverside, California home. This is the little known story of how an amateur farmer with utopian dreams launched an entire industry.

About This Episode

Eliza Tibbets was ahead of her time. She was a suffragist, an abolitionist, held regular seances in her home, and lived in a utopian community. And in Riverside, California, she was also considered the unofficial queen of the orange industry. As local legend has it, every navel orange tree in the Golden state can be traced back to cuttings from the two parent trees in Eliza’s front yard. This is the little known story of how an amateur farmer with utopian dreams launched an entire industry.

Transcript

Bridget Lancaster: By most accounts, Eliza Tibbets had led a pretty colorful life. Born in Cincinnati in 1823, she had lived in a utopian community in Virginia, held regular seances in her home to contact the dead, and at one point had been married to a steamboat captain. In the 1860s, Eliza marched in Washington D.C. for abolition and women's suffrage. She was considered somewhat of a trendsetter. Eliza modeled her style after England's Queen Victoria: the ringlets in her hair, high lace collars, the brooch, the whole package.

In the 1870s, Eliza—now married to her third husband Luther—moved from D.C. to Riverside, California, a small community about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. They looked for crops to grow. They planted a couple of fruit trees. And changed the Cali…

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