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In the central West efficient and skilled laborers are in demand, and readily get $18 to $22, and in some cases $25 and board. Inferior service ranges downward from $18. Day labor receives about $1 per day; in harvest $1.50 to $2, and sometimes higher rates. A State investigation in Missouri makes the average there of all grades of service $14.20 with board, and $20.03 without board, lower than any part of the Ohio Valley except Kentucky and West Virginia, about $4 less than Iowa and Nebraska and the States of the Northwest, where labor is now in great demand and compensation high. Wages in the mountain States are higher than in the States eastward to the Atlantic States. On the Pacific coast rates are still higher than in any other section of the country, though not equal to the extravagant compensation of the earlier history of wages there. In Washington $250 to $350 per annum with board is readily obtained by reliable men, and $1.50 to $3.50 per day during harvest. In Oregon and California these rates are usual for reliable labor, with still higher compensation for exceptionally efficient service, though between native and foreign labor of various grades, including Chinese, Japanese, and Italian, there is a considerable variation in rates. The present average, with board, is about $25 per month, and about $10 more when board is not furnished.

The course of wages during the last half of the nineteenth century, as detailed in a chapter on that subject, marks the extraordinary progress of American industry. The change from domestic industries to the factory system, from manual to machine labor, from individual to associated effort, was then in active progress, and the upward movement of wages had already begun, demand for labor was increasing, and the era of industrial and constructive activity was inaugurated. Soon the civil war called millions of men to the field of strife, after which came a rebound of productive forces which sent wages for a brief period to a very high level. Then followed, from 1875 to 1879, a period of business depression, the result of wild speculation, expanded credits, and depreciated currency. From 1879 to 1893, in a period of steady development and great prosperity, wages were remarkably uniform, varying by-slightest degrees from year to year. After another period of business paralysis, from 1894 to 1897, labor is again in full employment, production larger than ever, distribution and consumption exceedingly active, and wages as high as in 1880 to 1892 on an average, with some local variation.

In the long period of prosperity, after recovery from the depression which ended in 1879, in which five official investigations of wages were made, there was a marked degree of uniformity in rates of wages in each section. It was a period of quite full employment of labor and of a high degree of general prosperity. Practically the same differences in the rates of the several geographical divisions were preserved. The averages of each section present these differences very clearly, viz: Pacific Coast States, $36.55 per month, without board; New England States, $26.20; Middle States, $23.40; Western States, $22.47; Southern States, $14.62. In the rate payable in cash and board or rations the range of cash differences was narrower, the board difference being naturally larger in the districts of higher wages; thus the cash differences in wages without and with board being respectively $11.90, $8.96, $8.05, $7.25, and $4.84, and in the period when wages were higher these board allowances were increased proportionately.

An instructive feature of this series of official returns is the showing of the effect of monetary panic-of a period of business paralysis—on wages. As the previous inflation period was characterized by abnormally high rates, the culmination of the decline in wages in 1879 was a veritable slough of despond for the laborer. From the highest rates, in 1866 (except in California), to the lowest, in 1879, the decline was from $26.87 to $16.05 for the whole country; from $46.38 to $10.11 in the Pacific States; from $33.31 to $21.36 in the Eastern States; from $29.83 to $20.24 in the Midde States; from $27.84 to $19.81 in the Western States; and from $16.63 to $12.65 in the Southern States.

These were the extremes from the abnormal height of the boom period to the depths at the culmination of the influences of depression. The measure of decline is better told by the reduction from 1875 to 1879, which includes most of the fall in wages during the period of depression. For the United States the decline was from $19.49 to $16.05, or 17 per cent; from $43.50 to $40.11 on the Pacific coast, or about 6 per cent; from $29 to $21.36 in the Eastern States, 26 per cent; from $26.99 to $20.24 in the Middle States, 25 per cent; from $23.25 to $19.81 in the Western States, 15 per cent; and from $15.28 to $12.65 in the Southern States, 17 per cent.

It is seen that the decline was very light in the Pacific States, as business operations had been conducted on a gold basis and demand had been sustained for the peculiar products of the coast, so that little depression had been felt. A fall of about onefourth attests the severity of the labor congestion in the Eastern and Middle States, large numbers of laborers in industrial and constructive industry being thrown out of employment, some of them seeking rural employment, competing directly and

indirectly with the farm laborers. The central West, with less of mechanical and factory labor, felt this competition far less, and the reduction of wages was only 15 per cent. The decline of wages in the South was only about two-thirds as much as in the industrial States of the Atlantic coast, or 17 per cent.

The late panic, from 1894 to 1897, also had a depressing influence on wages, but not so general or severe as in that of 1873 to 1879. Industries had become widely disseminated and firmly established. The wealth of the country had increased immensely in a period of prosperity. Consumption was much enlarged and exportation greatly increased. Still the effect on farm labor was serious, reducing the rate of wages much more in some districts than in others, and showing its most injurious result in nonemployment more than in reduction of rate, farmers doing their routine work themselves with labor-saving implements and neglecting avoidable labor. All industries were affected, but some more than others. The wool and woolen industries were paralyzed by free wool; the values of sheep, of wool, and of pasturage were reduced nearly one-half; the markets for domestic woolens were glutted with shoddy goods and all forms of wool wastes, until factories were compelled to shut down or run on half time. Woolgrowers and manufacturers suffered immense losses, and the country was flooded with inferior goods. In some of the woolgrowing districts laborers were willing to work for their board.


The census classification of the personnel in agriculture, in 1890, male the number of agricultural laborers 3,004,061, besides those classed as dairymen, gardeners, florists and vine growers, overseers, and farmers, making a total of 8,395,634 in agricultural operations, of whom 678,142 were females. The distribution is as follows:

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The census gives data concerning the nativity, color, age, conjugal conditions, illiteracy, etc., of farm laborers. It also reports the time unemployed, from which it appears that of 2,536,957 males 525,278 were unemployed only a part of the time; 286,598 from 1 to 3 months, 202,434 from 4 to 6 months, and 36,246 from 7 to 12 months. This would make an average of a little more than 3 months for a little over one-fifth of the whole number. If this is the total loss of employment it is not a very unfavorable showing. The following statement relates to nativity, color, etc.:

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Less than a fourth of all are married. This fact will cease to excite surprise when we know the age of these laborers. Five-eighths of all are under 25, and about onetenth are under 15. Nearly four-fifths are under 35, of the whites more than fivesixths, and considering only native whites almost nine-tenths. They do not all die at that age, or leave agriculture, but many become tenants or farmers; a few continue as farm laborers.


Inquiry as to the foreign-born laborers employed at the present time and their local distribution reveals an increasing reliance upon this class in New England. Through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont the French-Canadian element is digtributed, and though preferably settled in communities in manufacturing towns many accept agricultural employment especially in temporary harvest engagements. Canadians, Italians, and other nationalities are employed in market gardening in eastern Massachusetts and Poles are numerous in the western counties, Rhode Island employs men of these nationalities, and many Portuguese and negroes. The laborers of New York are divided somewhat evenly between native and foreign. New Jersey has a considerable native supply of labor with many foreigners of various nationalities. In fruit

and vegetable growing many negroes come from the South for the growing season. There is legs of foreign labor in Pennsylvania.

There is almost a total absence of foreigners in the agriculture of the South, the freedmen nearly monopolizing the cotton fields, and native white and colored labor is ample in the small farm districts.

In the Ohio Valley a majority of farm laborers are native or native-born sons of foreigners of many European nationalities, including Germans, Swedes, Danes, Irish, and recently some immigrants from the south of Europe. The Scandinavian element is very strong in the Northwest, and as farmers and farm laborers is very enterprising and efficient. In Nebraska foreign labor is everywhere in evidence, but probably the native element predominates.

The mountain States, especially the northern belt, have mostly American labor, supplemented by immigration from European nations. In New Mexico and Arizona the more skilled labor is American and foreign, the latter being German, French, Swiss, Italian, with a few English and Scotch. The common labor is mostly Mexican, of mixed Spanish and Indian blood. The foreign element has never been large in Washington and Oregon. Many Chinese were there at one time, but they left and have been barred from returning by the Exclusion Act. Formerly the Chinese swarmed in California, but they have become objectionable and were gradually driven from the State by the force of public sentiment and have been practically kept out by the Exelusion Act. Japanese are coming in now, and Italians and other South of Europe immigrants for the cultivation of the sugar beet.


An investigation of the facts of tenant farming in the United States does not warrant the conclusion that the class of farmers will ever give place to one of tenants, or that the soil is to be monopolized by the rich. The farms of nearly every State are becoming smaller, and the great bonanza” estates are being subdivided and sold. A large part of the statistical showing of increase of tenancy comes from counting in the freedmen share laborers of the South as tenant farmers. This fact, on the contrary, proves the tendency from land monopoly to small farms, from extensive culture by hired labor to individual management, looking to ownership. In such subdivision of a great plantation the laborers may never own the land or achieve much prosperity, but they emphasize a desire for independence.

There are Americans and some foreigners who are buying considerable bodies of cheap lands, but they are held for a rise in value by settlement and cultivation of neighboring lands. They are bought on speculation and not for permanent occupaney by tenants. Many such tracts have already been sold before occupancy to any appreciable extent by tenants.

There is greater danger of driving the opulent land holder from land ownership to other investments by unequal and excessive taxation of lands and other agricultural property. Tenancy may increase somewhat from various causes. Some farmers in older settlements rent their farms to take up public land and bring it into cultivation as a speculation. Others, in comfortable circumstances and advancing years, rent a portion of their superfluous acres to decrease their cares, while adding to their income. Many starting with unimproved a res have built up valuable farmsteads and, seeking ease for declining years in town residence, have rented their farms on shares to sons who are willing to remain farmers, or to enterprising laborers. When apparent increase of tenancy is traced out in the Northern States, much of it is found to be due to these and similar causes. The incumbent tenants are usually farm laborers or sons of farmers, and tenancy is a stepping stone to ownership. That some do not succeed is more the result of bad management than of bad markets or of bad laws, for the enterprising and persistent do succeed, while others fail.

There are frictions and disagreements between landlords and tenants who rent on shares, in many cases, which will tend to discourage this form of tenancy, and the lack of interest in conserving fertility should limit similar rentals for cash. Such dissatisfaction tends to a preference for selling rather than renting.

It is not at all probable, from existing conditions and prevalent tendencies, that acquisition of land for the purpose of renting will increase, but it is possible that there may be enlargement of the class technically called tenants from causes enumerated and others, but whether tenants or farmers they will prosper in proportion to their application of science to practice, avoiding wastes, making labor effective, and increasing productivity and fertility.

The subject of tenant farming and crop sharing is considered more in detail in another part of this report, as the result of special investigation relating to those topics.

The chapter on the personnel and condition of farm laborers is prepared from extensive correspondence, and is enriched by extracts from statements of some of the wisest and most experienced teachers of applied agricultural science in the country, and from farmers of large observation and intimate knowledge of rural conditions.




The farms of the States of northern New England employ labor to supplement the , work of the farm done by the family of the owner. Quite a large proportion employ no labor except in haying time or casually in other harvest seasons by the day. The larger farms, and those receiving more cultivation, require more help, and on many of these, and on dairy farms, employment by the month, for the season or year, is required. In the southern portions of New England, where manufacturing industries control a very large part of the labor supply, and farming is more in specialty lines—in dairying, orcharding, small fruit and cranberry growing, and market gardening-a very much larger part of the labor is hired; and everywhere the laborers are mainly native, the sons of neighboring farmers, never employed in expectation of permanency, but as a temporary expedient while awaiting other chances of employment or business engagement, or in fewer cases the purchase of land for themselves, for home making and the production of milk, fruit, and vegetables.

Foreign labor on the farm has been increasing for many years. Irish immigrants were formerly the largest element, who generally at first, and largely since, have sought industrial or municipal labor in cities. Of those who accepted employment on farms a large proportion have become land owners. Fortwo or three decades the volume of immigration has been large and continuous from Nova Scotia and the Province of Quebec to the cotton mills, and in far less degree to farms. They constitute the largest element of foreign farm labor in New England. In the Aroostook region in Maine they come in large numbers from the St. John River region, for temporary employment in potato digging, and in the central and other counties for the hay harvest. The labor of New Hampshire is largely native, supplemented by Canadians. Eastern Vermont has little foreign labor, but west of the mountains there is a considerable Canadian element. Eastern Massachusetts employs FrenchCanadians and Italians in market gardening and other rural labor; in western Massachusetts, Poles and other foreigners are employed by the season or year. In Rhode Island a great many negroes, who have come from Norfolk in steamers running to Providence in the fruit and vegetable trade, have of late years made summer engagements with farmers and fruit growers, coming in the spring and returning in the autumn, and proving to be quite acceptable help. It is a life that suits the negro tendency to change, short terms of employment and odd jobs, with winter residence in old haunts in a mild climate. The labor of Connecticut is of a very miscellaneous character, Germans, Swedes, Poles, negroes, and others.

A few abstracts of returns, and quotations of salient points, from officials of colleges and agricultural experiment stations, representatives of agricultural boards or societies, and individual farmers of experience in the several States, are herewith presented.

MAINE.—President S. W. Harris, of the University of Maine, at Orono, writes that the number of hired laborers on Maine farms is comparatively small, most of the work being done by the owners of the farms, although there are many large establishments where gangs of men are used:

“Where one or two laborers are employed, especially in the central and upper counties, they are largely native New Englanders and the sons of neighboring farmers. These men are energetic, efficient, and active. In the coast counties, and in the vicinity of the great lumber mills the farm labor is largely from the provinces, and is slower and less skilled than the native labor.

" Employment is usually made by the month, except during the hay harvest, lasting 2 or 3 weeks, when the engagement is by the day. The native help mpon farms, which keep only 1 or 2 men, usually board with the family of the farmer. The help of foreign extraction usually live in a boarding house or at their own homes in the neighboring villages or towns.

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