Thursday, December 15, 2011

F.Q. Story -- Sunkist in Alhambra
502 N. Story Place

Francis Quarles Story (1845-1932) came to L.A in 1883 from San Francisco, where he'd been in the wool business. He'd come west from Boston in 1877 for health reasons, where he had learned the wool trade. He must have had some success in San Francisco as after arriving in L.A. he bought 30+ acres in today's Alhambra, became a lead investor in the First National Bank of Los Angeles, built a new house, and started in the orange grove business. He married Miss Charlotte S.F. Devereux in 1876 in Boston, who accompanied him to Alhambra. She was to pass away in 1897. He had two older brothers, Maj. General John P. Story (1841-1915), U.S. Army retired, and Judge William Story (1843-1921) of Colorado.

By 1910 the yard in Alhambra was filled with mature trees. A photo of the house and surroundings:

F. Q. Story Residence 1910

In 1902 Francis was elected President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. He also was a member of the Southern California Fruit Growers Exchange, a cooperative of fruit growers founded to assist local associations in harvesting/marketing their fruit. Until the associations were begun, middlemen were collecting greater profits than the growers. In 1904 Francis was elected president, and in 1905 the organization became the California Fruit Growers Exchange, with Francis still president.  In fact, he remained president of the organization until his retirement in 1920 at age 75.

A crate label for Sunkist (from Wikipedia)
In 1908 as president he led a marketing campaign that went down in history as one of the greatest. How could someone "brand" oranges? After a test in Iowa showed the brand oranges increased per capita consumption by 47% in just one year vs. a national average increase of 17%, the Exchange knew it was on to something. They decided to keep the new name "Sunkist".

In an early effort to get the name Sunkist into the minds of customers, each orange was wrapped in branded paper. Customers who sent in those wrappers were entitled to premiums such as silverware and glass orange juicers.

Besides his fruit growing, Francis was also an early investor in Phoenix, Arizona. He purchased tracts in the 1880's, eventually selling the land in the early 1920's. One of those tracts today is known as the F.Q. Story Historic District.

As forward thinking a man as he was, Francis still stuck to some tried and true things.  This article from an issue of the 1909 Los Angeles Herald told it all.

July, 1909 courtesy of UCR

He did recover from the accident and continued to live in his same house in Alhambra. In 1928 he donated a portion of his land to the city of Alhambra which became the north half of today's Story Park.  And in 1930 the census shows him still there with a chauffeur, a cook, and two servants (the word nurse was crossed out!). Francis passed away in July, 1932 at age 86. He is buried alongside Charlotte in nearby San Gabriel Cemetery.

That year the California Growers report was introduced with the following honorarium:

"Another of the sturdy, clear-visioned pioneers of the Exchange passed away during the season—Francis Q. Story, honorary life president, who died on July 1 at the ripe old age of 87 years.

"For a quarter of a century the history of the Exchange and the life of Mr. Story were inseparably interwoven. Elected director of the organization in 1897, chosen vice-president the same year and president in 1904, he continued to head the organization until 1920, when he retired at the age of 75 years.

"While every forward movement in the industry had his support, Mr. Story is especially well known as father of the great Sunkist national advertising campaign. It was in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the prosperity of the Exchange that the position of honorary life president was created for him at the time of his retirement.

Mr. Story's largest contribution consists not, however, in the concrete enterprises sponsored and effected, but in his spirit of true altruism and devoted service, which will long continue to be an inspiration to all who knew him."

Today the house still stands in private ownership, with the tower and decoration removed.

502 Story Place today (courtesy of Google Maps)


  1. One of my favorite houses in Alhambra. I drive down this block every time I get the chance.

    1. I was born on Chapel and played in Story park everyday and always wondered who was why the park was named that. Now i made a facebook page just for Alhambra -

  2. Ok, since you're a local, you get to sneak in an offsite link...;-)

  3. I grew up behind this house, on Almansor. I loved playing in the Story house as a kid. And later, tended his grave when I worked at the SG Cemetery.

  4. I grew up in Alhambra and never knew the full history of Mr. Story. It is nice to know that the house still exists today as most of the historical homes and places were long destroyed instead of renovated, such as the Story home. Thank you for the info!

  5. For those of you Alhambran's consider seeing the Alhambra Historical Society Museum. They have limited open hours but will do private tour openings if you contact them. They have a site to get more information. Lots of historical things, books, news articles, etc. Worth seeing. :)

  6. As a long-time resident of F.Q. Story Historic District in Phoenix, this is a nice note on history to add to our archives.

  7. This is the most thorough history I’ve read about FQ Story. Thank you. I have lived in the Story House for 45 years. Sadly it had been significantly altered by previous owners. I would love to have seen it as it’s pictured here. It sat empty during four years of the Depression and had a fire that damaged parts of the upper floors.

    1. Glad you finally found it. Thanks for your comments.


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