A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from January 05, 2008
Spinach Capital of the World (Crystal City nickname)

Crystal City in Zavala County has been called “Spinach Capital of the World” since at least 1933-34. In 1936, the annual Crystal City Spinach Festival was started. In 1937, Crystal City erected a statue (now in front of its city hall) to Popeye the Sailor, the then-famous cartoon character who achieved great strength by eating spinach.

Alma, Arkansas also claims to be “Spinach Capital of the World.”

Wikipedia: Crystal City, Texas
Crystal City is a city in Zavala County, Texas, United States. The population was 7,190 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Zavala CountyGR6. The mascot of Crystal City High School is the Javelina.

On March 26, 1937, spinach growers erected a statue of the cartoon character Popeye in the town because his reliance on spinach for strength led to greater popularity for the vegetable. See the Popeye statue web entry.
Early in its history the area known as the “Winter Garden District” was deemed the “Spinach Capital of the World.” The first Spinach Festival was held in 1936. It was put on hold during World War II and later years. The Festival was resumed in 1982. The Spinach Festival is held to this day on the second weekend in November and draws former residents (many of them former migrant farm workers) from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Washington State and beyond.

Handbook of Texas Online
CRYSTAL CITY, TEXAS. Crystal City, the county seat of Zavala County, is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 83, Farm roads 393, 16, 1433, 65, and 582, and the Missouri Pacific Railroad, one mile north of the Dimmit county line in south central Zavala County. Two land developers, Carl F. Groos and E. J. Buckingham, developed the town in the early 1900s. In 1905 they purchased the 10,000-acre Cross S Ranch, sold off most of the land as farms, and platted the townsite of Crystal City, named for the clear artesian water of the area. The town received a post office in 1908, the same year the Crystal City and Uvalde Railway provided the first rail service to the community and the first school building was erected. Crystal City was incorporated in 1910, when it had an estimated 530 inhabitants, and by 1914 the community had a bank, three general stores, and the weekly Chronicle. In 1928 the county voted to make Crystal City the county seat, and that same year the community added a city manager to its mayor-council government. As soon as the railroad reached Crystal City, the community became a major shipping point for winter vegetables. At first onions were the major crop, but by the 1930s the city developed a reputation as the “Spinach Capital of the World.” In 1936 the first annual spinach festival was held, and the following year a statue of the cartoon character Popeye, that mighty consumer of spinach, was erected across from the city hall. Carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables were also marketed, and a vegetable cannery was opened in 1932.
The population declined somewhat during the 1960s, to 8,104 in 1970, and remained relatively static through the 1980s. In 1990 Crystal City’s 8,263 residents represented almost 70 percent of the county population. The annual November spinach festival, which was halted by World War II, was resumed in 1982.

Handbook of Texas Online
POPEYE. Popeye, the Sailor Man, renowned comic-strip character, is perhaps the most famous native son of Victoria, Texas. The Victoria Advocate is credited as the first newspaper in the nation to run Elzie Crisler Segar’s comic strip, originally called “Thimble Theatre,” which starred the spinach-eating hero. Segar (1894-1938) was born in Chester, Illinois, and worked as a moving-picture machine operator, a house painter, and a photographer before his first cartoon effort was rejected by a St. Louis paper. After taking an eighteen-month correspondence course in cartoon drawing he got a job on the Chicago Herald through the influence of “Buster Brown” cartoonist R. F. Outcault. Segar drew “Charlie Chaplin’s Comic Capers” for two years, until the Herald went out of business; he then worked in 1917 for the Chicago Evening American, where he drew “Looping the Loop,” a cartoon covering local events.
The cartoon series was animated in 1932 under the direction of Max Fleischer, and Sammy Lerner composed the words and music to the theme song, “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.” After Segar’s death the newspaper series “Thimble Theatre” was written by Tom Sims, then Ralph Stein; the artwork was drawn by Doc Winner, then Bill Zaboly. Joe Musial and Bud Sagendorf later produced the series, and Sagendorf drew the comic-book version until George Wildman and Bill Pearson took over in the 1970s. The spinach industry credited Popeye and Segar with the 33 percent increase in spinach consumption from 1931 to 1936, and in 1937 Crystal City, Texas, the “Spinach Capital of the World,” erected a statue to honor Segar and his sailor. 

Texas Escapes
“Spinach Capital of the World”
Zavala County Seat, South Texas
US 83 and FM 65
40 miles S of Uvalde
120 miles SW of San Antonio
10 miles N of Carrizo Springs
43 miles E of Eagle Pass
Population: 7190 (2000)

History in a Spinach Can
The counties of this region (other than the border counties) have similar histories. Most towns were born with the arrival of the railroad or when irrigation technology took advantage of the numerous wells and springs.

Carl F. Groos and E. J. Buckingham, were developers who opened the town in the early 1900s. They bought a 10,000-acre ranch in 1905, platted the townsite of Crystal City and sold off land in smaller parcels for farms.

In 1908 Crystal City was granted a post office and the Crystal City and Uvalde Railway provided the first rail service.

In 1910 with a healthy population of 350 – the town incorporated.

An election held in 1928 made Crystal City the county seat.

The arrival of the railroad meant a market for produce and especially winter vegetables for northern markets. Onions were the first crop introduced, but spinach replaced the onion crop and now Crystal City is “Spinach Capital of the World”

The first annual spinach festival took place in 1936 and the Spinach Festival maintains an office in downtown Crystal City. The Spinach Festival was resumed in 1982 after being suspended during World War II.

A statue of Popeye was erected with the blessing of the sailorman’s creator in 1937. It ranks high in the pantheon of less-than-serious statues in Texas. Today the pipe-smoking sailor stands in front of city hall – sharing the same banishment of other tobacco users.

Wikipedia: Alma, Arkansas
Alma is a town located in Crawford County in western Arkansas, about 13 miles from the Oklahoma border along the I-40 corridor. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of Alma is 4,734, making it the sixth largest town in the Fort Smith Arkansas-Oklahoma Statistical Area.
The Spinach Capital of the World
The city of Alma claims to be “the spinach capital of the world.” This designation was adopted because Alma surrounds the spinach plant of the Allen Canning Company. The city has several landmarks and events to commemorate its connection with the green, leafy vegetable:

1. A statue of Popeye stands in the downtown area.
2. The city’s water towers, which stand prominently above Lake Alma, have been painted green, and one of them displays a Popeye Brand spinach can label. The towers are known as the “largest cans of spinach in the world.”
3. The city also hosts a Spinach Festival each April. Popeye himself has been known to make an appearance at this event.
4. Allen’s canning company cans and ships spinach.
5. Due to the large export of spinach, and other canned goods, from The Allen Canning Co. Alma, AR is called the “Spinach Capital of the World”.

Alma - Spinach Capital of the World
Alma, Arkansas calls itself the Spinach Capital of the World. Here’s how that happened. Back in 1987, residents George Bowles and Wolf Grulkey were sitting around drinking coffee and doing some noggin scratching over the question of how to put their little community of 2500 on the map. Spinach is what they came up with. At the time, Alma-based Allen Canning Company canned way over half (65%, according to the paper) of all the spinach canned in the U.S., some 60 million pounds a year coming from the local area. And if you’re the Spinach Capital of the U.S., then you’re the Spinach Capital of the whole darn world, by gum. That was the thinking, and nobody argued but the Texans.

Well, one Texan briefly considered putting up a fight. It was Dale Barker, publisher of the Zavala County Sentinel that sent Bowles an unsigned postcard reading “Greetings from the spinach capital of the world—Crystal Springs, Texas,” thus announcing that they had since 1937 been and continued in 1987 to be, thanks to the local Del Monte cannery; and by the way THEY had a statue of Popeye, the cartoon patron of all things spinachy, in the town square and therefore they and not the hillbilly usurpers were the true and legitimate Spinach Capital of the World, thank you very much.

Bowles tried to stir up some publicity by fomenting a good-humored rivalry between the towns. He shipped a package of Popeye Brand spinach (Allen Canning is the official licensee of the Popeye trademark.). Also in the package was a bundle of Arkansas soil and a bottle of Arkansas water (Texas has for years tried to buy agricultural water from Arkansas.). Bowles never heard back from Crystal City. I have to conclude that they would have been embarassed to contest Alma’s claim.

11 February 1933, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 16, col. 2:
Spinach usually can stand a temperature as low as 20, Longine said, but the minimum at Carrino Springs, the spinach capital of the world, was 17 degrees. 

19 April 1934, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 32, col. 3:
Now comes Crystal City, Texas with a claim it is the “recognized spinach capital of the world.”

More than that, it flaunts the assertion with a celebration, recalling that it was five hundred years ago when the Persians discovered that “spinach can be eaten as a food.” If it had not been for the Persians we might have been in ignorance, which in some would be blissful, and there might never have been a Crystal City, Texas.

We oppose Crystal City, though we are not among the enemies of spinach. Why brave international consequences by bringing in the Persians in manner to make many a small boy grow up with the determination, one day, to make war on the people who put spinach on the plate?

17 March 1936, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 14, col. 3:
Crystal City Ready for First
Event of its Kind; to
Last Three Days
CRYSTAL CITY, March 16.—St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and the Irish color is green which, of course, is the color of spinach. So Crystal City, spinach capital of the United States, will launch its first Spinach Festival here Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day, with a parade at 10 o’clock headed by the McMurray College Band from Abilene.
The Spinach Festival is being sponsored by the Crystal City Chamber of Commerce.

24 April 1936, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 2A, col. 4 photo caption:
E. C. Segar and his amazing creation, Popeye the Sailor, greet Mayor Bruce Holmsomback of Crystal City, Texas, the spinach capital of the world, on the mayor’s arrival in New York. Crystal City is erecting a statue in Popeye’s honor.

15 February 1970, Galveston (TX) , pg. 12A, col. 2:
“Tourist Talk,” official publication of the Texas Tourist Council, outlines the 12 world capitals Texas brags about:

Crystal City, spinach capital; Tyler, rose capital; Bandera, cowboy capital; Terlingua, chili capital (population 9 people); Perryton, wheat capital; Friona, maize capital; New Braunfels, sausage capital; Comanche, peanut capital; San Angelo, wool capital; Amarillo, helium gas capital; and San Saba, pecan capital. 

3 September 1972, New York (NY) Times, pg. E3:
EL PASO—La Raza Unida, a burgeoning political party of Mexican-Americans, was started in 1969 on the dusty back streets of the Southwest Texas town of Crystal City, the “spinach capital” of the world.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Saturday, January 05, 2008 • Permalink