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9780804738798

Beasts of the Field

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780804738798

  • ISBN10:

    0804738793

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-03-01
  • Publisher: Stanford Univ Pr

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Summary

Written by one of America's preeminent labor historians, this book is the definitive account of one of the most spectacular, captivating, complex and strangely neglected stories in Western history--the emergence of migratory farmworkers and the development of California agriculture. Street has systematically worked his way through a mountain of archival materials--more than 500 manuscript collections, scattered in 22 states, including Spain and Mexico--to follow the farmworker story from its beginnings on Spanish missions into the second decade of the twentieth century. The result is a comprehensive tour de force. Scene by scene, the epic narrative clarifies and breathes new life into a controversial and instructive saga long surrounded by myth, conjecture, and scholarly neglect. With its panoramic view spanning 144 years and moving from the US-Mexico border to Oregon, Beasts of the Fieldreveals diverse patterns of life and labor in the fields that varied among different crops, regions, time periods, and racial and ethic groups. Enormous in scope, packed with surprising twists and turns, and devastating in impact, this compelling, revelatory work of American social history will inform generations to come of the history of California and the nation.

Author Biography

Richard Steven Street is an independent scholar and writer. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and has also been a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. He earned his doctorate in American labor history at the University of Wisconsin, and has been an award-winning photographer and journalist specializing in California agriculture and agricultural labor. He is the author of Organizing for Our Lives: New Voices from Rural Communities (1992). He is currently finishing a multivolume history of California farmworkers.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xiii
Preface xv
BOOK ONE FOUNDATIONS IN CONQUEST
Chapter One In the Nets of Heaven: The Campesino on the Spanish Frontier
3(18)
California's first farmworkers are transplanted north from Baja California in 1769, a movement instigated by the grand imperial plans of two remarkable men: Padre Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary in the service of God; and Jose de Galvez, a powerful Spanish official bent on empire. The journey is long, treacherous, and deadly.
Chapter Two Bird Herders, Stirrup Boys, and Naked Winemakers: Assembling a Labor Force
21(17)
Gathered on twenty-one self-contained, plantation-like outposts, thousands of native Californians merge field labor and survival skills in the service of religion and colonization. Padre Junipero Serra and his Franciscan brothers insist they are preparing natives for an independent life. They ultimately exert an opposite effect.
Chapter Three Always Trembling With Fear: Controlling Mission Farmworkers
38(22)
Unable to leave and with few individual rights, mission field hands are directed by an integrated system of control ranging from imprisonment and leg irons to whipping and public humiliation. Though not slaves, neither are they free.
Chapter Four No Longer Keep Us By Force: Accommodation and Resistance Among Mission Field Hands
60(29)
Field hands wage full-scale revolts at Santa Inez, La Purisma, and Santa Barbara missions. Gardeners at Santa Cruz mission hate Padre Andres Quintana so passionately that they murder him. Most natives resist by fleeing; so many run away that the padres must constantly send armed expeditions to hunt them down.
BOOK TWO THE MEANING OF FREELABOR
Chapter Five Not Free to Be Idle: Life and Labor on the Mexican Ranchos and American Farms
89(26)
Free of Franciscan domination, field hands in the 1830's and 1840's find themselves trading labor for a blanket, a bowl of gruel, or less. At Sutter's Fort, farmhands are kept in line by the macabre sight of the severed and rotting head of a native boss tacked above the fort entrance. American military rule ensures compliance and keeps them at work.
Chapter Six To the Highest Bidder: Native Field Hands and Gold Rush Agriculture
115(20)
With failed gold miners refusing to work in the fields, native field hands save commercial farmers from the first of many "labor shortages." So desperate are growers to maintain control that they institute an odious law compelling natives to work as indentured servants.
Chapter Seven They Have Filled Our Jails and Graveyards: The Decline of Indian Labor
135(26)
Arrested and auctioned off in an alcoholic stupor, native field hands descend into a life of vice, violence, and depression. But even as their survival grows tenuous, they are absolutely essential to the success of commercial farming in the Golden State.
BOOK THREE GOLDEN HARVEST
Chapter Eight Between the Teeth of the Cylinder: The Emergence of Migratory Labor and Farm Technology
161(17)
As natives die out, a new class of field hands proliferates in the interior valleys. Known as "bindlemen," or "bindlestiffs," they take their names from the tightly wrapped blankets or "bindles" containing their worldly possessions, which they pack everywhere they go.
Chapter Nine Open-Air Factories: Industrialization of Labor on the Bonanza Wheat Farms
178(27)
On Hugh Glenn's sixty-six-thousand-acre Sacramento Valley wheat farm, bindlemen work almost nonstop from June to October. Surrounded by machines, gears, pulleys, dust, steam, fire, smoke, heat, and noise, they are essentially factory laborers in the countryside.
Chapter Ten Hell's Fury and Liquid Fire: The Coarse Culture of Wheat Harvesters and Threshers
205(30)
Maimed and killed by countless agricultural accidents, the torrid pace of work, and the harsh environment, wheat harvesters and threshers craft a coarse survival culture.
BOOK FOUR IMMIGRANTS FROM THE EAST
Chapter Eleven Trustworthy Laborers: Chinese Infiltration into Irrigated Agriculture
235(23)
As bindlemen carouse, Chinese immigrants lay the foundations of commercial winemaking in Sonoma County. From this beginning, the Chinese work their way into the state's agricultural districts in the 1860's, exerting an influence disproportionate to their relatively small numbers.
Chapter Twelve Bought Like Any Other Commodity: China Bosses and Gang Labor
258(28)
Following completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, thousands of unemployed Chinese are put to work under bosses reclaiming swampland in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Boarding and feeding their men, bosses then offer them to farmers as a cheap and reliable workforce, just as irrigated fruit and vegetable growing undergoes a spurt of rapid growth.
Chapter Thirteen The Chinese Must Go! Community, Chinatowns, and the Anti-Chinese Movement
286(21)
By the mid-1870's, most rural communities sport a Chinatown or China camp, where China bosses establish crews and dominate the labor market. But as they take control of more fieldwork, unemployed whites begin a campaign of terror.
Chapter Fourteen More Manpower from a Pint of Rice: Sugar Beets, Short-Handled Hoes, and Chinese Exclusion
307(27)
Tormented, harassed, and banned from further immigration, Chinese field hands nonetheless continue to earn the favor of agricultural elites, who defend the Chinese with racist arguments.
Chapter Fifteen Snapping Their Fingers in Our Faces: Human Pesticides, Labor Shortages, Child Labor, and the Response to Exclusion
334(37)
Growers attempt to counter the increasingly militant Chinese bosses by launching the so-called Boy Experiment, one of several desperate schemes to bring schoolchildren and other workers onto the farms. When the Scott Act further restricts immigration, farmers conclude that loss of Chinese field hands constitutes the main impediment to prosperity.
Chapter Sixteen Worn out, Bent, and Discouraged: Chinese Labor (Almost) Disappears from the Fields
371(36)
Following a series of industrial depressions and mob actions, Chinese field hands remain on many farms until, by the process of natural attrition, their numbers begin declining after 1900. Old-timers cluster in small, rural communities where they live out their last days, a society of men stranded in California without families.
BOOK FIVE JAPANESE FARMWORKERS
Chapter Seventeen Running Front Vine to Vine: Japanese Farmworkers and the Beginning of Labor Militancy
407(33)
Japanese immigrants fill the void left by dwindling numbers of Chinese. Striking, raising wages, and securing collective bargaining agreements under bosses known is keiyaku-nin, they initiate the first successful farmworkers unions.
Chapter Eighteen Blood Spots on the Moon: The 1903 Oxnard Sugar Beet Workers Strike
440(30)
A union of fifteen hundred Japanese and Mexican sugar beet laborers walks out of the fields around Oxnard, shuts down the industry, restores wages to previous levels, and eliminates a company union. But when the American Federation of Labor refuses to admit the Japanese contingent, the Mexicans drop plans to join the American labor movement.
Chapter Nineteen Exact Everything Possible: Keiyaku-nin, Mexicans, Sikhs, and the Quest for Labor Stability
470(27)
As keiyaku-nin press their advantages and win one wage demand after another, growers fight back with tactics ranging from murder to intimidation.
Chapter Twenty Handle the Fruit Like Eggs! The Japanese Shift from Field-Workers to Farmers
497(30)
By pooling resources, living frugally, working marginal land, farming labor-intensive crops, muscling in on farmers, and taking over fields they had once handled as foremen, the Japanese acquire land, and with it, the basis for family life.
BOOK SIX BIND LEMEN
Chapter Twenty-One Blinky Joe, Red Mike, and Hobo Sam: Bindlemen on the Move
527(21)
As the Japanese fade from the work pool, bindlemen take up the slack, holding down more than half of all harvest jobs in 1910. With the possible exception of Indian field hands, no group is more exploited or ill-treated.
Chapter Twenty-Two As Rotten as Ever: Jungle Camps, Slave Markets, and the Main Stem
548(24)
Riding trains between harvests, living alongside the railroads in "jungle camps," and holing up for the winter in the cities, bindlemen survive the agricultural circuit by devising and abiding by their own laws and institutions. Ordering life and holding men together, these "rules of the road" mark a unique transient culture.
Chapter Twenty-Three The Privilege of Quitting: Death, Discontent, and Alienation
572(24)
Possessing a rich and inexhaustible storehouse of adaptive devices, bindlemen do not passively accept their lot. While unable to sustain traditional organizing activities, they avoid and resist regular labor and develop their own incipient form of working-class radicalism.
Chapter Twenty-Four I've Been Robbed: The Struggle to Organize Farmworkers
596(33)
Establishing union locals in the main stem and slave market areas of West Coast towns, soapboxers for the Industrial Workers of the World move right in among bindlemen. After winning a dramatic confrontation at Fresno, they are beaten so badly at San Diego that they completely reassess their approach, devise new strategies, and take the struggle into the fields.
Abbreviations 629(6)
Notes 635(236)
Acknowledgments 871(6)
Index 877

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