Fred Stebler arrived in Riverside in 1899 and left his mark on the Southern California citrus industry with his invention of packing house equipment. Stebler started the California Iron Works often improving machinery that already existed. His first real success was a mechanical sizer. He bought the patent and redesigned it so successfully it became the industry standard. His business success came not only from the creation of new devices, but from selling useful equipment made by others. He also created utility items others hadn’t previously considered. Stebler’s innovations gradually led to standardization of the layout of packing lines at the packing houses, with Stebler’s own equipment dominating, of course.
Stebler’s competitive style brought him into conflict not only with business rivals but also customers who wanted more choice. Through a series of business maneuvers, Stebler and his two largest competitors ended up coming together under the umbrella of the nationwide Food Machinery Corporation, Citrus Machinery Division, which under Stebler’s leadership became the undisputed and dominant giant of citrus machinery production.
By the end of his career, Stebler held approximately 40 U.S. patents on fruit processing equipment including conveyors, washers, dryers, clamp trucks, elevators, dumpers, labelers, separators, and fruit distributors.