If you've ever visited Ellis Island, you may remember stories of immigrants' first memories of food upon entry to the USA. Folks had never had a sandwich before. But what many remember most is being handed a banana. So how did this fragile, tropical fruit become synonymous with America?
The story begins with an immigrant, Samuel Zemurray, who noticed bananas on a ship in Mobile, AL. They were being discarded since they spoiled before they could leave the shipyard. Zemurray started selling the bananas out of boxcars in the 1890's. Grocers would meet the train as it passed through their towns and gradually a US market for bananas emerged. However, that was the easy part. As Zemurray sought land for more bananas in Central America, complications arose. Many people lost their lives building railroads to accommodate the new banana trade and Zemurray did whatever it took to keep business rolling.
From his start as an immigrant teenager he eventually "amassed a fortune to rival the Rockefellers," but he left many people unhappy and cheated in his wake. Check out NPR's story below for more on the banana king.
Read more: America's Gone Bananas: Here's How It Happened at NPR