According to census data, Charles J. (C.J.) Stuart appeared in Puyallup in the late 1800s as an agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and later served as president of Citizens State Bank. But Stuart has long been best known to this community through the accompanying photo from the historical society’s collection.
From this photo, we honor Stuart as the inventor of a refrigerated box that made long distance delivery of fresh fruits possible.
The impact of this invention for the local economy was quite significant. Puyallup and Sumner Fruit Growers’ Association would send “drummers,” or traveling salesmen, into the Midwest. There they would gather orders for fresh fruits, which were then combined to fill boxcar loads. But how exactly did this fruit container work?
The Internet is a wonderful thing. Tulika Makaria, in the Puyallup City Manager’s office, reported one day that she had found Mr. Stuart’s patent on Google-patents.
Sure enough, there it is in black and white. Mr. Stuart is the holder of U.S. Patent Number 643013, dated Feb. 6, 1900. A copy of the drawing of this invention accompanies this article.
In Mr. Stuart’s own words, “The object of the invention is to so construct a refrigerator-box that the ice may be easily and expeditiously replenished as necessary without handling the box or disturbing the fruit when the boxes are placed one upon the other…. My invention provides for the refilling of the ice-pans without disturbing or handling the boxes, as all that is necessary is to unfasten the hinged section 4 from the cover, swing it down, remove the pan, fill it with ice, and then put it back in place in the box, after which the hinged section is raised and secured in position.
“It will be noticed that the hinged section, like the sides of the box, is provided with slats to form ducts that communicate with the air-ducts in the front side of the box, so as to furnish the goods within the box with a free circulation of cold air.”
Lest anyone think that Mr. Stuart was a one-trick pony, he also holds a patent with George E. Zimmer for an automatic brake for a rail station hand truck, dated 1905. Such hand trucks were the primary products of Heimbach Manufacturing, located where Larson Glass is today.