Scope and Content
Higgins, Floyd Halleck, 1886-1975.
Title: Floyd Halleck Higgins Photographs of Mexican Sugar Beet Workers
0.8 linear feet; 196 prints and negatives
135 digital images
Abstract: Floyd Halleck Higgins was born on May 15, 1886, in Keokuk, Iowa. After graduating
from Iowa State College in Ames, he moved to Chicago and western Canada to work in a variety of public
relations positions including Director of Public Relations, National Association of Farm Equipment
Manufacturers (1922-1926). Higgins moved to California in 1927 where he became the News Editor for
Caterpillar Tractor Company. In 1933, when Caterpillar moved its corporate headquarters to Peoria,
Illinois, Higgins chose to stay in California where he worked as a free-lance writer. His articles
appeared in Pacific Rural Press, Farm Implement News, Diesel Progress, Rice Journal, and other
agricultural journals. In 1942, Higgins took photographs of Mexican workers entering the United States "brought
in for the [sugar] beet harvest" for California Fields Crops, Inc. and as Higgins explains in a letter
that he tried "to catch a lot of the social side in pictures." The photographs were taken mainly in the
agricultural areas of the California communities of Woodland, Pleasanton, Manteca, and
Physical location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as
many are stored offsite.
University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special
Davis, California 95616-5292
Collection number: D-494
Language of Material: Collection materials in English.
Floyd Halleck Higgins was born on May 15, 1886, in Keokuk, Iowa. After graduating from Iowa State College
in Ames, he moved to Chicago and western Canada to work in a variety of public relations positions
including Director of Public Relations, National Association of Farm Equipment Manufacturers
(1922-1926). Higgins moved to California in 1927 where he became the News Editor for Caterpillar Tractor
Company. He immediately found that farm machinery history "was gathered by each company's ad men when
they needed to get up something for a 'special number' of some publication in which its ads appeared."
In self defense, Higgins began collecting materials relating to the origins of combines and tractors but
his interests expanded to include all forms of farm mechanization.
In 1933, Caterpillar moved its corporate headquarters to Peoria, Illinois. Higgins chose to stay in
California where he worked as a free-lance writer. His articles appeared in
Farm Implement News,
, and other agricultural journals. He used every opportunity to interview "the men
who were there" and create an historical record supported by material in his ever-growing
In 1959, Higgins sold his collection of more than ninety file cabinet drawers of research materials, to
the University of California, Davis. The University Library hired him to remain the curator of the
collection, a position he held until 1972 when ill health forced him to retire. He died on February 28,
Scope and Content
This finding aid is for the portion of the collection that is images of Mexican sugar beet workers in
In 1942, F. Hal Higgins, a free-lance journalist and Safeway Farm Reporter, was given the job of
providing publicity for the Mexican workers coming into California to harvest sugar beets. This was a special,
informal program funded by the United States government under the Farm Security Administration. It is
considered the beginning of what is now called the Bracero System.
"The spontaneous and irregular migration that prevailed gave way abruptly to one that was supervised and
regulated by government." (
Merchants of Labor; the Mexican Bracero Story, Ernesto
Galarza, 1964). The 3000 Mexican men were carefully selected by the Mexican Government, the United
States Government, and California Field Crops, Inc. to harvest the sugar beet crop. The sugar beet crop
was especially large and there was a shortage of farm workers due to World War II. Also called Stoop
Laborers, or Good Neighbor workers by Higgins, the Mexican workers came to top and harvest sugar
Mexican Nationals in California Agriculture 1942-1959, California Department of
Employment, 1959, states, "World War II created conditions and demands which seriously depleted
California's farm manpower resources at a time when farmers were being called upon to augment production
of food and fiber to maintain civilian and military life...Early in 1942, California farmers faced a
critical labor shortage…Sugar beet growers made the first World War II request for Mexican labor..."
Higgins explained in a letter that he tried "to catch a lot of the social side in pictures." In
Photographing Farmworkers in California, author Richard Steven Street states that
"Higgins followed the braceros out into the countryside, creating a highly original essay on the
vanguard of a labor program that would eventually entice one out of every nine Mexican men north." The
photographs show many aspects of the workers lives: arriving by train, building of the labor camps,
dining and entertainment, and working in the fields. The photographs were taken mainly in the
agricultural areas of the California communities of Woodland, Clarksburg, Manteca, Pleasanton, and
Salinas. The descriptions contained in some entries were made by F. Hal Higgins.
Arrangement of the Collection
Arrangement of the collection is in 4 series, Mexican workers arrive in the United States, Labor camp
construction, Life in the labor camps, and Harvesting the sugar beets.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online
public access catalog.
Higgins, Floyd Halleck, 1886-1975--Archives.
Migrant Agricultural Laborers--California--Pictorial
Sugar beet industry --California--History--20th
Spreckels Sugar Company
Collection is open for research.
Patricia C. Inouye processed this collection and created and encoded this finding aid.
Acquired from F. Hal Higgins with generous assistance from the International Harvester Company, Deere
& Company, and Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, 1959.
[Identification of item], Floyd Halleck Higgins Photographs of Mexican Sugar Beet Workers, D-494,
Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis.
Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17, of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to
publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections.
Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections, General Library,
University of California, Davis as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or
imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.