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Inventory of the Floyd Halleck Higgins Photographs of Mexican Sugar Beet Workers
D-494  
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Access
  • Processing Information
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights

  • Creator: Higgins, Floyd Halleck, 1886-1975.
    Title: Floyd Halleck Higgins Photographs of Mexican Sugar Beet Workers
    Date: 1942
    Extent: 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 Salinas.
    Physical location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.
    Repository: University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
    Davis, California 95616-5292
    Collection number: D-494
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English.

    Biography

    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 Pacific Rural Press , Farm Implement News, Diesel Progress, Rice Journal , 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 collection.
    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, 1975.

    Scope and Content

    This finding aid is for the portion of the collection that is images of Mexican sugar beet workers in California.
    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 beets.
    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.

    Indexing Terms

    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 works
    Sugar beet industry --California--History--20th Century
    Historic Buildings--California--Spreckels--Pictorial works
    Documentary Photography--California
    Spreckels Sugar Company

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Processing Information

    Patricia C. Inouye processed this collection and created and encoded this finding aid.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired from F. Hal Higgins with generous assistance from the International Harvester Company, Deere & Company, and Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, 1959.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Floyd Halleck Higgins Photographs of Mexican Sugar Beet Workers, D-494, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis.

    Publication Rights

    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.