Fonds F001 - United Fruit Company fonds

Identity area

Reference code



United Fruit Company fonds


  • 1912-2004 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

52 cm of textual records (4 boxes)
7 photographs: b&w; 19 x 24 cm or smaller
4 maps: 55 x 91 cm or smaller

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The United Fruit Company was an American corporation formed on 30 March 1899 as a result of a merger of the Boston Fruit Company headed by Andrew Preston and Lorenzo Dow Baker, and the Costa Rican, Panamanian and Colombian railroad and plantation holdings of American railroad financier Minor C. Keith’s Tropical Trading & Transport Company.

Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Andrew Preston served as the company’s first president until his death in 1924. In 1930, the United Fruit Company acquired Cuyamel Fruit Company, a competitor company headed by Samuel Zemurray, who went on to become managing director in charge of operations, then president of the company from 1938 to 1951.

By the mid-1900s, the United Fruit Company controlled (owned or leased) property made available to them by governments in multiple Caribbean and Central and South American countries including in Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and Panama. The company imported products grown on its plantations in Latin America (primarily bananas but also sugar, cocoa and other tropical products) transporting them to sell in North American and European markets.

Thomas E. Sunderland served as company president from 1960-1968. In 1970, the United Fruit Company merged with Eli Black’s AMK Corporation, renaming this new entity the United Brands Company. Following the suicide and bribery scandal involving Black and company operations in Honduras, the company rebranded itself as Chiquita Brands International in 1990.

Name of creator

(c. 1900-2003)

Administrative history

The Chiriqui Land Company was a United Fruit Company subsidiary, operating plantations in the Sixaola District in Costa Rica and the Bocas del Toro and Armuelles divisions in Panama.

Archival history

Material in this fonds consists primarily of corporate records created and/or received by the Chiriqui Land Company, a United Fruit Company (UFC) subsidiary that spanned the borders of Costa Rica and Panama. UFC central headquarters in the United States of America had ordered the material to be destroyed but had been retained in an attic of a semi-abandoned warehouse of the Costa Rican Chiriqui Land Company plantation. In the early 1980s when Philippe Bourgois was doing his fieldwork, the warehouse manager gave Bourgois permission to take whatever documents he wanted back with him to the United States. In May 2019, the material was sold and transferred to the University of Toronto Mississauga Library.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Purchased from P. Bourgois, 2019.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds contains primarily corporate records created, received, or used by management within the Chiriqui Land Company. Records include correspondence, memoranda, monthly production statistics and financial reports, personnel records, annotated newspaper clippings, some maps and photographs. The fonds consists of the following series:

  • Series 1: Government relations
  • Series 2: Labour & ethnicity
  • Series 3: Labour supply & conditions
  • Series 4: Labour organizing
  • Series 5: Marcus Garvey
  • Series 6: Non-thematic groupings
  • Series 7: Interdivision visits & reports
  • Series 8: Statistics & reports
  • Series 9: Chronologically organized letters
  • Series 10: Maps & photographs

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


No further accruals expected.

System of arrangement

The original order of the records as they were maintained by the Chiriqui Land Company is unknown as this current fonds consists of only the portion that Philippe Bourgois selected from the original archive. He organized this selection into file folders, labelled and arranged them thematically in the 1980s for the purposes of his doctoral thesis and the resulting monograph Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation. The themes are:

  • Development of monopoly power relationships with host-country governments
  • Organization of ethnic-specific strategies to increase labour control
  • Repression of labor discontent and labor-union organizing

Portions of the material were subsequently copied, some originals interfiled with copies, lent out, extracted then re-filed with other material, and otherwise rearranged over the years. Bourgois’ ‘original order’ has been retained when both discernable and meaningful, but otherwise arranged by the archivist.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Restricted to protect the privacy of third parties and/or for preservation purposes. Contact the Archives & Special Collections Staff ( for information about accessing these records.

Conditions governing reproduction

UTM Library does not own copyright. The user is responsible for obtaining permission from all applicable rights holders to publish any part of the material.

Language of material

  • English
  • Spanish

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

See also the Philippe Bourgois fonds at UTM Library, Archives & Special Collections (forthcoming).

The following related collections can be found at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University:

Related descriptions

Notes area


Processing of Spanish language material and translation of the fonds-level finding aid description into Spanish by Juan Antonio Bobadilla, funded by the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI)’s Winter 2022 Undergraduate Student Fellowship.

Spanish finding aid forthcoming.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Created: 20 July 2022, T. Shida & J. A. Bobadilla




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