JACKSONVILLE, Texas – Here in the Lone Star State buckets have been known to carry the load, but for 100s of years prior to that baskets were used for your bushels of bluebonnets or Texas citrus. And over in East Texas there’s a company that’s been weaving the wood of these baskets since 1919.
As the sun rises on East Texas, another day gets underway in Jacksonville.
Known as the “Tomato Capital of the World”, this Cherokee County city has a connection to the forgotten fruit that’s flowed the life blood of the town for over 100 years. The weight this particular produce carries could be quite cumbersome so a company was formed to help carry the load, The Texas Basket Company.
Martin Swanson grew up in Jacksonville, but baskets weren’t on his mind when he was a young man.
During his college years, Martin completed a college project about the company and realized that putting all his eggs in this basket might not be a bad idea.
“Got an A on the class. Bought the only A I got,” Martin said. “We got really interested in the place, and that’s how I got interested and came back. My dad and I bought the place.”
Five days a week of making baskets might make some a basket case, but the traditional method of making these bushels is mesmerizing. This mesmerizing process helped Martin fall in love with the company before purchasing it.
“The whole process was just so neat,” Martin said. “I always kind of liked to make things, but just the whole process of starting with the log and ending up with the basket was just a really unique process.”
Not much has changed since the mid-70s when Martin took over the business; heck not much has changed since 1919.
“The machines date back to the 40s and we have to keep the machines up and work on them a repair them,” Mating informed us. “Nobody makes basket machinery any more. Everything’s basically the same.”
Being the biggest producer of baskets in the U.S. can be a bit busier than you might imagine. Each week 40,000 baskets are bound together at The Texas Basket Company, but you won’t just find your typical type of basket here.
“We make every state in the United State,” Martin shared. “The hardest one to make is Maryland, and nobody wants the rectangular square shaped states like Colorado and Nebraska too much, North Dakota and South Dakota.”
While the square states tend to be the least popular, Martin said Texas is by far their bestselling state shaped basket.
Whether it’s to hold eggs, fruit, candy, or wine these baskets provide the world with a unique Texas treasure found in the town known for tomatoes.
“It’s the only one it Texas and it’s real, real unique,” Martin said. “And most everybody enjoys it when they come here.”