Migratory Families Great Depression Era Click to advance of the
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) has been called the greatest American documentary photographer. She is best known for her chronicles of the Great Depression and for her photographs of migratory farm workers. Below are 24 pre-World War II photographs, taken for the U.S. Farm Security Administration (FSA), investigating living conditions of families hired to work in cotton fields and farms in Arizona and California. Many of the families had fled the Dust Bowl, the lengthy drought which devastated millions of acres of farmland in Midwestern states such as Oklahoma.
On Arizona Highway 87, south of Chandler, Arizona. Grandmother and sick baby of migratory family camped in a trailer in an open field.
They came from Amarillo, Texas, to pick cotton in Arizona
Tulare County, California. Cheap auto camp housing for citrus worker.
Riverbank, Stanislaus County, San Joaquin, California. The family living here came to California January 8, 1940, from Oklahoma. "Took a stake out here." They are buying this land from the irrigation company. Land in Riverbank costs about $100 per acre. Low monthly payments. Note the berry patch.
Between Weedpatch and Lamont, Kern County, California. Children living in camp...Rent $2.75 plus electricity.
Edison, Kern County, California. Children of young migratory parents. They originally lived in Texas.
South of Eloy, Pinal County, Arizona. Ten-year-old migratory Mexican cotton picker. He was born in Tucson. He is fixing the family car. He does not go to school now, but when he did go was in grade 1-A. Says (in Spanish) "I do not go to school because my father wishes my aid in picking cotton." On preceding day he picked 25 pounds of Pima cotton.
Eloy District, Pinal County, Arizona. Cotton pickers, Mexican children, in ditch bank at the edge of grower's camp. Boy at left picked 50 pounds of short-staple on preceding day..
Near Coolidge, Maricopa County, Arizona. Young girl works in cotton field on Saturday morning. Her father is member of the Casa Grande cooperative farms.
Near Coolidge, Arizona. These families are picking their own cotton. Mainly they are members of the Casa Grande cooperative farm.
Edison, Kern County, California. 17-year-old boy agricultural worker sacking early potatoes after mechanical potato digger on large potato ranch. Kern County planted 27,250 acres in potatoes
Near Coolidge on Highway 87, Pinal County, Arizona. Migratory white cotton pickers stopped by engine trouble alongside the road. Related family groups frequently travel like this, in pairs or in caravans of three or four.
Oliverhurst, Yuba County, California. A view of new western addition to Oliverhurst.
Eloy District, Pinal County, Arizona. Mexican irrigator on duty preparing field for flax cultivation.
Sunset District, Kern County, California. Young man in the doorway of his home
Contra Costa County, California. Little boy from "back East" in front of tar paper house in the Davis camp, where he now lives.
On Arizona Highway 87, south of Chandler, Maricopa County, Arizona. Children in a democracy. A migratory family living in a trailer in an open field. No sanitation, no water. They came from Amarillo, Texas. Pulled bolls near Amarillo, picked cotton near Roswell, New Mexico, and in Arizona. Plan to return to Amarillo at close of cotton picking season for work on WPA.
Olivehurst, Yuba County, California. One of the new settlers
Edison, Kern County, California. Potato picker, she is 52-years-old, has 8 children. Born in Tennessee, she lived and was married in Oklahoma, then came to California. Family became migratory agricultural workers and after four years settled in Kern County. She says, "I have a house and flowers." She and her husband work in the field at 35 cents an hour, 10 hours a day. This class of people is known to the present migratory workers as "locals.
Grayson, Stanislaus County, California. He came to California in 1936 from Albermarle County, Missouri. He is living in a self-built shack in Grayson, a shacktown community...He has a job working in hay on nearby ranch. His grandfather, who has four sons and two daughters, all of whom now live in California, says: "They wasn't raised to go chasin'. They was raised to stay home."
Eloy, Pinal County, Arizona. Truckload of cotton pickers just pulled into town in the late afternoon. Fresh from Arkansas, "We come over to help folks pick their cotton."
Eloy District, Pinal County, Arizona. Water supply for migratory cotton pickers in FSA mobile camp just established in Eloy District.
Near Yuba City, California. Children of migrant workers in Yuba City Agricultural Farm Workers Community. Spring afternoon, after school.
Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children