February 6 - 1912: The Banana King is born in Wellfleet

2007: Woman sues HAC. 2006: Pit bull closes mall. Bourne dodgeball brouhaha
Wellfleet's Lorenzo Dow Baker.

2007: Homeless advocate sues Housing Assistance Corp. over firing

Sandwich woman opposed scaling down Dana Fields

On this day in 2007 Livia Munck Davis had fought for her dream of a farm on Cape Cod where once-homeless men and women would live and work together for more than a decade. Through relentless controversy, she steered a steady course for the groundbreaking project known as Dana’s Fields, convinced that one day it would become a reality. Instead, Davis says, her dream was dismantled.

In a lawsuit filed in Barnstable Superior Court, she asserts that she was unjustly fired by her longtime employer, the nonprofit Housing Assistance Corporation, the project’s developer, because she opposed its plans to dramatically scale back the number of homeless people to be served by the new program.

Slated for 47 acres of former farmland in Sandwich, town officials approved the Dana’s Fields development two weeks ago after years of battle between its proponents and some nearby homeowners. Neighbors argued that housing for the homeless would drive up crime rates and depress property values. In time, their opposition forced project leaders to retreat from the model Davis first championed.

2006: Pit bull attack closes Hyannis Christmas Tree Mall

Boston TV station WCVB reported this morning that a raging pit bull forced police to evacuate the Christmas Tree Mall in Hyannis briefly last night.

2006: Dodge ball banned in Bourne

WBZ-TV offered a video today about the Bourne dodge ball controversy which ended with the sports being banned in that Upper Cape town. 

1912: How a Wellfleet sea captain bolstered the banana business

On this day in 1912, as reported in The Van Nuys News and The Van Nuys Call, under the headline "Banana Raising in Costa Rica":

"Forty years ago the banana was not as well known in the United States as the alligator pear is today. Within the memory of two generations the imports of this fruit have grown from nil to 40 million bunches. Three billion bananas, retailing for $35 million; that is the banana budget of the United States for 1910.

The fruit has made this remarkable advancement in public favor 'strictly on its merits,' to use a commercial colloquialism. Capt. Lorenzo Dow Baker of Cape Cod brought a few bunches of bananas from Jamaica to New York in 1870, and although this was not the first time the fruit had found its way to the United States shores, still he became the father of the banana business, for the importation proved an instant commercial success.

The fruit was high-priced in the market where a brisk demand furnished the inspiration for the great banana industry of today.

From the Wellfleet Library newsletter:

Even though Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker was born in Wellfleet in 1840, he spent 21 years of his adult life as a part time resident. Having made his fortune in the banana trade by the time he was 41 years old, he found himself lonely and depressed because his business interests required him to be in Jamaica so much of the time while his family lived in Wellfleet. Consequently, in 1881, he moved his wife and 4 children to Jamaica. He and his family spent most of the year in Jamaica and lived in Wellfleet during the summer and early fall.

Early life

As the 8th & youngest child of a fisherman and his wife, Alonzo grew up on a homestead on Bound Brook Island on the bay side of northern Wellfleet. When he was 6, his mother died and his dad married a widow with several children of her own. Needless to say, his was not an easy life. He was apprenticed to a fishing captain at age 10, became a cook on a fishing schooner at age 15 and was considered an outstanding fisherman at the age of 18. By age 20, he was captain of a fishing schooner and eventually owned his own fishing schooner, "Vineyard". He married his childhood sweetheart, Martha, when he was 21 and she was 17. They had 4 children, Lorenzo Jr., Joshua, Martha and Reuben. He was a devout Methodist and a devoted husband and family man. For nine years, he made his living as a sea captain and fisherman.

Banana Trade

In 1870, at age 30, Captain Baker made his first voyage to the tropics with his newly purchased ship, "Telegraph". His cargo was mining equipment for Venezuela. On his return, he picked up a cargo of bamboo in Jamaica, where he tasted his first banana. He decided to introduce the exotic fruit to northern markets and he included some bunches in his cargo. However, upon arrival in New York City, the bananas were spoiled and could not be sold. Captain Baker was not deterred. The next year, he returned to Jamaica and loaded his ship with unripe (green) bananas. This time the bananas were just ripe enough when he docked in New York to earn a substantial profit.

Captain Baker spent the next 10 years expanding and developing his fruit importing business which became the foundation of the Boston Fruit Co. and made possible the giant conglomerate United Fruit Company (Chiquita brand) that still exists to this day. He acquired business partners and formed a company called L. D. Baker Company in 1879. The Boston Fruit Company evolved from it in 1885. His companies purchased 7 plantations in Jamaica to grow the bananas; purchased many ships to quickly transport the fruit to northern markets; and created a marketing group to advertise and create demand for the fruit in the northern states.

Sadly, Captain Baker lost control of his Boston Fruit Company in 1889. The other members of the board of directors secretly purchased enough shares in the company to achieve a majority ownership and forced him off the governing board.

The other members of the board felt that Captain Baker was stifling the further development of the company with his distrust of corporate financiers, and his unbending will to continue small business practices to manage a huge and expanding corporation. When the remaining board members created The United Fruit Company, he was not included.
Below is a painting byEdw. A. Wilson of Baker's Schooner Telgraph in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Courtesy of Wiki Commons.

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