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The United Fruit Company and Percy Daniels

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

Several voyages from 1915 and 1916 show my paternal great-grandfather, Percy Henry Daniels, among the crew sailing aboard the steam ship S.S. Abangarez. After some research, I learned that the ship was owned by United Fruit Company[1], an American corporation based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. This may explain why Percy had an address in both New Orleans and in New York City.

United Fruit Co. owned a large amount of land in Central America, and exported fruit, primarily bananas, to the U.S. and elsewhere. They also offered Caribbean cruises, bringing tourism to central America[2]. Today, some critics blame United Fruit Company for the ongoing conflicts in Guatemala, Colombia, and Honduras.

Eli M. Black bought the majority of shares of United Fruit in 1968 and merged it with his own public company in 1970, forming United Brands Company. Poor management and Hurricane Fifi in 1974 caused major losses and the following year Black committed suicide. In 1975 American Financial Group bought into the company and in 1984, Carl Lindner, Jr. took control and changed the name to Chiquita Brands International.

Percy sailed between Havana, Cuba, and New Orleans, Louisiana, multiple times in 1915 and 1916. The trip took two days each way. For more of Percy's travels and life, click here.

As for the Steamship Abangarez, on October 28, 1923, the vessel was involved in a collision with the USS O-5 submarine in Limon Bay off Panama, causing the sinking of the sub and resulting in three deaths.[5]

The Abangarez was scrapped in 1947 ending a 38 year run.

S.S. Abangarez in 1943 Source: MARAD Maritime Administration, U.S.D.O.T. [Link]

[1] MARAD Maritime Administration, U.S.D.O.T. [Link]

[2] James W. Martin, (2016) "The United Fruit Company's tourist business and the creation of the “Golden Caribbean”, 1899-1940", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 8 Issue: 2, pp.238-262,

[3] Wikipedia article "United Fruit company" [Link]

[4] Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collection (Newberry Library) [Link]

[5] Naval History and Heritage Command [Link]


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