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Title: A Stake in the Land

Author: Peter Alexander Speek

Release Date: November 23, 2009 [EBook #30529]

Language: English

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Rural Property Rural Home










A Stake in the Land

Copyright, 1921, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America

[Pg v]


The material in this volume was gathered by the Division of Rural Developments of Studies in Methods of Americanization.

Americanization in this study has been considered as the union of native and foreign born in all the most fundamental relationships and activities of our national life. For Americanization is the uniting of new with native-born Americans in fuller common understanding and appreciation to secure by means of self-government the highest welfare of all. Such Americanization should perpetuate no unchangeable political, domestic, and economic regime delivered once for all to the fathers, but a growing and broadening national life, inclusive of the best wherever found. With all our rich heritages, Americanism will develop best through a mutual giving and taking of contributions from both newer and older Americans in the interest of the commonweal. This study has followed such an understanding of Americanization.

[Pg vi]
[Pg vii]


This volume is the result of studies in methods of Americanization prepared through funds furnished by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It arose out of the fact that constant applications were being made to the Corporation for contributions to the work of numerous agencies engaged in various forms of social activity intended to extend among the people of the United States the knowledge of their government and their obligations to it. The trustees felt that a study which should set forth, not theories of social betterment, but a description of the methods of the various agencies engaged in such work, would be of distinct value to the cause itself and to the public.

The outcome of the study is contained in eleven volumes on the following subjects: Schooling of the Immigrant; The Press; Adjustment of Homes and Family Life; Legal Protection and Correction; Health Standards and Care; Naturalization and Political Life; Industrial and Economic Amalgamation; Treatment of Immigrant Heritages; Neighborhood Agencies and Organization; Rural Developments; and Summary. The entire study has been carried out under the[Pg viii] general direction of Mr. Allen T. Burns. Each volume appears in the name of the author who had immediate charge of the particular field it is intended to cover.

Upon the invitation of the Carnegie Corporation a committee consisting of the late Theodore Roosevelt, Prof. John Graham Brooks, Dr. John M. Glenn, and Mr. John A. Voll has acted in an advisory capacity to the director. An editorial committee consisting of Dr. Talcott Williams, Dr. Raymond B. Fosdick, and Dr. Edwin F. Gay has read and criticized the manuscripts. To both of these committees the trustees of the Carnegie Corporation are much indebted.

The purpose of the report is to give as clear a notion as possible of the methods of the agencies actually at work in this field and not to propose theories for dealing with the complicated questions involved.

[Pg ix]


 Publisher's Notev
 Table of Contentsix
 List of Tablesxii
 List of Illustrationsxiii
 Author's Notexxvii
I.Need of a Land Policy3
 Strength of Home Ties3
 Immigrants' Love of Land5
 Need for Land Regulation10
II.Learning of Land Opportunities14
 Friends, Agents, and Advertisements14
 Federal and State Immigration Offices18
 Policies in California and Wisconsin19
III.Experiences in Acquiring Land24
 Russian Sectarian Peasants in the West24
 The Successful Colony at Glendale30
 Other California Cases31
 An Oklahoma Settlement33
IV.Individual Land Dealers36
 Land Sharks37
 Lower Type of Land Dealer39
 The Public-spirited Land Dealer42
V.Private Land Colonization Companies49 [Pg x]
 A Typical Company52
 The Adviser62
 Children Overworked65
 Securing Credit66
 Conservation of Wooded Land68
 The Size of a Colony69
 Learning American Ways70
 Two Points of View72
 Colony Snapshots78
VI.Public Land Colonization86
 The California Experiment86
 State Provisions for Soldier Settlements91
 The Reclamation Act95
 Proposed Federal Legislation98
 Provision in Other Countries105
VII.A Land Policy107
 Wide Range in Programs107
 Plenty of Land111
 Public Regulation of Land Dealing112
 A Public Land Exchange122
 Reclamation a Separate Function124
 A Colonization Board127
 Extension of Public Credit135
 Co-operation Indispensable135
VIII.Rural Educational Agencies145
 Importance of Education145
 Bridging Differences150
 Parochial Schools153
IX.Private Schools156
 North Dakota161
 South Dakota174 [Pg xi]
 Hebrew School in New Jersey176
 Opinions on Both Sides176
 Temporary Usefulness179
 Need for Regulation180
X.Immigrant Churches182
 Bilingual Services186
 English Favored by Members188
 Opposition to "Interfaith" Marriages189
 Immigrant Pastors192
 Potential Powers for Good193
XI.The Public School195
 Limitations of the One-teacher School195
 Growth of the Consolidated School199
 The Rural School-teacher203
 Irregular School Attendance211
 Practical Curriculum Needed217
 Need for Expert Administration219
 Proposed Measures222
XII.Education of Adult Immigrant Settlers226
 Importance of Reaching Women226
 The Home Teacher228
 Organization of Immigrant Women231
 The Public Evening School233
 Education Made Interesting241
XIII.Library and Community Work244
 Place of the Printed Word244
 Rural Needs for Books246
 Package Libraries in Wisconsin248
 Selection of Books250
 A Community Hall252
 Amateur Theatricals254
 Community Teamwork256

[Pg xii]


I.Number (by sex) of foreign-born white persons, 
 engaged as farm laborers in the United 
 States, 1900 and 19106
II.State legislation to promote land settlement 
 for soldiers up to June, 191991–92
III.Soldier settlement plans for United Kingdom 
 and provincesFacing 106
IV.Per cent unable to speak English, of total foreign 
 born, ten years of age and over, in urban 
 and rural communities147
V.Enrollment and language used in parochial and 
 private schools in Minnesota, 1918165
VI.Enrollment and teaching force of private and 
 parochial schools in Wisconsin, 1914–15 
 and 1915–16173
VII.Length of teaching service in Wisconsin rural 
 schools, 1915–16204
VIII.Percentage of population in Arizona, six to 
 twenty-one years of age, in schools and not 
 attending school, 1915–16213

[Pg xiii]


 Long, Hard Months of Work Separate the 
 Rough Shanty from White Clapboards and 
 an AutomobileFrontispiece
 Land Is Not the Only Stake in America for 
 These Polish ParentsFacing p. 4
 The Owner of this Farm, Settled in 1917, Has 
 Persuaded Six Members of His Family to 
 Buy Farms in the Neighborhood"      14
 Friendly Assistance Makes Pioneering Less 
 Baffling"      44
 The Wisconsin Colonization Company Sees the 
 Need of Community Centers"      54
 This Two-year-old Wisconsin Farm Is Just 
 Ready to Care for Its Newly Acquired 
 Shropshire Ewes"      64
 This Settler Started Ten Years Ago with No 
 Money"      136
 These Children and Teachers in New Mexico 
 Join Forces to Wipe Out Illiteracy"      146
 The Largest Girl Won a Prize for Scholarship"      146
 Immediate Returns from Child Labor Do Not 
 Make Up for Loss of Schooling"      214
 The Arrival of an Immigrant Settler in 1883  [Pg xiv]
 Was Shown in a Community Pageant"      242
 The Same Man Is Working for Land and Community 
 Development"      242
 A Rural Community Center Plan Was Developed 
 by the Wisconsin Colonization 
 Company for Southern Sawyer County"      252

[Pg xv]


Students of economics know that the roundabout methods of capitalistic production are far more fruitful than the direct methods of the primitive economy. As we advance, we introduce new intermediaries between the beginning and the end of production. This thought occurs to one in the study of Americanization. If we would Americanize the immigrant we must seek him out in his daily economic life and see to it that the influences under which he works are calculated to give him the right feeling toward his new home. A large part of our waking life is spent in gaining a livelihood, and our work brings with it most of our associations. School and church have their place for young and old, and they likewise must be considered. Their effect is direct and immediate and is more likely to attract attention than are the elements making up the economic life.

Doctor Speek has done well in taking up the immigrant as a settler in the newer and developing parts of our country. The settlers are very largely immigrants who are trying to acquire a home and livelihood on the land. The writer of[Pg xvi] this Introduction has been studying this same subject for many years, and has done so in many different parts of the United States. The conclusion which we might reach deductively is confirmed by observation—namely, that the man who settles on the land in the right way is, with the rarest exceptions, likely to become a good American, as are also his children.

But what do we mean by the right way? We mean that he must be on a farm of suitable size, of good productivity, with needed help in learning how to farm in the new country and with sufficient time in which to pay for his farm. These are not the only considerations, but they are the main ones, and to these Doctor Speek has given his attention.

One of the outstanding features of every study of land settlement is that the first great cause of failure is poor selection of land. The second chief cause of failure is insufficient length of time in which to pay for the land. While this is of very great importance, it stands far behind the first as a cause of failure. The third cause of failure is closely connected with the second. It is inadequate credit and capital.

We are dealing here with the results which are universal. The selection of land is extremely difficult, even for unusually intelligent farmers who have had long experience in our country. To select land wisely is quite beyond the capacity[Pg xvii] of the ordinary settler. The present writer could give unlimited illustrations of this truth. The man who has lived in the corn belt of Illinois is very apt to think that black soil is necessarily good soil, and, going to another state, may perhaps select some black peat land, underlain with sand, which is almost worthless. He is sure to be prejudiced against red soil, which may, after all, be good land. Once, when the writer was being shown citrous-fruit land in California, the wise friend who was his host would point to one orchard, which was "planted for oranges," and another "ranch" which "was planted to sell to suckers"; yet the ordinary man, even if he spent many years in the study of land values, could not tell the difference.

John Stuart Mill presents, in his Principles of Political Economy, strong arguments for non-intervention of public authority in "the business of the community." He says that those who stand for intervention must make out a strong case. When, however, he turns to the consumer or buyer, he finds he is obliged to make many exceptions to the rule of non-intervention. To use his own words,[1] "The proposition that the consumer is a competent judge of the commodity can be admitted only with numerous abatements and exceptions." He uses also these words: [2] "Is[Pg xviii] the buyer always qualified to judge of the commodity? If not, the presumption in favor of the competition of the market does not apply to the case; and if the commodity be one in the quality of which society has much at stake, the balance of advantages may be in favor of some mode and degree of intervention by the authorized representatives of the collective interest of the state."

We have, then, ample justification for some kind of help to the settler in the selection of land. What Doctor Speek presents to us simply confirms what is known to every thoughtful person who has given attention to the subject of land settlement. If we want to bring it about that our settlers should understand our institutions and become good American citizens, we must abandon all ideas of laissez-faire with respect to land selection. Generally the selection is made for the settler by the land agent. Doctor Speek gives attention to the real-estate business, and finds that it is not in a satisfactory condition. About this there can be no question. At the same time the present writer, as a result of careful observation, affirms without hesitation that probably no business has made greater progress toward a true professional level than has the land business during the last five years. Real-estate agents or brokers are forming associations and are doing a great deal to eliminate dishonest practices and to put into their business the idea of service.

[Pg xix] There are two lines of progress especially noteworthy. One is the development of Blue Sky laws, and the other is the requirement that those who engage in the real-estate business should have licenses. Blue Sky laws do not as yet afford anything like adequate protection, but certainly they may not be disregarded with impunity in Wisconsin. Licensing an occupation has been very generally one of the first steps toward putting it upon a professional basis. Doctor Speek relates what was attempted unsuccessfully in California. In Wisconsin we are just beginning the system of licenses, and so far it promises to be extremely helpful. Much more needs to be done, however, to help the settler make a good selection of a farm.

Two outstanding movements are mentioned. One is the public-land settlement of California, under the direction of Dr. Elwood Mead, and the other is the work of the Director of Immigration of Wisconsin, Mr. B. G. Packer. Mr. Packer has been in the habit of meeting settlers in Chicago, the chief doorway into Wisconsin, and giving them advice of a general character in regard to the purchase of a farm in Wisconsin. While he is not in a position to recommend the purchase of a specific piece of land, the advice is pretty concrete and definite. His one thought very properly is the welfare of the settler, and he believes that it is in the interest of Wisconsin[Pg xx] not to get as many settlers as possible, but to get settlers who, in his own words, "stick"—in other words, who will succeed. He does not for a moment hesitate to discourage a man from coming to Wisconsin if he is not likely to prove successful, and he does not for a moment hesitate to direct the attention of a settler away from a selection which would prove disastrous to him. The writer has visited many settlers in Wisconsin who have been brought to the state by Mr. Packer, and has found them almost universally prosperous.

However, attention should be directed particularly to an important point made by Doctor Speek in his report. At present irresponsible and dishonest people often get hold of the settler first. Mr. Packer's work is being rapidly developed and it should have still larger funds for expansion. How is it going to be possible, however, to bring to the knowledge of all the settlers the helpful agencies that exist? These helpful agencies include not only the work of Mr. Packer, but of the county agents, and the different departments of the agricultural college, especially that department concerned with soil surveys, as well as with many others.

In other states as well there are many helpful agencies for the settler. If the settler could only get hold of the men who are glad to help him he could make a wise selection of the land. Federal[Pg xxi] and state authorities must co-operate in efforts to bring to the settler a knowledge of the help that may be his.

The City and Suburban Homes Company, of New York City, affords a suggestion. This company was formed in order to give the best homes possible to people in and about New York City compatible with very modest return on capital. The idea is that of serving the urban dweller. Vast as is the field of operation, it has accomplished appreciable results in New York City. Could not companies be formed to begin where the City and Suburban Homes Company leaves off? Two possibilities suggest themselves. One is the purchase and sale of land, and the other is disinterested advice.

In this imperfect world perfection can never be attained, and with the best efforts mistakes will be made. With a strange perversity men often turn from those who are their true friends and give their confidence to the unscrupulous. A typical case is this: A man sold his small farm at a fair price. Those to whom he sold it were apprehensive lest he should waste the money and tried to help him make a wise investment. He had every reason for confidence in those who were trying to help him and who had never misled him, yet he was evidently suspicious that they were trying to serve their own ends. Shortly after receiving the money he took a[Pg xxii] journey into Canada, fell into the hands of land sharks, and lost every dollar he had received in the purchase of worthless lands.

As a business becomes professional in character, connections are established with educational institutions. Medicine and law both occur to one as illustrations. Our universities are now developing courses in land economics, and these are going to be helpful in solving the problems of land settlement, as well as other land problems.

Mention has been made of the length of time needed to pay for a farm. No mistake is more frequent than the mistake made in underestimating the length of time needed to buy a farm and to pay for it under the amortization plan—that is to say, by yearly installments, which include, with interest, a portion of the capital. Ireland affords a good illustration. As one great Land Act has followed another, the length of time for the payment of the farm has been increased, until now the amortization period is about sixty-eight years.

With the higher return to labor in this country the writer thinks twenty-five to thirty years is about right. When we have this period for payment the annual payments of principal are small and the farmer has the sense of ownership and is able to bring up his family, giving the children a good education, and enjoying life as he goes on. All plans for land settlement should include[Pg xxiii] long credit payments for land purchase; also provision of shorter periods for purchase of equipment. We are making progress in the provision of rural credit, but we still have a long way to go.

A plan that should be emphasized is that we need the help of the many private agencies that have been developed. While splendid experiments are being conducted in California, so far the land settlement of that state cannot be regarded as anything more than experimental. The first purchase consisted of ten thousand acres. On the other hand, a single company in one part of the country visited by Doctor Speek is making a fine settlement of sixty thousand acres. Land settlement is extremely complex and thousands of honest men have developed skill and knowledge in the solution of its problems. We need their services and we must use every effort to protect them, as well as the settler, against dishonest and incompetent individuals, agents and companies.

The district attorney's office of New York City has achieved noteworthy success in ferreting out land frauds and affording certain protection to land buyers. Our criminal laws need further development. In every state there should be those to whom the settler can turn with his grievance. This is required for the protection of the honest land company, as well as for the protection of the settler.

[Pg xxiv] When the Wisconsin Railroad Commission was established, the idea was that one should be able to write on a post card his complaint against any railroad company, and that the commission should take up and investigate the case. As Doctor Speek says, we need Federal and state commissions. These should prosecute relentlessly cases of fraud, and at the same time encourage right practices.

We hear much about unused land which ought to be brought into use. Investigations made by Mr. O. E. Baker, of the Office of Farm Management, U. S. Department of Agriculture, and others, show that the idea that there are vast stretches of really good land which are not being utilized is fallacious. It stands to reason it should be so. If I have land that is worth a dollar an acre per annum I am not likely to allow it to be unused. I have to pay taxes on the land, and I have the interest charge, which is still more important. We do have, however, a great and crying evil in the mistaken, as well as the dishonest, attempt to bring into use land which is not susceptible of profitable use by settlers, or by any private individuals, for that matter.

Probably somewhat less than half of the land of the United States can at present be profitably cultivated, and a large proportion of it has no value for the individual. Nevertheless, a large proportion of this inferior land is privately owned,[Pg xxv] and the owner is under a constant temptation to sell it to the settler. One of the chief problems we have is to take out of the market this submarginal land, which is responsible for so many ruined and embittered lives. Dishonest sale of poor land to unsuspecting settlers is a cause of Bolshevism, which we ought to fight in every possible way.

Another point made by Doctor Speek relates to access to the land. How much utter nonsense has been talked about access to the land. As Doctor Speek points out, access to the land means a great many different things. If it is to amount to anything, it means knowledge based upon experience and it means capital. There is no magic about access to the land any more than there is about access to any other occupation than farming. A man who goes into any occupation, if he is going to be successful, must have the requisite tools, the requisite experience, and the requisite capital.

The writer would like to touch upon many other points suggested by Doctor Speek's excellent report. One only, however, will be mentioned. We have spoken about the selection of land. We must also remember that those who are settling the land are those who are going to make up our rural population. Every state in the Union, as well as the Federal government, should consider the qualifications of those who[Pg xxvi] are settling the land. We are going to have the experience of every European country. That is, by no possibility can everyone who would like to own a farm have one, any more than can everyone who would like to own some other business obtain it. No better illustration could be taken than that of Ireland, when visited by the writer in 1913. There was not land enough to afford farms to all those who wanted farms. A selection had to be made. As we should have agencies to help select land, we should also make a wise selection of those who are to become our land owners and cultivators in our rural communities.

  Richard T. Ely
January, 1921. University of Wisconsin.

[Pg xxvii]


This report summarizes the results of a preliminary survey of rural developments in the United States from the viewpoint of the Americanization of immigrant settlers conducted by the writer for the Study of Methods of Americanization.

The field study covered a period of about four months, from June to September, 1918, inclusive, during which time the writer with his wife, Frances Valiant Speek, as his assistant, visited fifty-four cities and rural immigrant colonies in New England, the North Middle Western, the Western, and the Southwestern states. The cities and colonies visited and the nationalities involved are given in the order followed in the field study:

1. New York, N. Y.  
2. Vineland, N. J. Italians
3.       " Jews
4.       " Russian co-operative farm
5. Alliance, N. J. Jews
6. Norma, N. J. Jews
7. Woodbine, N. J. Jews
8. Willington, Conn. Bohemians
9.       " Slovaks
10. Portsmouth, R. I. Portuguese [Pg xxviii]
11. Fall River, Mass. Portuguese
12. South Deerfield, Mass. Poles
13.       " Lithuanians
14. Oneida, N. Y. Italians
15. Canastota, N. Y. Italians
16. Detroit, Mich.  
17. Lansing, Mich.  
18. Holland, Mich. Dutch
19. Au Gres, Mich. Germans from Russia
20.       " Germans from Germany
21. Posen, Mich. Poles
22. Rudyard, Mich. Finns
23.       " Canadian French
24. Madison, Wis.  
25. Radisson, Wis. Poles
26. Exeland, Wis. Mixed
27. Conrath, Wis. Poles
28. Weyerhauser, Wis. Poles
29. Holcombe, Wis. Mixed
30. Wausau, Wis. Mixed, Germans and native-born predominating
31. Three Lakes, Wis. Poles
32. Jennings, Wis. Poles
33. New Rhinelander, Wis. Italians
34. Roxbury, Wis. Germans
35. Walworth County, Wis. Germans
36. St. Paul, Minn.  
37. St. Cloud, Minn. Slovenians
38.       " Germans
39. Fargo, N. D. Scandinavians, Swedes, Norwegians
40. Bismarck, N. D.  
41. Dickinson, N. D. Russians
42.       " Germans
43. San Francisco, Cal. Russian Sectarians
44.       " Japanese
45. Sacramento, Cal.  
46. Fresno, Cal.  
47. Los Angeles, Cal. Russian Sectarians [Pg xxix]
48. Glendale, Ariz. Russian Sectarians
49. Phœnix, Ariz.  
50. Globe, Ariz.  
51. Austin, Tex.  
52. Lincoln, Neb. Germans
53. Milford, Neb. Germans (Mennonites)
54. Chicago, Ill.  

In addition to observation of the conditions in the colonies, numbers of the immigrant settlers, their leaders, native neighbors, and local public officials were interviewed on the subject of the survey. This was later supplemented by research, conducted mainly by the writer's assistant in the Library of Congress. No attempt was made to collect facts and material in a quantitative sense, attention being concentrated on what seemed to be outstanding facts, conditions, and cases.

In the writing of this summary the writer, as an immigrant himself, has also used his own experiences and earlier observations beginning in 1909, and his observations during his field investigation of the conditions of floating laborers in this country for the United States Commission on Industrial Relations during 1913–15.

The fundamental conclusion at which the writer has arrived in this summary is as follows:

The establishment of a home may involve direct material assistance, but requires protection, direction, and instruction given to the home-seeking and home-building immigrants.[Pg xxx] These aspects of the problem are discussed in Part I.

In the question of education the instruction of adult immigrants as well as immigrant children is important. Among all educational agencies the public school is the foremost. The parochial school and Catholic and Lutheran churches are, in many of the districts studied. Part II discusses the relative efficacy of public and private educational agencies in tying the immigrant into American life and loyalties.

P. A. S.



[Pg 3]



One of the strongest ties uniting human beings is found among the members of a family, the unit which is the foundation of the structure of organized society. Each family requires a home for its normal life and development. A normal home, especially in rural districts, means a piece of land and a suitable house for the family; it implies also an opportunity to earn the family living either on the same land—if it is large enough, as in the case of truck gardens or farms—or in a near-by industrial establishment; it implies acquaintances and friends in the same neighborhood, and certain minimum necessities of modern civilized life, such as roads, post office, newspaper, church, school, physician.


When an immigrant has succeeded in establishing such a home in America he invariably[Pg 4] answers, when questioned as to whether he considers America or the land of his birth to be his country, that America is his country. And he goes on to explain, saying that America is a free country, with better chances for everybody; that he has made his home here; that his children have been born here; that they have better schooling and much brighter hope for the future. For all these reasons, he explains, he does not want to return to his native country except perhaps on a visit, and he repeats again and again that America, not his old country, is now his homeland.

There is no other tie that binds a man so closely to a country as his home. No wonder, for home is everybody's center of the world, lookout tower, refuge, and resting place. With it are associated the most intimate and tender feelings a human being ever experiences, and naturally the same fine feelings extend to the place in which one's home is located. So we speak of fatherland, motherland, homeland, expressing in these words the close intimacy between family, home, country, and ourselves.

Polish Family


In direct distinction, the word "homeless" has implications of aimless drifting, of destitution and misery, and of the indifference of a "homeless" man to "his" country. Certain advocates of cosmopolitanism in their agitation against patriotism often take advantage of the importance[Pg 5] of home in the relation of a man to his country when they appeal to the "proletarians": "Do you own anything? Do you have even a home in this country? If not, why then should you love it?"

Although a home means a little world by itself—much more than a piece of land with a shelter on it—the establishment of a home, nevertheless, involves, first of all, the acquisition of a piece of land, even though it be the smallest suburban building lot with a twenty-five-foot frontage. If the piece of land is large enough so that its owner, if he is inclined to land cultivation, can make a living by working on it as either gardener or farmer, so much the better.


It so happens that a large number of immigrants who come to our shores with the intention of remaining here desire to establish a home, to acquire land, and to become land cultivators in America. Most of them have had farming experience in Europe. But what actually has happened and is happening year after year is that these immigrants, saturated with farm life and experience, drift to the cities, to work in mines and factories and at pick-and-shovel jobs.

This fact was confirmed so clearly by the investigation of the United States Immigration[Pg 6] Commission that its report has been the basis of the following statement:

From one third to three fifths of these newcomers, the proportion varying according to race, had been engaged in agricultural pursuits before coming to the United States, but not one in ten has settled on farms in this country. [3]

In the year 1900, as is shown in Table I, there were 276,745 foreign-born white persons of both sexes employed as farm laborers in this country. In 1910 the number of immigrant agricultural laborers was 336,753, an increase of 60,008, or about 22 per cent.

Number (by Sex) of Foreign-born White Persons Engaged as Farm Laborers in the United States, 1900 and 1910[4]
Sex 1910 1900
Males 308,360 253,895
Females 28,393 22,850
Total 336,753 276,745

[Pg 7] According to the reports of the Commissioner General of Immigration, 1,602,748 immigrant agricultural laborers, male and female, arrived in the United States between 1901 and 1910, both years inclusive. If all of these incoming agricultural laborers had found employment on farms in this country, the increase of immigrant agricultural laborers in 1910 over the number of 1900 would have been 579 per cent instead of 22 per cent.

The United States Immigration Commission made a detailed study of 17,141 households, the heads of which were miners or wage earners in manufacturing establishments. Of the persons of these households for whom complete data were secured, 62 per cent of the males and 24 per cent of the females were employed as farm laborers or as farmers before coming to the United States. The Immigration Commission also secured detailed information from 181,330 male and 12,968 female employees in mines and manufacturing establishments. Of these, 54 per cent of the males and 44 per cent of the females were employed in the old country in farming or as farm laborers.[5]

The transformation of European peasants into mill hands and miners in America is to be ascribed partially to the fact that land was not[Pg 8] available to them when they arrived in this country. Either they did not know where the land which awaited a cultivator was located, or they had not enough money to buy such land, or they lacked credit needed to undertake operations in clearing and preparing new land, or they were ignorant of American farming conditions. Some seemingly insurmountable reason prevented them from following their desires and calling.

This occupational change has resulted in loss to this country. The experience in agriculture of these large numbers of men, coupled with their ability for the hard manual labor required in truck gardening, in intensive farming, and especially in the opening up of new land, has been wastefully cast aside. The significance of such loss is clear in view of the fundamental importance of agriculture in the nation's life. About two thirds of the area of our country is uncultivated as yet, and the one third that is cultivated is worked extensively rather than intensively. Furthermore, native Americans and even old-time immigrants avoid hard pioneering work in the wilderness since they can find opportunities of lighter work and better returns elsewhere, on already established and "paying" farms.

Aside from economic loss there has also been a loss in social values. The desire of a large number of immigrants to establish permanent rural homes[Pg 9] and to become citizens here has gone to the winds. Instead of scattering over the country and mingling with the native population, they have been driven to the congested cities and have formed there Little Polands, Little Italies, ghettos, etc., remaining almost untouched by American influences. Both the economic and the social loss might have been averted to a considerable degree if the nation had had an effective land policy and if it had come to the aid of the immigrants in distributing and settling them on the land.

The certainty in the mind of an immigrant that there is a stake in the land for him, and his confidence that in the acquirement of his stake he gets a square deal from all concerned, are more important from the viewpoint of Americanization than the actual acquirement of any settlement on land; for not all immigrants desire to own a piece of land and work on it, and not all who desire to can actually do so. Other considerations—for instance, family conditions, industrial opportunities, city attractions, etc.—prevent a number of such immigrants from becoming farmers. Many come to America only to make money so as to return and buy land at home. For land ownership is to them the goal in life. What a change in this transient attitude might be made by a policy of having land available and usable for such birds of passage.

[Pg 10] Certainty and confidence as purely psychological factors in the process of Americanization can be cultivated in the immigrants by affording effective public guidance and protection to those who actually attempt to settle on land.

As the land settlement conditions now are, a large number of the land-seeking immigrants are disappointed in the acquirement of land; they have no confidence in the land sellers and dealers, and they have even become suspicious of the country's laws and public institutions connected with land transfer by purchase. To illustrate: An old-time Italian immigrant, a skilled truck gardener, working for another Italian near a small Eastern town, explained to the writer:

I have saved a small sum of money for the purpose of buying a piece of land. But after years of search I have not succeeded in acquiring a piece of land suitable for gardening. All land seems to have been already "grabbed." The price asked is so high that one hardly is able to work it out of the soil. Last year a "Yankee" sold me some land, but he did not give it to me; he wanted only my money. I had to take a lawyer, but he did not get the land that I had bought for me. Only my money was returned, half of which the lawyer kept for himself as a fee for his services. There is no help from lawyers or courts. I lost my savings of years. The land-selling business in this country is a big humbug. Too bad!


It is an astonishing, almost unbelievable fact that, although nearly all industrial and trade[Pg 11] pursuits have come under some sort of public regulation, licensing, or supervision—even such minor trades as shoeblacking, fruit peddling, and mere popcorn and peanut selling—land dealing, one of the most basic of all trades, has been practically overlooked by our lawmakers.

The regulation of a trade requires a definite policy toward the present and future of the trade in relation to the public safety and welfare, and especially is this true in regard to the regulation of land dealing. The United States needs acutely regulation of land dealing within its boundaries, and as a natural antecedent to regulation it should have and must have a definite land policy. To go one step farther, no efficient policy is possible unless it is founded on certain sound principles. What are the guiding principles for a practical land policy?

First of all, there is the economic principle. It is the increase of food production, on which the very life of the nation, its development and future strength, depend. The war demonstrated this in a most convincing way. The increase of productivity of the land must be continuous and permanent. The 1920 Census reports city population increases five times as rapidly as rural. Aside from conservation of the soil—that is, saving what we have—there must go on constant improvement of the soil by fertilizing and by the introduction of more[Pg 12] efficient methods of cultivation, intensive as well as extensive.

Then comes the social principle of an efficient land policy, with the end in view of affording more opportunities for the establishment of family homes. Among other results, this would closely bind the foreign-born elements of the population to the country and in this way materially assist the assimilation process. It would make for better public health and for greater happiness of the people.

The political goal is the stability of democracy and the strength of the country in domestic and international relations, in peace and in war. The agrarian disorders of Europe, its varied turmoils, revolutions, and war, accompanied by starvation and epidemics, are to a large degree due to the old prevailing out-of-date forms of land tenure inherited from mediĉval times.

Toward these ends certain changes and reforms in the distribution and colonization of land should be undertaken. The existing conditions are such as require prompt attention, not only in the interests of the general public and for the sake of the general good of the country, but especially for the sake of the immigrant. Because of his greater ignorance and helplessness and his usually strong desire to settle on land, he suffers more often and more severely than the native-born American from the unscrupulousness and[Pg 13] dishonesty and laissez-faire methods that flourish in the absence of a public land policy and public land regulation.

The partial or utter misfortune which the immigrant so often experiences molds his entire opinion of and attitude toward the United States. From the viewpoint of the Americanization of the immigrant, therefore, the questions of land policy, land colonization, and land dealing are of the utmost importance. Before a discussion of reforms is begun, a general description of present conditions, from this point of view of Americanization, is necessary.

[Pg 14]


The immigrant desiring to settle on land is constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to acquire land. The most general way of learning of such opportunity is through personal acquaintance or through correspondence with relatives and friends of the immigrant's own nationality who have previously settled on land. These sources of information are considered by the immigrant to be the most reliable, although they have certain drawbacks.


First, immigrants on the land are always desirous of increasing the number of people of their own race or nationality in their particular locality, for the sake of their own advantage; for the larger their community the better their social and business opportunities. Therefore they are often prone to exaggerate the advantages of land and farming in their section and to be silent as to the disadvantages, so as to induce more people of their race to join the community.

View of a farm.
Another view of a farm Third view of a farm


[Pg 15] Second, it is quite a common practice among immigrant settlers to receive from land companies certain commissions for bringing in further settlers, which induce them to exaggerate the good qualities of the land. The usual commission in the North Middle states is fifty cents per acre. The prospective buyers of land do not usually know about this.

There are also cases where a settler has secretly become a regular agent of the land company, receiving from the latter a salary in addition to a commission on each piece of land sold through him. In such cases the agent, known to the prospective buyer only as an ordinary settler, is in a position to get much higher prices for the land than a regular agent.

Still more danger for the immigrant lurks in the scheme whereby immigrant settlers already on the land, or their native-born neighbors, seeing that new people are coming in rapidly, take options on valuable land in certain desirable localities and resell it to the newcomers at a much higher price. Near Willington, Connecticut, there is a Bohemian colony, and in the days when this colony was growing rapidly a Bohemian settler looked up land available there and took a number of options on farms for which he already had would-be buyers. He took an option on one farm for its purchase at the price of $500; to the buyer he charged $1,500, and[Pg 16] made a clear profit of $1,000. According to a report of the Immigration Commission relating to the same colony, a man who paid $1,000 in cash for a farm found that the land "agent" who sold it to him had bought the option from the original owner for $400 a few weeks before the bargain was closed.

Quite a number of land companies are employing immigrant agents, especially of those nationalities and races with which they expect to do business on a large scale. Usually these agents are sent out to the immigrant centers in industrial towns. They bring the prospective immigrant settlers to see the land and they conduct the business in cases where the immigrants do not know English. The companies consider this the most effective way of reaching immigrants who desire to settle on land.

Another way in which immigrants learn of land opportunities is through the land companies' advertisements in the foreign-language newspapers. The immigrant newspapers, depending on a nation-wide constituency, are, as a rule, careful in accepting trade advertisements. Often the editor, before accepting the advertisement from the land company, makes a personal visit to the company's main office to find out whether the advertisement is honest or put out by schemers and crooks. According to the testimony of the land companies the editors of the[Pg 17] foreign-language newspapers, in the vast majority of cases, are honest men who refuse to be bribed. Only in a very few cases have the editors agreed to accept commissions.

Finally comes the usual method of all land companies, that of sending out agents among the immigrants, sending them folders, etc. As a rule the advertisements and folders exaggerate the good points of the land and gloss over the bad points. Quite often the exaggerations know no bounds; the land is described as the most fertile on the surface of the earth—photographs show corn, for instance, growing like a forest; a record of the yield is given, showing it to bring hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year per acre. Such exaggerations may be illustrated by the literature sent out by the New South Farm and Home Company, advertising ten-acre farms in Florida. The representations were that the farms were not swampy, were near direct water connections with New York; that every month in the year was a growing month; that the farms were surrounded by orange and citrous-fruit farms; that there were fine roads, wells, homes, schools, hotels, etc.; that the titles were perfect; that neighboring farms were doubling, trebling, and quadrupling in price; that the settlements were rapidly growing; that there was every convenience and comfort, such as Pullman cars, long-distance telephone, etc., etc.

[Pg 18] It is needless to say that many of these advantages were nonexistent. The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in regard to this case was that when a proposed seller goes beyond mere exaggeration of the qualities of an article and assigns to it qualities which it does not possess, "does not simply magnify in opinion the advantages which it has, but invents advantages and falsely asserts their existence, he transcends the limit of 'puffing' and engages in false representations and pretenses." By this decision it was established that to invent advantages and falsely assert their existence in a transaction of sale is a fraud.


The information given to immigrants by the Federal and state immigration offices is of value, because it presents certain facts needed by settlers, as, for instance, information on climatic conditions, general soil and market conditions, and so on. But these information bulletins often do not reach the immigrants because the immigrants do not know enough to ask for them; and, even supposing that they did reach the prospective settler, the bulletins are too general. They describe the conditions of large districts and sections of the country or state, while what the immigrant needs is exact, detailed knowledge[Pg 19] about a particular piece of land in which he is interested. The government officials claim that they have not sufficient forces to undertake a detailed investigation of individual land holdings, and also that they must try to avoid any appearance of discriminating between various land companies in the sense of encouraging or discouraging the sale of land belonging to given companies.

In general, one might say that the ways open to immigrants for learning of land opportunities are defective. Misrepresentation of land conditions and actual money frauds have made them suspicious of any land dealer, so that the best land companies experience, in the immigrants' suspicion, a handicap in the development of their business. This in part explains why the various real-estate associations are trying to get some sort of public regulation for their business and why a number of states which are interested in the development of their lands have begun to talk of regulation. They reason that such regulation would be a good advertisement for the state and would increase the confidence of people in the chances of successfully settling on land in that state.


In the states of California and Wisconsin the state departments and colleges of agriculture,[Pg 20] through their extension service and the state immigration offices, are doing highly valuable work in disseminating correct information in regard to land opportunities among prospective settlers and in defending the latter against unscrupulous land dealers. The writer was especially impressed by the methods used by the Director of Immigration of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Mr. B. G. Packer. The following statement dictated by Mr. Packer serves as the best description of his work and methods:

Four years ago, at the invitation of the Department of Labor, in Chicago, I began going down and meeting people by appointment there—immigrants who wanted to come to Wisconsin. In order to reach them, we advertised in Chicago papers. We ran classified notices in the metropolitan papers, in addition inviting correspondence from home seekers. We ran articles in foreign-language papers, showing what the crops are and how to open up the land, how to pull up the stumps, etc. We have had pamphlets on Wisconsin, and methods of cultivation of its land, published in foreign languages.

I find that the home seekers do not know where to go or whom to believe, but by meeting them in conferences I have been able to protect them against exploitation and direct them to localities where they stand a good show of making good. The average capital of immigrants will run a little over fifteen hundred dollars. The average capital of native-born Americans who come to see me is considerably less. A man going on the land should have not less than twelve hundred dollars after making his first payment on forty acres. We have schedules showing approximately what his living expenses will be for the first couple of years.

Our work is largely protective. The leading Chicago papers co-operate with us by refusing the advertising of[Pg 21] real-estate men who misrepresent their properties. The state attorney's office co-operates with us by enforcing the confidence-game statute. Every inquirer is furnished with a certificate (see p. 22), and I find that dishonest dealers refuse to sell to home seekers who present this certificate to them.

One point I should like to emphasize is that the back-to-the-farm movement will be successful in proportion to each state's activity in supplying home seekers with information that will insure their success on the land.

First, those coming into the new land region in our state, must have enough capital to carry them through the first two years for the purchase of clothing and food and farm equipment.

Second, they should have had some experience in farming. The city-bred man who wishes to get out into the country, not because of love of the country, but because of dislike of the city, is a poor investment. Those visiting us who have not had farm experience are urged to get it before locating or before investing their money.

Third, the wife must be satisfied and willing to undergo some pioneering. Right here is where a good many fall down. The man is willing to go and his wife goes unwillingly.

Fourth, the immigrants should not be flimflammed into paying excessive prices for undeveloped land. So far as Wisconsin is concerned, competition takes care of this, provided the home seeker gets into communication with our department. To illustrate: One concern in Chicago, operating in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, is asking forty and forty-five dollars an acre for cut-over land no better than may be obtained from lumber and railroad companies for half this figure.

Fifth, there is a tendency on the part of land salesmen to load up the immigrant with more land than he can use, or sometimes pay for. Eighty acres makes a good-sized farm for one family to develop and handle, and this is the size of tract recommended.

Sixth, the back-to-the-lander should be a man in good physical condition. I believe that it is a mistake to put men on the land who are not heavy enough for farm work.[Pg 22] The man should weigh not less than two pounds for every inch of his height, which is the army standard.

Seventh, it is a mistake to encourage people to go on the land after the time for the spring work has passed. I mean by this that under our conditions the settler has to construct a small house and do some brushing and clearing in order to grow vegetables for himself and a small amount of winter feed for his stock.

Eighth, the back-to-the-lander has too many fake ideas about the amount of money to be made in farming. Under our conditions the settler is putting money into his land and not taking very much out the first two or three years, unless he has merchantable timber that can be worked up into cordwood or bolts, or unless he locates in a region having little timber to be removed, and is able to specialize in potatoes. The men who have become wealthy from strictly farming operations are not numerous in Wisconsin or anywhere else.

I should like to call your attention to the following form of certificate furnished inquirers in communication with this department:

The State of Wisconsin
Department of Agriculture
Immigration Division

Directing Certificate

To Whom It May Concern:

The bearer ......................................... of ........................ is in communication with this department, and looking for a farm home in ............. County, Wisconsin. It is our purpose to keep in touch with him after his removal to this state, to note his progress, and learn if he is fully satisfied with the business relations he may have with any person or firm selling him land.

Any courtesies extended him will be appreciated.

.......................... 191......

Director of Immigration.
C. P. Norgord, Commissioner.

[Pg 23] In a bulletin of information for immigrants, issued by the Commission of Immigration and Housing of California, 1920, the commission offers its assistance to the seekers of land in the state of California, in the following words:

Immigrants who are thinking of buying farm lands should call upon or write to the office of the Commission of Immigration and Housing for free information and advice.

(a) The commission co-operating with the Agricultural Department of the State University will furnish without charge general information regarding agricultural lands; and

(b) It will make an investigation and free report to any immigrant concerning any particular tract of land which he may have visited, and which he contemplates buying. This report will cover the agricultural possibilities of the land and its accessibility to markets. If the immigrant states his previous experience, his financial condition, and gives other information which may be requested by the commission, the report will also give advice as to the wisdom of buying the proposed land.

No purchase or contract to purchase land should be made or entered into until the immigrant knows the nature of the land, its true money value, and that the land belongs to the one who proposes to sell it.

This is the kind of public assistance which the land seekers, especially the immigrants, most urgently need, and to which they are entitled. The only questions are, will the other states follow, and how can the opportunity of such reliable public assistance be made known to the land-seeking masses?

[Pg 24]


The experiences of the Russian sectarian peasants in America in their attempts to settle on land are illuminating in regard to existing conditions of land dealing and colonization as they affect the immigrant. There are in the Western states about a thousand families (or six thousand individuals) of Russian peasant sectarians—Molokans, Holy Jumpers, Wet and Dry Baptists, and others. They were all engaged in agriculture while they lived in Russia. As a result of persecution by the Russian monarchy they left their country and came to America about ten years ago.


From the beginning of their American adventure they have had a keen desire to settle on land. They have made repeated attempts to acquire farms, but so far failure has been the rule, with few exceptions.

The facts regarding most of the unsuccessful[Pg 25] attempts outlined below were obtained at a meeting of Russian sectarians in Los Angeles attended by about one hundred family heads. Each one told his own experience. The men had great difficulty in indicating American names—the names of companies, counties, etc.—so that in the following account names are omitted. When questioned as to how they could secure so much money, they explained that they all work whenever it is possible to find work, that they live moderately, that their men and women dress cheaply, that they do not drink or smoke or go to any places of amusement, as all that is prohibited by their religion, and that they save. They stated that their land-seeking attempts are backed financially by the entire colony; the losses are shared by all its members, although the individual families who are on the firing line lose more than the families who remain in Los Angeles and back these scouting parties.

These peasants believe that their difficulty in finding and settling on land has been due to several causes. First, they have not enough money to buy immediately a large tract of land, irrigate and improve it, and give the families a good start. Second, they do not know the country and conditions well enough, especially the agricultural possibilities. Third, the private land dealers are mostly crooks who cheat them, either by misrepresenting the quality of the land,[Pg 26] or by not fulfilling their contract promises, or by making contracts so complicated and so filled with catches that they afterward prove the ruin of the settler. The following are some of the most important of the attempts to find land.

From thirty to thirty-three families made a land-purchase contract with a company of —— County, Washington. One hundred and sixty acres were sold to each family, at a price of from $40 to $50 an acre. Each family pays down $400 and should pay to the company 60 per cent a year of the first, second, and third years' crops, it being understood that the remaining 40 per cent would remain in the hands of the settler for the support of his family. But during the first year it developed that the company took out of that 40 per cent the interest on the mortgages and the taxes on the land, so that very little was left for the cultivator. The next year the settlers left the land, worked on neighboring farms for another year, and then returned to Los Angeles. Some families had lost $400, some $700—practically all the money they had saved or borrowed.

Again, fifteen families made a contract with a company near Fresno, California. Forty acres were sold to each family at $115 per acre, with the privilege of water for irrigation on the stipulation that the company would receive half of the market value of the crops. The company[Pg 27] promised to lend seeds and implements. Several of the families had come from Mexico to escape revolutionary disturbances there, bringing implements, horses, cattle, etc. When they arrived they had to borrow seeds and provisions for the support of the families. The company furnished these on a chattel mortgage at 7 per cent. But the company was not able to provide irrigating water, so the settlers, after two years of fruitless effort, had to leave the land, losing all their mortgaged personal property. Some families lost $700 in cash, some lost $1,000, and some even more.

Later, twenty families made a contract with a land company for the purchase of farms varying in size from twenty to forty acres, at a price of $120 per acre. To be cautious, the peasants sent out only seven families. The company promised to provide either a tractor or horses, implements, seeds, and water, and was to receive one fourth of the crops. But it turned out that the company was not able to furnish water. During two years the settlers tried to make good, but did not succeed, the lack of water being the main cause of failure. One family lost $700, another $820, and the others lost about the same amount each.

Another group of twenty families made a contract with a company in the same neighborhood. Fifty acres were sold to each family at $120 per acre. The company agreed to provide two[Pg 28] horses for each family and all necessary implements, and for its part was to receive half of all the crops. It also promised to give water. But when the time came the company supplied only thirty horses instead of forty, and only three plows for the whole colony; it also failed to furnish water. The land was good, but without water it was of no use. The settlers battled for two years and then left the land. Each lost from $500 to $1,000.

About two years ago a farmer owning lands in the San Joaquin Valley got in touch with Russian peasants in Los Angeles. He agreed to sell these people land, with houses, stock, etc., at what seemed a nominal first payment—$200. It looked like a wonderful opportunity to the simple peasants, who, by their industry, had saved up two or three hundred dollars or more. About 120 families were induced to make the first deposit ($10 or $20). Then Prof. W. T. Clarke of the agricultural extension service of the University of California was asked by the Immigration Commission to visit this tract and report on it. He found that it was the poorest kind of alkali land—land that a grasshopper would starve on. The farmer who was selling the land raised strenuous objections to the investigation and the resulting report, but the commission succeeded in shutting off the entire deal, except in the cases of four or five peasants who[Pg 29] insisted on taking the farms and who are now making a failure of it.

On an attempt of the peasants to settle in Utah, twenty families contracted to buy farms at $100 per acre, 130 acres to a family. One fourth of the crops were to be paid to the company, which promised to provide water; but the company failed to find water and all the settlers and the company itself went to pieces. The settlers' losses were very heavy, some losing $1,000, some $2,000. They were again compelled to return to Los Angeles.

In 1907 certain agents of a German sugar company in Honolulu appeared and promised to sell the peasants good land in Honolulu. Thirty families made contracts to buy farms of forty acres, with the stipulation that they would pay the price gradually out of their income from the farms. When the families arrived in Honolulu there was no land for them. The company explained that they had been merely hired for work on its plantation. Under the conditions of labor there they were half slaves and the life became unendurable. After six months of trial and hardship they returned to Los Angeles, each family having lost from $600 to $700.

In another instance seven families bought farms at Elmira, California, varying in size from twenty to seventy acres. The price was $117 an acre, and they paid down $10 an acre,[Pg 30] the balance being covered by a mortgage at 6 per cent. This land is rather poor, but the settlers have stayed on.


Aside from a few families who have succeeded in settling on land here and there through the Western states and who are making ends meet, there is only one group of these peasants which has succeeded in establishing a well-to-do colony; that colony is at Glendale, Arizona, below the Roosevelt Dam.

The first colonists arrived in Glendale seven years ago from Los Angeles, while others came later from San Francisco and from Mexico. The development of the colony has been steady. There are four groups of colonists located a few miles from one another, but they communicate freely and consider themselves one colony. There are at present about seven hundred persons in the colony, with an average of five or six children in each family. The settlers paid down little money at the beginning. Some families did not pay anything; some paid $100, some $500, and a few paid $1,000. The price of the land was originally $125 per acre, but it has now doubled. Almost all the land is under cultivation. The men have acquired the necessary machinery, stock, plants, and seeds; they have[Pg 31] plenty to eat, and a large number of families have Ford automobiles, while a few are considering the purchase of higher-priced cars.

The success of the peasants in Glendale is to be explained by the fertility of the new desert land, the adequate irrigation provided by the Roosevelt Dam system, reasonable conditions of land purchase, the capacity of the men for hard labor, and their love of the land. The main money crop is cotton of the highest grade and of exceptionally heavy yield. There is no difficulty in marketing farm products, for the colony is within a few miles of Phœnix.


The report of the Commission on Land Colonization and Rural Credits of the state of California presents some interesting cases. [6]

A tract of wheat land was bought at $7 per acre. The buyer organized a syndicate composed of himself and his stenographer and sold the land to the syndicate at $100 per acre. The syndicate sold the land at $200 per acre. No settler was able to earn either the purchase price or the interest on it out of the soil.

Another colonization company bought 150,000 acres at an average of less than $40 per acre.[Pg 32] The average selling price at the start was $75 per acre, but was soon increased to $175 per acre. The agents commission on the higher price was 30 per cent—i.e., considerably more than the cost of the land.

In another case an agent made a contract for selling a tract of land at 20 per cent of the selling price, which he was free to fix himself. He raised the price from $150 to $400 per acre, so that he received commissions of $80 per acre instead of $30. As the terms were one fifth cash, the balance in four yearly installments, the agent induced the settlers to buy as much land as would absorb all their capital for the first payments, and then he pocketed as his commission the total amount paid down. When the tract was all sold, the owner held the contracts of the moneyless settlers, the latter had the use of the land, and the agent had the coin.

Some colonization companies, in searching for a tract of land, have regarded price as the only consideration, saying that any land that could be bought for $25 an acre could be colonized. Only hardpan and alkali land could be bought in California at that price. Nevertheless, one company bought such an area, subdivided it, and traded it for houses and lots in Los Angeles. Some time later only three of the purchasers were found to be still in the colony, and probably not one of them intended to remain.

[Pg 33] In one district a tract of "goose" land, after selling for $5 and then $15 an acre, was subdivided and sold as garden soil for $125 an acre. Three brothers who were market gardeners bought farms and settled there with their families. They found the soil, when wet, to be a quagmire and when dry to be possible of cultivation only with dynamite. After three years of utter failure they were forced to abandon their homes, having lost their money, time, and labor, and having reaped a bitter feeling of injustice and wrong.

It appears from the report that a certain class of land speculators, when buying land for reselling in plots, do not pay so much attention to the qualities of the land as to its advertising possibilities. If land in a widely known valley is alkali land, so much the better, for the buying price is lower. The speculator in his advertisement makes it appear as fruit land with a great future. It seems also to have been by no means uncommon for the agent's commission to be higher than the price paid by the owner for the land.


On February 12, 1919, in Cincinnati, Ohio, sixteen land swindlers of the McAlester Real Estate Exchange, of McAlester, Oklahoma, were found guilty by a jury in Federal court. The[Pg 34] company's land-advertisement literature was so worded as to convey the impression that the McAlester company was acting as an agent of the government in the sale of Indian lands. The prosecution was largely centered on the distribution among the customers of a tract of 41,000 acres in Oklahoma. It was charged that the president of the company secured an option on these lands when he found that he was unable to buy sufficient land at the government sale of Indian lands to fill his contracts.

It was also charged that the company perpetrated a fraud on its customers when it took $135 as a fee for locating and purchasing land, agreeing to act as attorney and agent for the customer, and then sold the land that it had bought privately at a profit. These contracts were, in the opinion of the government, so worded as to convey the impression that in paying for the locating and bidding the "party of the second part" was also making a payment on the land and was encouraged in the belief that his land would be in the midst of areas yielding oil and other mineral products as well as timber. Timber-right frauds also were alleged. The company had during 1917 collected from its victims, who lived in all parts of the country, nearly $1,000,000. It was revealed also that given plots of land had been sold to more than one buyer.

[Pg 35] The foregoing instances indicate that companies formed for the purpose of exploiting and deceiving land settlers have succeeded. With the increasing tide of new immigration, it may be possible to ensnare even more unwary persons. But there have been a sufficient number of exposés, as well as court decisions, to make the business of fraudulent land promotion a dangerous one. All types of real-estate dealers are increasingly realizing the need for making their transactions aboveboard and honest. Steps to this end are being taken by the better class of dealer.

[Pg 36]


Except for government land grants and homestead acts, land dealing and colonization in the United States have, up to very recent times, been entirely in private hands. Land is one of the necessities of life; land dealing, consequently, is one of the most important features in social and economic relations. Yet it has been left unregulated, with the result that land dealing is now the most chaotic sort of business, one which has not worked out its own definite methods, rules, and traditions, as banking and other branches of commerce and business have done. It may even be said that people who deal in land have fallen, in the eyes of the public, into the ranks of those open to suspicion.

In the field investigation for this study, land dealing was considered to be an important phase of the problem of Americanization in rural districts. Based upon the experiences and facts collected, the picture may be drawn as follows:

According to their methods, private land dealers may be classified as follows:

[Pg 37] (1) Land "sharks," divided between those acting outside the law and those acting within the law; (2) the ordinary real-estate dealer—of two types—the lower, selfish, narrow-minded, the higher, public-spirited; (3) "realtors"; (4) land-colonizing companies.


Land sharks are of two distinct varieties. One type is composed of men of a criminal character. The words "lawful" and "unlawful" have no meaning for them. They often sell land as their own which they do not own, or sell land other than they have promised or even shown to the buyer. Their only aim is to cheat the latter out of his money and to escape the penalty of the law.

These pirates injure both land seekers and legitimate real-estate men. They hang about the trains, railroad stations, and all points where there is a chance of attracting the land seekers. They are sometimes able to entice those who are being brought in by reputable land men. Often the pirates are of the same nationality as the immigrants and by clever emphasis on this common bond and by skillful manipulation of truth and lies they steal the men away to look at land which they call their own. The land pirates do not advertise, but live on the advertising that the reputable land men do. As a result the latter curtail their advertising and do a comparatively small amount of it, since they are prevented from realizing the full profits due on the investment. This is a situation[Pg 38] that forces the land men to realize the need of a licensed real-estate profession.

The president of a land company in Wisconsin gives this description of the operations of the land sharks and of the effects of their activity:

Relative to the land pirates, it is hard to estimate how much land they sell, but we find that for every customer they do sell to they queer deals for this country of from ten to twenty-four which the other land men might have landed.... I estimate that within the last two years the city of ---- has lost from fifty to one hundred customers for land though these pirates, who infest the depot and meet all trains.... Their first act is to find that the man is looking for land and to find out whom he is expecting to see, for they usually come up with some definite proposition to look over. The pirate then proceeds to throw cold water on the locality that he is to look over, and very often challenges the integrity of the party whom he is going to see. He does this preparatory to starting in to taking the man off and showing him something of his own. Frequently these men do not own a foot of land, but have a few pieces for sale on commission. They are usually irresponsible men and often put through some rocky deals, and it is through them more than anything else that the real-estate men have often got very bad names for the way they have handled customers who come up to buy land. When the customer's mind has been poisoned against the party whom he was coming to see, and against the particular piece of land or locality where he had formerly planned to buy, he is often ready to quit and go back, and it is very hard for anyone thereafter to deal with him, because his confidence has been shaken in the people and the country.

The other type of land shark is composed of men who act within the law, but, for their own gain, apply methods which are mildly called[Pg 39] "sharp" or "unethical." They either misrepresent the qualities of the land they offer, or charge a higher price than the land is worth, or make in the contract such stipulations as will afterward ruin the settler. They profit by the settlers' failures, for each settler adds something to the improvement of the land before the conditions of the land-purchase contract which he is unable to meet compel him to leave the land. The land shark sells the land to a new settler for a still higher price, capitalizing the improvements made by the former settler. With the new settler the process is repeated, and so it goes, like an endless chain. It is similar to the method of splitting fees practiced by private employment offices and foremen who keep men coming and going.

There are no data collected to show the actual extent of the activities of the land sharks, but, judging by the stories told by the immigrants, by records of court proceedings, by suspicious land advertisements in newspapers, especially in the smaller, less reliable foreign-language papers, and by the number of cases brought to the attention of the state immigration commissioners, it is safe to state that the immigrants suffer very greatly from the land-shark evil.


One group of the ordinary type of land dealer might be characterized as being composed of[Pg 40] narrow-minded, hard, and even heartless business men, working solely for their own interests. Their business consists merely in buying and selling land as rapidly as possible. In making prices for land and in making contract stipulations with the buyers, they do not "monkey," as some of them say. As a rule they do not charge a higher price than the land is worth—that is, not higher than the prevailing market price in a particular locality. They also avoid unreasonable or impossible contract stipulations. When land is sold, when the contract has been signed by both sides, then their care and interest in regard to the land and its owner end. If the buyer later fails to meet the contract stipulations in any particular the land dealer sees to it that he leaves the land at once. The dealer then advertises and sells the land again. Usually, no compensation for improvements made by the settler, in case of his failure, is stipulated in the contract. If there is any gain to the land dealer from the failure of a settler, the dealer often claims that such gain is more than offset by heavy expenses, such as for advertising, agents' commissions, and the like, in finding a new buyer.

The land dealer gives little or no consideration to the causes of the failure of the settler. According to the observation of the writer, a large number of failures in settling on land are not due to the personal defects or weakness of the[Pg 41] settlers, but are due to external causes, such as lack of capital and credit, lack of market, poor roads, etc. The settlers who have failed owing to such causes might be criticized for their poor judgment in selecting the land, but the land dealers might equally be criticized for not warning the settlers of the difficulties before they buy the land.

The land dealers ought to know the market facilities, the extent of capital and credit required for success on a particular piece of land and in a particular locality. As a matter of fact, dealers of the type under discussion do not warn the settlers. They give advice of an optimistic character and they apply to the settler the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest. A number of these land dealers said to the writer:

Well, it is up to the settler himself, either to succeed or to fail. If he fails, he has himself alone to blame, and he must give place to the settler who is able to succeed. There is no room for weaklings on my land or anywhere else in this world.

The results which follow in the wake of such land-settlement policies are described in the following extract from the letter of a county agent. He writes from a locality where many of the settlers are immigrants:

In some parts of this country ... the statistics show that there is a complete change in the farmers every seven years. That means that several farmers are coming and going all the time. Several farmers are paying out taxes and interest on something they will never own.... As to the land companies[Pg 42] doing things for the settler, in the most part they take care of the new man for a time, but I notice that they close them out, too, if taxes and interest are not kept up pretty well.

A similar condition is described in the letter below from a county agent in the same state:

The land companies in this county are not putting forth any special effort to make it easier for the new settlers to succeed. As far as I know, all the land companies in this county are reliable. They live up to their agreements with the settlers. However, I can also vouch for the statement that many of our farms, with very little clearing, are continuously changing hands.

The importance of advice and warning from the land company to the settler, and the deplorable infrequency with which it is given, are spoken of in this statement by a county agent:

So far the ... settler's only means of protection has been the county agent. From the county agent the settler gets the true condition of the land, climate, and possibilities in general, of the particular region into which he is going. Too often, though, the settler is met at the train by the real-estate agent, and this agent does not let his prospective buyer get in touch with anyone else until after he has been sold a piece of land. After the settler has bought his land the real-estate man thinks that his connection with him has ceased, and he is no longer interested in him other than to see that the promised payments are paid when due.


The second group of the ordinary type of land dealer, though not so large as the first group, consists of men who have a broader outlook upon[Pg 43] their business and work. While they also are after personal profit, they understand that they are rendering, in return for their profit, a service not only to the land buyer, but also to the public. Accordingly, they are considerate of the settler, try to make him successful, and, having the social point of view, they promote education, welfare work, and other community interests among the settlers.

The writer has met a number of such broad-minded and public-spirited land dealers. Some of them were so modest as to deny that they were interested in or were keeping in mind any public or social end in their business.

Well, I am after profit, nothing more. By helping the settler to make a success through extension of credit to him, through demonstrations, through finding a market for his products, and through organizing community work, I am only advertising my land and attracting new settlers. That is, I am applying a little bit of Henry Ford's methods to the land-settlement business, that's all!

This explanation was given by a large land dealer in one of the Middle Western states. Further conversation with him showed that he took great pride in the fact that the settlers on his land esteemed him highly and had confidence in him.

It is land men of this type that a county agent from the North Middle West speaks of in these words:

[Pg 44] The land men in this county all believe that it is to their own interests to have every settler a satisfied settler. They are getting away from the idea that they are done with the settler as soon as they sell him a piece of land. They now believe that they are just starting their relations with the settler when he buys from them.

Another county agent writes that he believes that

the real-estate men are beginning to try to see that the settlers to whom they sell land make good. They are doing this by being lenient with their conditions and by picking only the better types of land for settlement.

One of the real-estate men who have this more public-spirited view of their work describes his relations with the settlers as follows:

I try to assist the settler by giving him all the moral support and encouragement possible, by keeping friendly with him so he feels free to come to me with his every problem. I stand ready to finance any deserving settler for the full purchase price of good milk cows, or to buy a pig or two, or for any other thing that is sure to help him over the hill. Especially, I go among them organizing farm loan associations and community-center gatherings, thereby bringing the whole family the general social opportunities that every normal family craves and has the right to expect.

View of a farm People helping a farmer


A real-estate company with offices in Chicago states that it assists the individual settler in many ways:

1. We sell him horses and cows on liberal terms.

2. We help him buy on credit building materials and other necessaries, such as feed for his stock, small tools, etc. We O.K. many small bills.

[Pg 45] 3. We many times indorse settlers' notes at banks in order to help them get credit, and thus get the money with which to make progress.

4. Our organization keeps in touch with parties to whom we have sold. Our men see them occasionally and give them advice. Often we are able to be of material assistance in helping them to buy the right stock at the right prices.

5. We keep hammering away at the importance of their keeping in touch with the county adviser and getting the free literature that is sent out by the state and Federal authorities.

6. We try to be of aid in everything which promotes the general social and economic welfare of the community. For example:

a. Our Mr. —— was chairman of the Liberty Loan Committee in —— County.

b. Any proposition for new roads, new schools, or new churches gets our hearty and immediate support.

c. In all cases where we have been asked to donate an acre or half acre for church purposes, we have done so.

d. We have been instrumental in helping a number of incipient business men to start cheese factories.


Certain phases of the real-estate business requiring concerted action, and especially the desire of the higher type of land dealers to put their trade or profession on a higher level, and thus to prevent it from falling into disrepute in the public eye, have led the better type of real-estate men to organize themselves into local real-estate boards with an associate membership of leading local merchants, bankers, lawyers,[Pg 46] and others particularly interested in real-estate developments. The "realtors" prefer to speak of their trade as a "profession" or "calling," not a business or trade, for they claim that an up-to-date real-estate dealer is a community builder and leader whose preparation requires a good general education and a special training, pointing out that a number of the best colleges in the country are giving courses in the real-estate business.

Nineteen local boards from thirteen states formed a national association in 1908. At present the association comprises 130 local boards in this country and Canada, with a total membership of about 8,500 persons.

The aims of the National Association of Real Estate Boards are to promote efficiency among its members, to be a clearing house for the exchange of information and ideas, to publish an organ of the association, to broaden the sphere of influence of the local real-estate men, to assist in organizing local boards, to fight the land "sharks" and "curbstone brokers," and to maintain a high standard of professional ethics.

The members of the associated local boards call themselves "realtors," as distinct from "real-estate men" or "land dealers"—names which, they feel, are tainted by the unscrupulous methods of the "sharks."

The association has published a code of ethics[Pg 47] for its members, in which paragraph 13 is especially noteworthy. It reads:

As a duty to the public and each other, members should report to the board misrepresentations or any fraudulent, criminal, or illegal act pertaining to real estate, which may entrap and injure innocent or ignorant persons; and the board owes it to members and the community to take steps to stop such practices and to punish parties guilty thereof.

The local boards often render certain services to the community. The valuation committees are often called upon to give their expert advice in land matters even to the courts and government administrative offices.

But how far the association is successful in combating the underhand business methods of the unscrupulous real-estate men is very difficult to say. The fact is this, that the association favors public registry and regulation of the real-estate trade and at present is working toward that end, supporting bills of this nature that are introduced in the state legislatures. A number of the realtors are not in favor of the words "license" and "licensing." They prefer instead the words "certificate," "registry," and "regulation," believing that the word "license" is associated in the popular mind with saloon-keeping and similar trades of a lower order.

The desire of these men to separate from ordinary real-estate men by calling themselves "realtors" and their business a "profession," and[Pg 48] their advocacy of public regulation, show that the land "shark" is still very much alive and that the real-estate men themselves by their own private efforts are not able successfully to combat the "shark."

In the field of private land dealing there is appearing a substitute for the individual dealer. The modern colonization company has recently grown up, and out of this new project have grown broader policies and methods.

[Pg 49]


The earlier so-called city and empire builders were in most cases nothing more than dealers in land. When a lot or farm was sold, there the company's interest ended. The modern colonization company goes much farther. When a man settles on land, the company of the better type usually looks out for him, backs him with credit, affords him the service of an expert agricultural adviser, cares for his health, and promotes his social interests and activities through a salaried community worker.

All this is done by the company not only for the sake of the settler himself, but mainly for the sake of the business interests of the company, since the success of the settlers on the company's land is the best advertisement of the company's business. It creates confidence in the company among the searchers for land and helps to increase the volume of business and the profits. Such companies are of rather recent origin and as yet are comparatively few in number. Their appearance means specialization in the land-development business.

[Pg 50] In the North Middle Western states the wilderness land has been for the most part owned by the lumber companies. The lumber companies attempted to dispose of their cut-over and burnt-over land in the easiest way by selling to individuals. As a rule this retail selling was unsuccessful. They found that it was more profitable for them to stick to their lumber business and sell their land in large tracts to the land dealers and to land-development and colonization companies.

In this connection it is interesting to note that in the wilds of our north one may still see the following stages of frontier life as they exist side by side, sometimes overlapping and crosscutting one another.

1. The earliest stage known to American civilization was that of virgin wilderness inhabited by animals and roamed over by Indians. As remnants of that time there are found some animals, now driven into the swamps and rocks, and a few Indians settled on reservations.

2. The next stage was when the white missionaries, traders, adventurers, followed by professional trappers, began penetrating the wilderness. This white men's hunting stage is still represented by the present-day "shackers" and trappers, though they are mostly of an amateur character, and, so to speak, domesticated.

3. The following stage was when lumbermen[Pg 51] began being heard throughout the forests. They are still there, though in considerably reduced numbers. They are hurriedly attacking the remaining woods, leaving in their wake a dreary, sorrowful-looking expanse of cut-over and burnt-over lands.

4. These cut-over lands are now invaded by the land development and colonization companies, with their armies of new settlers, attempting to transform the last remnants of wilderness into fertile gardens, fields, and meadows. This is the last decisive war of man upon the wilderness—a picturesque and difficult struggle. A settler gives this vivid description, printed in the Radisson, Wisconsin, Courier:

Everywhere we go we see men, women, and children cutting and piling the brush and logs that have covered the ground since the days of the logger. Everyone seems to be trying to clear more land than his neighbor, and get it ready to produce the crops that are so badly needed all over the world, and as we stop a minute to take a better view of what each one has done, we hear the boom of dynamite that is following the brush lines as they are being pushed back.

In the north the land-clearing line is called the firing line, a term which can be taken literally, for the land-clearing front is continually under fire and clouds of smoke from burning debris.

5. The sturdy new settlers, the last pioneers and frontiersmen in the country, are followed, especially along rivers where water power is at hand, by industrial workers. Here and there[Pg 52] are appearing thriving manufacturing and commercial towns—the last stage in the opening up of a new country to civilization.

But the most important work in the wilderness at present is that of the modern land colonization companies. To give an idea of their work and methods it is necessary to describe one of these companies in detail.


The particular company investigated with special attention is located in the wilderness of one of the North Middle Western states. In general the company is applying the same business methods to land colonization as Mr. Ford is applying to automobile production—production of new farms on a large scale so as to diminish the overhead expense, and standardization of various colonization methods. The guiding test is the success of the new settlers on the company's land. Failures among the settlers are avoided and fought against by the company as though they were a dangerous epidemic. "Each failure among our settlers is a bad advertisement for our company, a loss to us, and an evidence of defects in our business methods," stated the company's head.

To insure the success of the settlers and the settlement, the company proceeds as follows: The most careful study is made of the tract of[Pg 53] land which the company intends to acquire for colonization purposes. Not only is the tract of land closely looked over by the company's officials, but land experts, such as soil surveyors, are engaged to examine the land from the viewpoint of its agricultural possibilities. Federal and state surveyors' reports are also used in considering the possibilities of the land.

When the land has been acquired, a plan for a colony is worked out, with provision for necessary roads, town sites, irrigation or drainage systems, utilization of water power, social centers, experimental farms, etc. The accompanying map shows the plan of one such colony.

The tract is then surveyed and cut up into farms according to the plan adopted. A number of farm lots are selected by the company. On each of these lots there is designated a place for the farm buildings and the garden. A simple, inexpensive house and a barn are built by the company on a small clearing, usually facing the main road. At present the company has ceased to clear any land for agricultural use for the reason that if there is a piece of cleared land the new settler is apt to expend his main efforts on cultivation of this cleared land, neglecting the clearing of more land.

Our experience has shown that it is much better when a new settler begins his settlement enterprise with clearing. He at once acquires the needed experience in clearing, and[Pg 54] develops the confidence that he is able to overcome the difficulties of clearing. As a result, his ambition grows to clear more land each year,

explained a company official. This again shows with what fineness the company has to adjust its methods to the psychological peculiarities of the settlers.

At the same time the company equips the experimental farm and puts it into operation under the supervision of a trained agriculturist. For the community work a hall is provided and a community worker engaged.

Meanwhile the company's agents and advertisers have been busy in making the land opportunities known to people who are intending to settle on land. The new settlers are of two distinct types. One type consists either of native Americans or immigrants who have previously been on land in the United States either as landowners or as tenants. The second class consists of immigrants who have been living in the cities and who desire to settle on land. In most cases they have been engaged in agricultural work in their old countries.

Area Map


The company itself takes into consideration racial and national factors. In the year of the investigation the company was doing its main business in the one section with Polish immigrants, and preferred them even to the native settlers. The reason given was that immigrants,[Pg 55] especially Slavs, are easy to get along with and readily follow the company's directions and advice. They are hard workers and are satisfied with a small return at the beginning. In contrast, the natives commonly pay little attention to the company's directions and advice, being anxious to make a quick success. In case they do not succeed as rapidly as they expected, they get discouraged, leave the place, and give the company a "black eye."

The land is sold in plots of forty acres each, either as "made-to-order" farms or without farming improvements—"land only." The purchaser may buy as many plots as he desires and is able to pay for. However, the company discourages the buying of more land than the settler is able actually to improve and cultivate, which usually is about forty acres.

The company offers in its folder the following three land sale plans:

Land Only, without Improvements

First payment, $200 for each 40 acres. Total cost, $750 to $1,000 for each 40 acres.

If you buy under Plan No. 1 you pay for the land only. Should you want lumber or building supplies, we will furnish them to you at cost, and add on to your contract. The same is true in case you want live stock. In other words, we will furnish supplies equal to the amount of the first payment. Prices vary according to location and quality of land.

[Pg 56]PLAN NO. 2
Forty Acres of Land with House and Live Stock

House 14×20 feet, 1 story,
1 cow,
1 small pig,
4 chickens,
Complete assortment of vegetable and flower seeds,
1 bushel mixed clover and timothy seed.

Cash payment, $250.
Total cost, $1,100 to $1,350.

These plans cover only 40 acres. If you wish larger acreage add to these plans what land you require, at $750 to $1,000 per 40-acre unit.

Forty Acres of Land with House, Barn, Live Stock,
and Tools

House 14×20 feet, 1 12 story,
Barn 12×14 feet,
1 cow,
4 chickens,
2 small pigs,
Complete assortment of vegetable and flower seeds,
1 bushel mixed clover and timothy seed,
1 garden cultivator,
1 crosscut saw,
1 ax,
1 brush scythe,
1 mattock.

Cash payment, $400.
Total cost, $1,250 to $1,500.

These plans cover only 40 acres. If you wish larger acreage add to these plans what land you require, at $750 to $1,000 per 40-acre unit.

As experience has shown, a settler on new land which he has to clear has no opportunity for using a horse to its fullest capacity during the first two years. Therefore the company does not include a horse in the preliminary equipment of a "made-to-order" farm. When a new settler[Pg 57] needs horse power either for plowing or hauling he hires a horse from his older neighbors or from the company's demonstration farm at a reasonable price.

One of the company's special efforts consists in securing a market for the settler's produce. With this end in view, co-operative creameries are favored and promoted by the company.

It is the policy of the company to encourage the organization of local state banks wherever it does any colonizing work, for the company realizes that the short-time credit needs of the settlers must be taken care of. It always encourages the local merchants and people in the near-by towns to take some stock in the bank. Whatever stock is left over, different members connected with the company usually take, upon an understanding with the local people that as soon as any of them wish some of this stock the company will sell it to them at 6 per cent interest on its money.

A number of years ago the company organized a bank in one of its colonies in order that the settlers might get proper credit. The company found it necessary to do something, as heretofore the settlers had had no opportunity to secure short-time credit. After the bank had been organized for three years the people in the colony desired to take the bank stock, and the men connected with the colonization company sold all[Pg 58] their stock with the exception of one or two hundred dollars each, which the local people desired that they retain, so that out of $10,000 capital stock $1,000 is held by men interested in the company. In another colony some of the local people spoke for some stock and were offered the stock held by men interested in the colonization company at exactly what they paid for it, plus 6 per cent interest on their money. This has been true in the different sections where the company has promoted the organization of a bank.

As the company's business methods are based upon the principle of the settler's success, the company is keeping in very close touch with its settlers. For each settler a "Progress Record" card is filed in the company's local office. The following reproduction of the main features of the card indicates the items that show the economic progress of the settler. Although it is not possible to have all the items filled up to date, a beginning is always made. As visits are made to the settlers' farms by the company's representatives, or the settlers come to the company office for advice or help, information is collected and added to the cards. Eventually an invaluable record of salient facts in regard to the settler and his progress is accumulated in this way.


Name .................... Address ...................


.............Sec............Tp........R......  ......
.............Sec............Tp........R......  ......
.............Sec............Tp........R......  ......
County............State.............Total acres......
Soil............Distance from school............miles
From town..........miles.    Name....................
Previous farming experience..........................
(year and month)
Moved on land in..............191.... From...........
I had in cash.................In stock...............
Tools and machinery..................................

Total net worth (when I moved on land) $.........


Price paid for unimproved land, $..............


Paid in cash...........................
Balance due............................

Improvements, Equipment, and Live Stock included in purchase
Terms of contract...........................................
Interest rate 6 per cent.

[Pg 60] Record of Progress

1st 2d 3d 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
yr. yr. yr. yr. yr. yr. yr. yr.

Cleared (plowed)............................................
Cleared (stumps in).........................................
No. of cows.................................................
No. of calves...............................................
No. of horses...............................................
No. of colts................................................
No. of pigs.................................................
Days worked out.............................................
Owed on chattel.............................................
Owed bank...................................................
Paid on land (prin.)........................................
Paid on land (int.).........................................

Acres Classification Acres Acre Total
    Fenced Value  
...... Cultivated ...... ...... ......
...... Cultivated (stumps in) ...... ...... ......
...... Meadow (wild hay) ...... ...... ......
...... Unimproved ...... ......  
  Total value of land     $......

  Size Material Insured For Total
House ...... ...... ......
Barn ...... ...... ......
Silo ...... ...... ......
    Total value of buildings $......

[Pg 61]
Live Stock
No.   Value, Total
...... Dairy cows ...... ......
...... Dairy heifers ...... ......
...... Dairy calves ...... ......
...... Beef cattle ...... ......
...... Horses ...... ......
...... Colts ...... ......
...... Hogs ...... ......
...... Sheep ...... ......
    Total value of live stock $......

Total value of machinery $......

Assets   Liabilities  
Value of land $...... Due on land $......
Value of buildings ...... Due on live stock ......
Value of live stock ...... Due on machinery ......
Value of machinery ...... Other debts ......
Value of other property ...... Other debts  
    Total $......

Total $......    
  Present net worth $......  

These progress records are valuable to the company for a number of purposes. They help in considering extension of credit, in giving advice to the settlers, and in finding out what general business methods are the best for the[Pg 62] company to follow in the way of assisting the settler to make a success.

As the settler's future well-being depends to a certain degree upon his progress in Americanization, it would be advisable for the company to include in the record cards items concerning the date of the settler's arrival in America, his naturalization status, and the degree of his knowledge of English at the time of his settlement on land. These few additional items would hardly complicate or burden the recording work of the company's local office.


The company's officials stated that the immigrant family when first arriving in the colony is shy and helpless. The introduction of the family to the new conditions and surroundings has to be made gradually. A representative of the company meets the family at the station and directs it to a hotel, where it stays a few days before it is taken to the farm. During these several days the company's adviser calls often upon the family, talks with its members, takes them through the colony and introduces them to their future neighbors, and explains the local conditions. When the family is transferred to the farm the company's adviser still has to call almost daily, for there are numerous matters[Pg 63] upon which the settler needs advice and encouragement.

The majority of the new settlers are quite ignorant of the methods of land clearing. This the adviser has to teach them. How to feed cows, what and when to plant, how to cultivate, and how to handle the products—in all such questions the new settlers need constant direction. They themselves give two reasons for their need of advice in farming operations. First, the European methods of farm work are different from the American methods, especially because in Europe they were not engaged in opening up new land. Secondly, having been engaged in industrial work in America, often for long years, they have forgotten the European farm experience to a certain degree.

While the writer was in the office of the adviser the settlers were constantly calling upon the latter for advice in all sorts of matters. One woman came, crying, and said, through her boy as interpreter, that her cow was sick and perhaps dying. Another woman sought advice as to her sick baby. A man came to ask that a certain road be extended to his place. Still another man wanted to do some stumping on his land in co-operation with his neighbors, provided the company lent a machine and the adviser came to direct the work. Another man asked advice in regard to the extension of credit to him. So the[Pg 64] stream of inquiries went on continually. The adviser needed to be, as he was, an extremely capable man to deal with the extraordinary list of demands. He was an expert agriculturist, energetic, and in love with the game of helping the immigrant settlers.

View of a farm Small herd of ewes


In regard to the need of a trained adviser for the new settlers the president of the company explained as follows:

The greatest need for instruction is in land clearing, for the modern land-clearing methods—methods of just how to "brush," and at what time of year to conduct the operations—are entirely new to almost every settler arriving in the colony. No wonder we ourselves are studying, experimenting, and improving on land-clearing methods each month.

In general, our immigrant colonists are efficient workers. The fact is that some of the buildings in our new town site are being built by our settlers. A large number of them were contractors. Many of the foreigners worked in the shipyards on the coast. Some of them worked on big farms. We find them very intelligent and capable, and some of them very good business men. We have built over twenty miles of road this year, every bit of it being done under contract, and the contracts were all taken by our new settlers. During the past year about two hundred houses were built, and these were all contracted to the new settlers.

It is true they have many things to learn, just as we have. We are not really teaching them, but we are working with them, studying with them, learning much from them, just as they learn from us. We are opening up our demonstration farms, studying the problems just as they are. Our adviser's main work is to assist them in choosing the kind of seed best adapted to that country, to act as a kind of leader for the community, for they are all strangers, and until they have become accustomed to the country, and[Pg 65] until leaders have sprung up among them, it is necessary that an outside leader, such as our agricultural adviser, should be employed, but not because of the ignorance or inefficiency of the foreigners.

Observing the actual operations of such advisers in a number of cases, the writer has been convinced that in every new rural immigrant colony an intelligent, sympathetic, and efficient adviser is needed, and that the private colonization companies are to be commended for employing such advisers.


In one of the colonies the writer observed that the settlers' children worked a great deal. On one farm three children—two boys and one girl—of ages varying from nine to thirteen or fourteen, were clearing land of stones and the debris of brush and stumps. On another farm, the settler's wife, with her two tiny and delicate girls, was cultivating potatoes, each one using a rake. On a third farm, two boys, one of ten and the other of twelve, were cutting hay with scythes. The boys were thin and pale. In talk they appeared serious and somewhat cheerless, although in a measure enthusiastic about their new farm.

The company's local officials and also the settlers themselves admitted that their children work considerably, even to the extent that they[Pg 66] are often kept home from school. The settlers said that they understood the harm being done their children both by working too hard and by being withdrawn from school. But they are very eager to put their new farms on a paying basis in the shortest possible time. The company's officials said that they had so far not interfered with the use of child labor, but that in the future they would try to exercise some supervision over the work of children in the colony.

The president of the company stated in regard to the labor of the settlers' children that "in some cases in the cities, on the farms, and everywhere, there is an indiscreet use of child labor, as also there is a practice in many communities of letting the children run wild. I believe I would rather trust future America to those brought up in pioneer regions than I would trust future America to those brought up under conditions where no hardship, no pioneering, no work whatever is expected of them."

While this is quite true, nevertheless the writer's impression was that a number of the settlers overwork their children and keep them out of school at times.


As the company's overhead expenses for the maintenance of a number of offices, for the employment[Pg 67] of a large number of agents and for commissions and extensive advertising, are heavy, the company is able to do successful business only on a very large scale. The head of this particular company believed that, in view of this fact, the tract of good farming land on which a company operates must be not less than 50,000 acres. He also stated that in view of the fact that the company's outlay of money, and especially its extension of credit to settlers, is very large, the reliable land development and colonization companies ought to be assisted in the way of credit by the public through the government.

During the war the company had great difficulty in borrowing money on the settlers' mortgages. They had to pay a high rate of interest. Since the end of the war, however, the company has been able through the banks of the financial centers of the North Middle West to float a large number of collateral bonds on mortgages. These bonds at the present time sell to the general public at 6 per cent. The company, its president stated, must pay the cost of trusteeship commission on sale of bonds, etc., which brings the rate which the company pays to a fair amount above the 6 per cent which the ultimate investor receives. At the present time there is no difficulty in financing the organization, although it would[Pg 68] be very desirable to have state and Federal assistance.

Bills providing for such assistance have been introduced in the state legislatures of all of the northwest states. Congressman Knutson at Washington has introduced a land credit bill to provide capital for the development by land colonization of the agricultural resources of the nation, providing for certain privileges to soldier settlers, and creating a National Colonization Board.[7]


While the company has made provision for the conservation of riparian rights, for roads, and even for town sites, it has done little for the conservation of wooded land. It has preserved the woodland on river banks and 160 acres of timber in one colony, and it has planted about 15,000 small pine trees. Moreover, the company encourages the conservation of woodland by the settlers, advising them to keep in timber from five to ten acres for each farm.

How far the settlers will follow this good advice remains to be seen, while the conservation of wooded land by the company is inadequate. This the company's local officials admitted, but they reasoned that it would hardly be advisable[Pg 69] for a single company, or even a number of companies, to attempt to conserve wooded land or other natural resources the return from which would be in the far distant future. It would be advisable for the state, or even for the Federal government, to make provisions and necessary regulations for the conservation of wooded land and other natural resources upon which the well-being of the public at large depends.


A number of Polish settlers in one of the colonies visited expressed the desire to have a Polish church and school. They believed that if the national Catholic Church organization would help them, they themselves would be able to maintain their church and school.

This fact led the writer to a discussion with the company's officials as to the advisable size of a compact colony of the same nationality. They stated that if an immigrant family is established among settlers of another nationality, the family becomes lonely and desperate and after a year or two of such loneliness is apt to leave the farm, no matter how successful it has been in buying and cultivating the land. Therefore the company's policy is to settle the people of the same nationality together.

The writer asked whether, if a colony of one[Pg 70] nationality is large, having a hundred or several hundred families, the resulting conditions would not make for separation and isolation. They would have intimate intercourse only with one another, would establish a church and school of their own nationality, and would even develop their own town and elect their own local government officials. The company's officers admitted that this would possibly happen; they said that the company had not yet decided how large a colony of one nationality, in the same locality or neighborhood, it would develop.

The personal opinion of one of the officials was that from fifteen to twenty-five families of one nationality in the same neighborhood would not be a source of danger because of becoming clannish and remaining un-Americanized for a generation or a number of generations. A colony of such size would not be able to maintain a church and school of its own nationality. As to the danger of inbreeding, the officials pointed out that the church rules and state laws would prohibit it, and said that, furthermore, the immigrants, having friends and acquaintances elsewhere in the country, would marry into other groups of immigrants.


The writer, while visiting the company's colonies, was struck by the fact that the settlers who said[Pg 71] they had been in this country from eight to ten years understood and spoke very little English, seemed to be rather shy, and in general appearance lacked signs of American influence. Overalls and the tools in their hands were almost the only betraying marks of the American environment.

The investigation developed the fact that most of the settlers had lived previously in the congested "Little Polands" in Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee. The settlers explained that they lived there as in the old country, having their own Polish church, Polish schools, Polish banks, Polish stores, Polish books and papers, speaking Polish in their homes, in the streets, and in social gatherings. Even in the factories where they worked, their fellow workers were often Poles; sometimes even the foreman was a Pole. There was almost no opportunity for coming in contact with the American ways of life and with the country's language.

Several settlers declared that they had learned more about America and had used English more during the last two years in the northern wilderness than during the previous seven or eight years in the city of Chicago. Settling on land, they came in contact with the American land agents, other company officials, government authorities, American banks and stores, and with American neighbors at the community meetings. Here in[Pg 72] the wilderness they first found how badly they needed English and a knowledge of American ways. A number of parents started to learn English by taking lessons from their children, who themselves were learning English in the local public schools.

The company's officials stated, in confirmation, that the Polish settlers in their colonies were growing in dignity and self-reliance, that they were assuming American characteristics and an American bearing.


As the colonies of the company are comparatively young, it is impossible to foresee their future with certainty. So far they seem to be on a sound basis, and their success rather than their failure is to be expected. The soil is good and the settlers stick hard to their work on the land. The first colony founded seems to be over the danger line already. It is no longer under the financial control of the company, the settlers have secured loans outside, and their farms are progressing from the experimental stage to that of established security.

However, a settler expressed the following apprehension to the writer:

You see us, men and women, old and young, working here in the wilderness like beavers, clearing and digging, scraping[Pg 73] and building. All are pressed hard by a strong hope of establishing a permanent home and of earning future independence. But we still live in makeshift houses, and so far only a few families are able to make a living, bare and meager, out of their clearings, diggings, and cows. The vast majority—almost all of us—have, at times, to leave the farm in care of women and children and look for work elsewhere—in Duluth, Chicago, Detroit—for the purpose of earning bread for the family on the farm. A number temporarily hire out to the company, but the latter's wages are considerably less than we get in the industrial centers.

You have heard the company's officials and seen their doings, and everything might seem to you to work smoothly for the benefit of the settlers. Is it not so? For instance, the company claims that it sells us tools at cost, but we already have found out in regard to a number of things that the company makes a fair profit on them. Again, the company claims that it runs the demonstration farms only for our benefit, but as a matter of fact the company's aim is, as we understand it, to build up a large farm estate on the best land of the tract, and to sell us its products, seeds, breeding stock, etc.; in other words, to make money out of demonstration. One hardly can object to this, except that the company claims that it is doing business with us "at cost," which is not so.

Almost in everything, even in our home life, we depend upon the good will of the company, and so far we have not much complaint to make against it. In general, it has treated us well under the existing circumstances, but we are a little apprehensive about our future. Suppose we, as settlers, finally succeed in making good, clear our land, and build up our farms, as expected by the company and hoped by ourselves. Will we then be free and independent of the company's control? We are afraid not. We will still have to transact our financial matters through the bank in which the company is interested, sell our products through the company's agency, etc., not because any law or stipulation would require this, but solely because the company, with all its business establishments, is here among us. The[Pg 74] company is retaining river shores, town sites connected with certain business privileges, and the best pieces of land, as its demonstration farms. This means that the company, with its fatherly care for us, is going to remain with us for a long time to come.

The field notes of the writer on the above statements of the settler were later shown to the company's head, who answered them as follows:

The expression "makeshift houses" is not fitting at all, for the buildings are warm and comfortable—hardwood floors, painted wall board inside. They are small, it is true. You can travel the country over, where pioneers are located, and I defy anyone to find a better-looking set of houses than those in any one of our colonies.

This man states that so far only a few families are able to make a living. In our older colonies I could show a list of cream checks which the different settlers are receiving from their cows; they will range all the way from $50 to $400 a month. This does not take into consideration the surplus live stock, potatoes, and other grains, which they sell from their farms. It is not expected that these new settlers will make money out of their crops for the first few years. It is expected that they will go away to the cities and work part of the time, while their families remain on the land. We state in our literature, as does all state literature, that the first two or three years contain hardships, and mean some working out to earn money, provided the settler comes without any funds whatever. The survey of all our settlers shows that while they have worked in the city ten to fifteen years, their entire savings have amounted to from $200 to $1,000. In the colonies, due to clearing, increased value of land, and earnings on their new farms, they have made from $500 to $1,000 a year. Surely this entails some hardship and some hard work.

The statement that some of them hired out to the company[Pg 75] at less wages than are paid in industrial centers I'll agree was true during war times. We could not hope to compete with the wages paid in the munition factories of the East. The company does, however, pay standard wages, as high as are paid anywhere for the same class of labor.

The statement that the company claims that it sells the necessities at cost is not correct, for the company sells nothing. We have an iron-bound practice that in no case do we enter into the store or sales business. We furnish the original house, barn, tools, live stock, with the land. After that we sell nothing. We have often stated that if we would enter into the store business or selling business, it would drive others out, and it was poor practice for the company to engage in any business outside of colonization, for it involved too much detail and was a separate business. Colonization is a game all of itself, and if we divided our energies with other industries we could not succeed.

Some time ago a charge similar to this was made by some of the settlers, stating that the company was making profits on buildings. We immediately offered to have any lumber company agree to put up those buildings for the same price that we did. We asked for a large number of bids, and the nearest bid was one hundred and twenty-five dollars more than the price we were charging the settlers. We did not ask them to bid on only one house, but on one hundred houses a year. The reason we have been able to construct these buildings at such a low rate is that we have our own timber. When the price of lumber went up during war times, we did not increase our price one dollar. By building hundreds of houses each year, by eight or ten years of experiment, and keeping the same foreman and crew, we have been able to develop an efficiency that will allow us to put these buildings up at one hundred dollars less than the best bid we could get from anyone. We would gladly give up this detail work if some one else could do it, for we make no money on it and barely take care of costs and our necessary overhead.

As to furnishing cattle, we made an offer to one of the local Holstein and Guernsey associations, asking them if[Pg 76] they would be willing to furnish all of our settlers cows at the same price we were asking, and deliver them at the same time we were delivering them; we could not get anyone to accept our offer. We have lost money right along on our live stock—not a great deal, but a small amount. So when your informer tells you that they purchase goods from the company at a fair profit to the company, the statement is not correct, for we sell no goods to them at all except what goes with the land. In no case do we buy anything from the settlers, and in no case do we sell anything to them, except the original equipment which goes with the original purchase.

The statement that the company's purpose is to reserve large demonstration farms is laughable, for we only have two demonstration farms reserved in our entire tract of 60,000 acres. Those two demonstration farms cover 2,500 acres. Already one demonstration farm in a colony where we sold practically all the land has been cut up into small farms and offered for general sale. The other demonstration farm is in the vicinity of our present settlement and is not now broken up.

In our oldest colony we reserve not a foot of land there. The cheese factory which we started we turned over to the co-operative organization. The warehouse which we constructed we turned over to a Co-operative Shippers' Association.

There is one thing that your informant is correct on, and that is that we retain the river shores. We have retained the riparian rights for the reason that some day we hope to turn this over to a water-power company and develop hydroelectric power for the benefit of that whole community. If these river shores were in the hands of different settlers, it would be impossible for a hydroelectric company ever to go in there and purchase each farm separately at a price that would enable it to develop the power.

The contradictions in the above interviews are to be explained by the settlers' misunderstanding[Pg 77] of the company's general policy and methods. In their eyes everything in the colony belongs to and is managed by the company, which is quite true at the beginning of the colony, and which cannot be otherwise at that time. The new settlers know little of one another, and are ignorant of the local conditions. They lack both business experience and capital. Therefore, as a rule they are not able to conduct, either individually or on a co-operative basis, commercial or industrial establishments at the start. It is therefore up to the company to see that there is a town, a hotel, a grocery store, a bank, a creamery, or cheese factory, a shipping office, etc., in the colony.

The fact that the company has interests in, and even controls, these concerns at the beginning, and that all these business branches work together, conducting their financial transactions through the same bank, has led the settlers to believe that everything is permanently owned and controlled by the company. The settlers in a new colony do not know that as soon as the success of these business organizations is secure and the settlers have been assisted to a firmer footing the company will turn the organizations over to the settlers themselves on a co-operative basis, as has already been done in the company's oldest colony. It is the company's policy, as above stated by its head, to specialize in the land[Pg 78] colonization work only, leaving banking, commerce, and manufactures to others.


The writer visited and investigated two colonies of new settlers founded by the colonization company within a distance of about twenty to thirty miles from one another. The following field notes taken during interviews with the company's local officials and the settlers themselves give a general picture of the conditions of the colonies.

In the first colony, the first families settled about twelve to fifteen years ago. At that time a logging camp was operating and the country was covered with standing timber. As fast as the loggers cleared the timber the land was opened for settlement by the colonization company. Land buyers were taken into the logging camp, were given meals and sleeping quarters there, and were taken out and shown their land. About five years after the first settlers came most of the timber had been cut. The company then established the village and began settling from that point. The colony has steadily increased and at present contains about fifty families.

The settlers were Polish. About ten families came from Russia, twenty from Germany, and twenty from Austria. They left their old country[Pg 79] on account of poverty, political oppression, and compulsory military service there. Almost all of them had been engaged in agriculture in the old country. About forty families had been employed in shops and factories in America before they succeeded in settling on land here; only about ten families came from Europe directly to the colony, of which they learned through the company's advertisements in the American-Polish newspapers and also through the letters of their friends and acquaintances.

The largest farm is 120 acres, the smallest 20 acres, and the average 80 acres. Most of the farms are still under mortgage, only a few being cleared of debt.

In the colony and its vicinity are seven schools: six with one room and one with three rooms. All teachers are native born and all teaching is in English. The settlers appreciate education. Most of the children are inclined to farming and will remain in the colony. One fourth of the adults do not speak English, one half only speak English, and one fourth speak and write English.

Only a few of the adult male settlers have second papers; about nine tenths have first papers, while the rest are totally unnaturalized. In explanation of this fact the company's president stated that it is only the older men who have not secured even their first papers.

[Pg 80] A large proportion of the foreign settlers [he said] secure their second papers just as rapidly as they can after they locate on the land. They desire to take part in local politics; they find that they must become interested in local political affairs if they wish to have a good system of schools, roads, and gain the other advantages which both the county and town can give them. They are also interested in the state politics. All this brings the question of second papers forcibly to their minds, and in an accurate survey of the different colonies we are interested in, you will find that a large per cent of those who have been on the land five years or more have already secured their second papers. One of the difficulties which hinder them from getting their second papers sooner is the fact that they must have some one certify that he has actually known them for a period of five years. Coming as they do, strangers from another state, it is necessary that they live among us for a five-year period before such an affidavit can be secured. I have had many of the settlers speak to me, desiring second papers, but they were forced to wait their period before they could secure them.

Most of the settlers read the Polish newspapers published in America. Quite a number of families take books from the school libraries; among these are a few Polish books—stories and histories.

The settlers are of the Roman Catholic faith. They attend a local church. Their Catholic neighbors of other nationalities attend the same church. The priest is of the Polish nationality; he cannot speak English well. He is appointed by the bishop. The settlers would prefer to elect their priest themselves.

While the houses are of the American type,[Pg 81] the interior arrangement of the living rooms remains that of the European Slavic peasantry—the bedcover is often fancy handiwork, the walls are profusely covered with family photographs, pictures of Polish heroes, and magazine illustrations. However, an honored place is given to the picture of the President and the American flag. Furniture is placed against the wall around the room. The premises are kept comparatively clean and in order.

Diet is rather mixed, though the Polish meals and the Polish ways of cooking predominate. The settlers claim that their housewives are more frugal than the American housewives in their neighborhood.

There are very few intermarriages; nationality alone is considered a drawback for intermarriage between a Pole and non-Pole. In cases where the two people are of different faith, the Church is another drawback.

Family discipline, in respect to the authority of the husband as the family head, is less strict than in the old country. The settlers believe that this is due to the American influence. Here the husband has to consult his wife in every important question and the children are not so often punished.

The relations between the colonists and the national groups in the neighborhood are generally friendly and help is given mutually in cases of[Pg 82] need. But there is very little social visiting between the groups, the difference in nationality being a bar.

The settlers secure agricultural advice from two sources—the company's adviser and the county agent. They raise wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, grasses—clover and timothy—while their main income is derived from milk production.

The products are sold to the local agents; there is no discrimination in prices. Necessities are bought in the near-by towns, prices being too high and goods not always suited to the needs of the settlers.

Money is loaned by the local banks at 7 to 8 per cent. This rate, the company stated, was on short-time, unsecured paper. The settlers, it maintained, have always been able to secure money on farm mortgages at 6 and 7 per cent.

Economically stronger families compel their children to do chores and work in the field outside of school time, while poorer and weaker families, especially those of more recent settlers, often let their children work even during school time.

The settlers are satisfied with their conditions and they all desire to remain permanently in America. The only thing they want is an increase in the number of settlers and further development of their locality.

[Pg 83] The second colony [8] visited by the writer was started by the company the year before (1917). There are now about sixty Polish families in the colony. Half of the adult male population were deserters from the compulsory military service in Russia, Germany, and Austria. "Why should we have served in the armies by which Poland was oppressed!" exclaimed a settler when asked as to their justification for desertion.

Before settling on the land they all had worked in steel mills, factories, mines, etc., some five to six years, some longer, but their experience in Europe had been on farms. While in America they had learned of the land from the company's advertisements in the Polish papers. In regard to the settlers' previous farming experience the company's head said that

our company will not sell land to any settler who has not had some farm experience. We advise them first to work on a farm somewhere—either rent it or hire out—until they have gained the necessary experience to make them successful on their farms. These people here are not factory workers, but are primarily farmers, land hungry, who came to this country for the purpose of owning a home, and only temporarily worked in steel mills, factories, and mines, in order to secure sufficient money to get the start that they so much desire.

About ten settlers had gone, at the time of the writer's visit, to work in Duluth and Chicago.[Pg 84] Their families and other settlers were busily engaged in land clearing. The smallest clearing was 6 acres, the largest 20 acres, and the average clearing for each farm was 10 acres—that is, about one sixth of the land was already cleared, but most of the cleared land was not yet turned. The size of the largest farm was 120 acres, that of the smallest 40 acres, and of the average 60 acres. In May the company organized a land-clearing contest among the settlers of its colonies, providing rewards for the winners. "This was a big event in our colony—the men pushed the brush for all they were worth," said the company's agent.

The settlers estimated that all of the adult males understand English, and that about 70 per cent can also speak English, though not well, while not one can intelligibly write English. Most of the adult women do not even understand English.

There is no Polish church. Once in two or three weeks a Polish priest comes. The majority of the settlers do not care about having a Polish church and school. They claim that their religious sentiment is weaker in America than it was in Europe.

Their diet is almost entirely Polish. Some families keep their homes clean and in order; some continue to live in dirt as in Europe.

Relations between the Polish and non-Polish settlers are good, though no social visiting takes[Pg 85] place. Still, they meet and see one another at the community hall, about which the settlers seemed to be enthusiastic.

In clearing land the settlers have so far applied hand labor almost exclusively, but in the coming year horse power will be needed. Near the houses small potato patches and vegetable gardens have been planted. Field crops have been started, in a small and primitive way, and among these oats and feed grasses predominate. The sale of milk is the most important item of income of the settlers. Dairy farming is the company's aim in the development of the colony.

In regard to the clearing of land the company emphasized the point that the land does not all have to be cleared in order to produce.

Cattle are immediately turned into the brushland, and can pasture upon the brush, the native grasses, and the clover which grows throughout the entire region. Land which is cleared is used for winter food products. Summer feed for the cattle, hogs, and horses comes almost exclusively from the uncleared land. By following dairying and live-stock raising, the entire land becomes productive at once, while grain or vegetable farming would mean that only the land under cultivation would be producing.

The men of the colony seemed to be rather cheerful and hopeful, while their wives impressed the writer as being somewhat downcast and self-centered. Several of them said that they have to work much harder in the colony than in the cities or even in the old country.

[Pg 86]


California is the first, and so far the only state in the Union to undertake the public colonization of land. Its first experiment is very recent and on a comparatively small scale. Its leaders are ably utilizing their knowledge of the experiences in public land colonization in foreign countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian states, and Great Britain. Although it is impossible to foresee the outcome, the writer is inclined to believe that the public land colonization in California will continue to be a success, giving impetus to similar projects in other states.


The California experiment and its history may be outlined briefly as follows: A report of the California Commission on Land Colonization and Rural Credits made in 1916 revealed the fact that few settlers were coming to California and that many who had come were leaving because of hardships created by high prices of[Pg 87] land, high interest rates, and short terms of payment given in colonization contracts. As a result, the California legislature passed the Land Settlement Act, approved June 1, 1917, [9] for the purpose of

promoting closer agricultural settlement, assisting deserving and qualified persons to acquire small improved farms, providing homes for farm laborers, increasing opportunities under the Federal Farm Loan Act, and demonstrating the value of adequate capital and organized direction in sub-dividing and preparing agricultural land for settlement.

The act appropriated $250,000 for a demonstration in state land colonization, fixing 10,000 acres as the limit which should be bought. The land might be situated in one or two localities, but not profitably in more, because of the increase in overhead expenses. To carry out the provisions of the act a state Land Settlement Board was appointed of which Prof. Elwood Mead was chairman. The board was organized at the end of August, 1917, and immediately began the search for a suitable tract of land. With the advice of technical experts of the University of California and of other authorities upon soil, irrigation, health, and various conditions which would affect the success of the colony, final selection was made of a tract at Durham, Butte County, California.

On May 7, 1918, the land was finally transferred[Pg 88] to the state. Prior to this, however, the land had been subdivided and had been prepared for farming, a large acreage having even been seeded. On May 15th, 3,421 acres were offered to settlers, consisting of 53 farms, ranging in size from 3 12 acres to 160 acres, and of 21 two-acre farm laborers allotments. The prices of the farms varied from $875 (above which the next price was $3,646) to $14,942. The price of the farm laborers' allotments was $400. The law provided that the value of the former, without improvements, should not exceed $15,000, and that of the latter, without improvements, should not exceed $400. The terms of sale were as follows:

Settlers were to pay 5 per cent of the cost of the land and 40 per cent of the cost of the improvements at the time of purchase, the remainder of the purchase price to be paid over a period of twenty years with interest at the rate of 5 per cent per annum. Payments of principal and interest were to be made semiannually in accord with the amortization table of the Federal Farm Loan Board.

All applicants for land were carefully considered as to their character and their fitness for farming. The minimum amount of capital a settler was required to have was fixed at $1,500 or a working equipment of equal value. A farm laborer was not required to have any capital, but[Pg 89] had only to pay the initial deposit of $20 and semiannual payments of about $15.

The board reserved the right of supervision of the methods of cultivation of each settler, of the state of repair of buildings, of fire-insurance policies, and of other details.

Plans of houses and barns were prepared and the board offered to build these, or others, for the settler, on payment of 40 per cent of the cost. An engineer was employed to supervise the erection of buildings and to help settlers plan the grouping of buildings, orchard, garden, and field. The board bought material at wholesale and let contracts in groups and in this way each family was saved much money and valuable farming time.

The board kept the following objects in view:

1. That the settlement become widely and favorably known as the home of one breed of dairy cattle, one breed of beef cattle, one breed of hogs, and one or two breeds of sheep.

2. The co-operation of the settlers in buying and selling.

3. The establishment at Durham, or on the settlement, of a training school in agriculture.

4. The erection in the near future of a social hall owned and paid for by settlers.

Co-operative action among the farmers and farm laborers was particularly desired and encouraged. A co-operative stock breeders' association was formed. Twenty-two acres were reserved[Pg 90] for community use, and here it is hoped that community buildings will be erected.

When the farms were offered for sale there were from ten to fourteen applicants for each of the improved farms. Four of the unimproved farms were not applied for and these will be seeded and offered to settlers later at the opening of the next tract. Every one of the farm laborers' allotments was applied for. The settlement was made self-sustaining and productive within sixty days from the date the land was purchased.

As to the racial composition of this colony and the way in which the method of colonization would affect the incorporation of the different racial elements in the life of the settlement, the superintendent, Mr. George C. Kreutzer, made the following statement:

Five of the settlers on the colony are of German origin, two of Danish origin, two Italian, one French, and all the others are of either English, Irish, or Scotch origin.

No policy of mixing nationalities was followed. These farmers put in either a first, second, or third choice for the allotments they desired, and the board then selected the man best suited agriculturally for the particular block he was allotted.

Under our system of allotting blocks here the farmers are particularly concerned in making a success of their farms financially, rather than socially. We were never confronted with the problem of having too many of one nationality in the community, and as we have only fifty-three farms to offer for settlers, it is not large enough to involve the problem at all. Further than this, I do not think the problem will come up under this system of allotting blocks, for the reason first stated above.

[Pg 91] It will Americanize immigrants through co-operation and social intercourse, through the various settlers' organizations necessary to their social and financial welfare. We have a Stock Breeders' Association which meets at regular times to discuss live-stock problems at intervals during the year. They are all on equal terms, each one buying the land for himself, thus breaking down class distinction. There will not be the distinction between lessees and freeholders that we find in the Middle States. Their children will go to the same school.

This undertaking of California is the only one in the field of public land colonization anywhere in the country, except for projects involving soldier settlements which some states have lately begun to undertake.


With the close of the War there began to appear on the calendars of state legislatures the subject of land settlement provision for returning soldiers. Up to the time this report was written, twenty-three states had passed some legislation relative to this need. The following table indicates in a general way the extent and nature of this provision.

State Legislation to Promote Land Settlement for Soldiers up to June, 1919 [11]
      Amount of  
State Bill Number Date Approved Appropriation Special Note
Arizona Senate 89 March 26, 1919 [10] $100,000 To aid Federal Reclamation Service in this
California {Senate 246 April, 1919 10,000,000 Referendum on bond issue.
  {Senate 221 April, 1919 [10] 1,000,000  
Colorado Senate 262 April 9, 1919 [10]   No appropriation indicated.
Delaware House 182 March 7, 1919 [10] 25,000  
Florida Senate 21 December 7, 1918 [10]   Appropriating state lands.
Idaho House 100 March 7, 1919 [10] 100,000 Conditional upon similar Federal legislation.
Maine Chapter 89 April 4, 1919 [10]   Necessary amount out of remainder of
  reserve land fund.
Missouri {Senate 355 April, 1919 [10] 10,000  
  {Senate 15 April, 1919 [10] 1,000,000 Revolving fund submitted to popular vote.
Montana {House 130 March 11, 1919 [10] 50,000  
  {House 170 March 4, 1919 [10] 200,000 To be drawn upon if necessary.
Nevada House 219 March 28, 1919 1,000,000 By bond sale.
New Jersey Senate 5 March 26, 1919   Appropriation for placement work.
New Mexico[Pg 92] House 204 March, 1919 [10] 30,000 Plus half of certain state rentals and sales.
North Carolina Chapter 266 March 10, 1919 [10]   Commission appointed to report.
North Dakota House 128 March 6, 1919   Twenty-five dollars per soldier per month
  in service.
Oklahoma Number 249 March 28, 1919 250,000 For loans to land settlers.
Oregon Senate 147 March 4, 1919 [10] 50,000  
South Dakota Senate 255 March, 1919 [10] 100,000  
      1,000,000 Bond issue.
Tennessee House 447 April 16, 1919 [10]   No appropriation indicated.
Texas   May 24, 1919   State credit for land settlers.
Utah {Senate 79 March 17, 1919 [10] 25,000  
  {Senate 80 March 17, 1919 [10] 1,000,000 Bond issue.
Vermont Number 15 March 26, 1919    
Washington {House 200 March 18, 1919 1,050,000 Revolving fund for state Reclamation Act.
  {Senate 184 March 20, 1919 [10] 160,000 For land settlement.
Wisconsin Senate 8 February 23, 1919 [10]   Commission appointed to report.
Wyoming Senate 70 February 28, 1919 [10] 5,000  
      200,000 For loans to land settlers.

[Pg 93] In more than half the states the laws refer to Federal legislation, in a few cases specifying that the appropriation shall be contingent upon a national appropriation. Several states signify their approval of co-operation with Federal provision, but make no appropriation for the work.[Pg 94] The largest appropriation in the form of a bond issue for popular approval of $10,000,000 was passed by the California legislature. Similar provision was made by Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah to the amount of $1,000,000. Nevada arranged for the borrowing of $1,000,000 for "reclamation, improvement, and equipment of lands ... for soldiers, sailors, marines, and other loyal citizens." Washington appropriated a revolving fund beginning with $1,050,000 and eventually reaching $3,000,000 to create a state Reclamation Service.

In spite of this evidence of awakened interest in soldier settlements, many such projects have died before any real attempt could be made to put them into practical operation. This is to be explained as follows. The projects in a number of cases were products rather of sentiment than of logic based upon experience. War-time patriotism created a desire to give some sort of reward to men fighting for the country's cause. "Let us give to each returning soldier a farm—a ready-made farm!" was heard throughout the country. Whether we had enough land, or economically available land, for millions of farms was not always asked. Many of the project-makers turned to our swamps, deserts, and cut-over lands filled with stumps and debris.

The easy-flowing imagination of these people, especially of the city type, made out of these[Pg 95] lands new farms, flourishing gardens, meadows and fields burdened with crops waving in the winds. How much it would cost, whence would come the money and energy to create such a miracle, and how much time the prosecution of the plan would require was not asked. Would not our returned soldiers, who already are matured men, be in their graves before their desert and swamp farms gave a living to their cultivators? Still more strange was the common notion that all soldiers, even the crippled, were eager to settle on land—that all wanted land and all were fit to be farmers!

As the product of mere fancy, such sweeping soldiers' settlement projects were bound to die a natural death. And yet they have not been without value. They created lively discussion, and called attention to our land problems, especially to the reclamation and colonization of unused lands by the people who want land and are fit to be farmers and to do hard land-pioneering work, be they returned soldiers, native farmers, or newly arrived immigrants.


The Federal Reclamation Service was established by an act of June 17, 1902, ch. 1093, 32 Stat., 388. [12] [Pg 96] This act provides that the moneys received from the sale of public lands in the Western states, with the exception of the 5 per centum reserved by law for educational and other purposes, shall be set aside in the Treasury as a reclamation fund to be used for the construction and maintenance of irrigation works for the purpose of reclaiming arid and semiarid lands in these states.

Authority to conduct the reclamation work is placed in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior. He is given authority to withdraw from public entry the lands required for irrigation works and to restore the withdrawn lands to public entry when their use for such purpose is over. Under the authority conferred upon him by the act (Section 4, and Opinion Assistant Attorney General, April 16, 1906, 34 L. D., 567) he may enter into contracts for the construction of irrigation works or construct such works by labor employed and operated under the superintendence and direction of government officials.

The Secretary is authorized to give public notice of the lands irrigable under such project, and limit of area per entry, which limit shall represent the acreage which, in the opinion of the Secretary, may be reasonably required for the support of a family upon the reclaimed lands; and of the charges which shall be made per acre upon the entries, and upon lands in private ownership which may be irrigated by the[Pg 97] waters of the irrigation works. The charges shall be determined with a view to returning to the reclamation fund the cost of construction and shall be apportioned equitably.

It is provided that in all construction work eight hours shall constitute a day's work and no Mongolian labor shall be employed (32 Stat., 389). No right to the use of water for land in private ownership shall be sold for a tract exceeding 160 acres to any one landowner. It is provided that the reclamation fund shall be used for the operation and maintenance of irrigation works and that when the payments required by the act are made for the major portion of the lands irrigated the management of these works shall pass to the landowners.

The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to acquire any rights or property for reclamation purposes by purchase or by condemnation under judicial process, and to pay from the reclamation fund sums needed for that purpose. Within thirty days, upon application of the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General of the United States shall institute condemnation proceedings. The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to make rules and regulations for carrying the provisions of the act into full force and effect.

In the seventeen years since the passage of the Reclamation Act the surveys, examinations, and construction authorized by it have proceeded, and[Pg 98] to-day, according to the report of the Secretary of the Interior for 1919, [13]

the service is in a position to deliver water to about 1,600,000 acres of irrigable land, covered by crop census, of which about 1,120,000 acres are now being irrigated. Besides this storage water is delivered from permanent reservoirs under special contracts to about 950,000 acres more. The projects that have been undertaken have been planned to provide for an area of about 3,200,000 acres.

A number of bills have been proposed for enlarging and extending this work.


The Department of the Interior has prepared a draft of a bill providing rural homes for returning soldiers. Copies of the bill were sent to the Governors for consideration by various state legislatures.

The bill is based on the principle of co-operation, according to which (1) the state provides land, acquiring it by purchase or by agreement with the present landowners whereby the latter turn their holdings over to the state for a reasonable price gradually paid to them out of the returns from the settlers, and (2) the Federal government advances money for reclamation through irrigation, drainage, and clearing, and[Pg 99] for preparation of the land for immediate farming through the providing of buildings, implements, seeds, live stock, etc. The total cost of the land and improvements, with interest at 4 per cent on capital invested, will be repaid by the settlers during the course of, approximately, forty years by an annual payment of 5 per cent of the total cost.

A bill was introduced in Congress by Senator Myers (S. 4947, 65th Congress, 2d Session) in October, 1918, and backed by the Department of the Interior, which provided for a survey and classification by this department of all unentered public lands and all privately owned unused lands for the purpose of finding out what lands can be reclaimed and put to productive use by returning soldiers who would like to settle on land and engage in agriculture. After such an investigation the Secretary of the Interior was required to report to Congress and to propose a plan for the settlement and cultivation of such lands.

There were two bills (S. 5397 and H. 15672) introduced by Senator W. S. Kenyon of Iowa and Representative M. Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania, respectively, which, among other features, made possible development of rural districts. Although differing in details, the bills both appropriated $100,000,000 to be expended in providing employment primarily for returning soldiers. This was to be done through the authorized[Pg 100] public construction work, or through the organization and extension of useful public works, in the development of natural resources. Only in localities where the Secretary of Labor reports extraordinary unemployment to exist shall public works be carried on from this fund.

The House bill provided for the building of new post roads; for the transfer of war material no longer needed by the army, the same to be used for the construction, improvement, and maintenance of the post roads; for supplementing the public school equipment where public school buildings are or shall be designated as postal stations, for the use of the construction service; and for other purposes. The bill provides for the establishment of motor transport and postal routes; for the organization of a system of marketing facilities for the collection and delivery, through the postal service and public school buildings, of farm products from producer to consumer; and for the construction of any authorized public work.

In addition to these more indirect ways of opening up the country the bill carried specific provision for promoting and conducting land-settlement colonies, as well as provision for logging or milling operations, contingent upon a continuous yield of timber, so that the forest communities would be permanent. The provisions of the bill were to be carried out by an[Pg 101] interdepartmental National Board of Public Construction, which would organize a body of workers, known as the United States Construction Service.

Since the bill carried the reclamation and technical land-improvement work, the only question might be, is there any need for this to be carried on by a special Construction Service? Would it not be a duplication of the work of the already existing Reclamation Service of the Department of the Interior? Would it not be economical and otherwise proper to increase the staff and other working forces of the Reclamation Service to the extent of the proposed reclamation duties of the Construction Service?

Representative E. T. Taylor of Colorado introduced in the House, February 15, 1919, a bill (H. R. 15993) providing for employment and the securing of rural homes for returned soldiers and for the promotion of the reclamation of land for cultivation under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior. Short-term loans to settlers were provided for. This bill contains a good land-development plan, except that the Reclamation Service, Department of the Interior, ought not to be burdened with colonization work and with loans to settlers. Colonization work ought to be the duty of a separate body, and the extension of credit to settlers naturally belongs to the Farm Loan Board, Department of the Treasury.

[Pg 102] Representative Mondell of Wyoming introduced in the House, May 19, 1919, a bill (H. R. 487) providing employment and rural homes for returned soldiers through the reclamation of lands under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, who may, for this purpose, acquire by gift, purchase, deed in trust, or otherwise, the necessary lands for soldier settlement projects and, for the same purpose, may withdraw, utilize, and dispose of by contract and deed suitable public lands. An appropriation of $500,000 is proposed.

The plan in this bill for the acquisition and reclamation of unused land is a strong one. Equally commendable is the provision for safeguarding the settlers' holdings against speculation, for the selling, leasing, or mortgaging of the land by settlers requires the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. The bill requires that the Interior Department, through its Reclamation Service, acquire and improve lands, colonize them, and make loans to settlers. It would seem a more efficient plan to make a division of these various duties. The Reclamation Service should acquire and improve lands for settlement, while the colonization work and the extension of loans to settlers would be made the duties of other public authorities, as pointed out below.

House Bill No. 3274, introduced by Representative Knutson, May 27, 1919, proposes to[Pg 103] create, in the Treasury Department, a National Colonization Board with local colonization commissions, for the purpose of providing capital for the development by land colonization of the agricultural resources of the nation, affording certain privileges to soldier settlers. The commissions approve and charter private colonization companies and recommend applications for loans after seeing all the provisions of the act have been complied with. The commissions are to include the directors of the district land bank.

The main aim of the bill is to standardize private land colonization companies to a certain degree, to facilitate the extension of credit to them, and to make loans to soldier settlers. The Knutson bill in meeting these needs is a comprehensive one. It deserves the closest attention of Congress. Would it not be advisable, however, to attach the administrative machinery for credit extension outlined in the bill to a division to be created in the Farm Loan Board, with separate colonization credit funds, and to leave the regulation and licensing of the private colonization companies to a separate body as outlined below?

Senator Thomas J. Walsh of Montana introduced in the Senate, August 20, 1917, a bill (S. 2812) which was passed by both Houses and reported from conference for passage in February, 1919. The bill provides for the sale or lease of[Pg 104] coal, oil, and other mineral lands on the public domain. The leasing clause of the bill is weakened by the provision, "unless previously entered under Section 2 of this act." The public coal lands would be "entered," sold into private ownership, which means the loss of public control over these lands and the methods of their exploitation. However, the bill if passed would be a step forward in the sense that it would increase opportunities for investment of capital and employment of labor, which would result in the increase of the coal output so much needed.

The only step so far undertaken by Congress in the direction of land colonization is the appropriation of $200,000 for an investigation by the Reclamation Service, Department of the Interior, of lands outside of the existing reclamation projects. The measures needed are waiting for action.

In regard to the available land for acquisition, reclamation, and colonization, several projects are proposed by the above-quoted bills and by various Federal departments. The principal projects are as follows:

  1. Agricultural:
    1. Logged-off lands in the North Middle Western
      and Northwestern states.
    2. Irrigation of desert lands in the Southwestern
    3. Drainage of swamp lands in the Southern states.
  2. Forestry projects; permanent colonies for logging, [Pg 105]
    milling, and reforestation of logged-off lands in the
    Northwestern states.
  3. Colonization projects for an intensive cultivation of
    lands around smaller growing towns.
  4. Colonization projects in Alaska for developing various
    extractive industries.

Action of some sort is eminently desirable in this country, especially in view of the fact that other countries have already taken steps to these ends.


The settlement of soldiers on land has been a problem much considered in all of the warring nations. Although the plans are just only being tried out for the first time in many cases, they are suggestive of the trend that land-settlement laws are taking.

In 1918 a law was enacted in France "providing for the acquisition of small rural properties by soldier and civilian victims of the war. It provides in part for 'individual mortgage loans to facilitate acquisition, parceling out, transformation, and reconstitution of small rural properties of which the value does not exceed 10,000 francs.' The loans are to be made from the agricultural lending societies at a rate of 1 per cent, with a term of twenty-five years. Advances for improvements are provided for and a special commission is appointed to administer the law." [14]

[Pg 106] In the United Kingdom, as well as in the majority of its dominions and states, acts providing for land settlement for ex-soldiers have been passed or formulated. Large sums of money have already been appropriated for the purchase, improvement, and development of land. In some cases the crown lands are to be used and in other private lands are to be bought. Table III indicates some of the general provisions of the legislation.

Over $133,000,000 has been appropriated and in two Australian states alone 2,060,000 acres have been set aside. The size of the individual holdings varies from 10 to 160 acres.

In some cases the land is given outright, in others the settler must help bear the cost of surveys and improvement. The third plan is that of a lease, usually with an option to buy, varying in different states. Whatever the terms of settlement are, in most cases the ex-soldier can meet his obligations because of the easy terms by which he can borrow money from the government. Although the maximum amount is limited, the rate of interest is low in most cases and the term of years, with one exception, twenty years or more. Although some farming experience is required, in almost every law, there is provision for a demonstration farm. Here the prospective farmers can learn scientific farming, usually getting paid for their work in the interval.

Soldier Settlement Plans For United Kingdom And Provinces [15]
      Aid Given    
Country Act Maximum
Time Interest
Per Cent
Dominion of Canada [16] August 29, 1917 $2,500 [A] 20 equal payments 5 $2,910,000
No. 150, 1916 $500 [B] 20 years 6 $5,000,000
British Columbia 6 Geo. V. 59, 1916 [C] [B] 20 years 5 $500,000 annually
New Brunswick 6 Geo. V. 9, 1916 $500 to $1,500 [B] 20 years 5  
Australia 1917 Conference [C] [C] [C] $100,000,000
New South Wales No. 21, 1916;
amended, 1917
$2,500 Lease 12 on capital
October 22, 1917 $2,500 31 12 years 6 $11,250,000
Queensland 1917 $2,500 buildings;
$3,500 equipment
40 years; 25
years; 10 years;
12 to 5;
12 on capital
South Australia 1916, 7, Geo. V. $2,400 21 years 4 $220,000
New Zealand 6 Geo. V. 45, 1916;
amended, 1917
[D]     $3,000,000
Geo. V. 20; 1916–17 $2,500 21 years 12 to 5 $750,000
United Kingdom 6 and 7 Geo. V., c 38       $10,000,000
asked for
Union of South Africa 1912; amended 1917
$1,250; $25 a
month to families
12 years to
7 years.
12 [C]

TABLE III—Continued
Soldier Settlement Plans For United Kingdom And Provinces [15]
  Acres Assigned        
Country Total Individual
Tenure Training
Dominion of Canada [16] Certain dominion lands 160 Free grant Yes Yes Yes
Ontario   100 Patent given in 5
Yes Yes Yes
British Columbia   160 Free grant Yes Yes Yes
New Brunswick 20,000 10–100 Free grant   Yes Yes
New South Wales
1,500,000   Perpetual lease Yes Yes Yes
Victoria 500,000 wheat-growing
plus irrigated lands
  Purchase in 31 12
Yes   Yes
560,000   Perpetual lease only   Yes No
South Australia 10,000   Perpetual lease   Yes Yes
New Zealand 270,000   Lease 66 years, or
  Yes Yes
Tasmania   100 99-year lease; or
purchase after 10
Yes Yes  
United Kingdom
60,000   Leased Yes Yes  
Union of South Africa Lands purchased not to
exceed $7,500 for each
settler who provides
one fifth of price
  Lease for 5 years and
option of purchase,
with 20 years to pay

[Pg 107]


Most of the land-reform programs, beginning with those of the extreme conservatives, laissez-faire theorists of various schools, and ending with those of the extreme radicals, anarchists, and socialists of various leanings, are primarily concerned with the question of land ownership.


These programs might be, in the main, classified as follows:

  1. Private land ownership:
    1. Large-scale ownership, subject to no public interference.
    2. Small-scale ownership, limited and regulated by
      public authority.
  2. Public land ownership:
    1. Secured by
      1. Confiscation, by revolutionary action.
      2. Purchase, by land bond issues.
      3. Taxation, by the single tax.
    2. Forms of public ownership:
      1. Nationalization; national ownership. In the
        United States it would be Federal ownership.
      2. [Pg 108] Provincial ownership. In the United States
        it would be state ownership, and in Switzerland
        canton ownership.
      3. Municipalization or communalization; land
        owned by cities and communities in the rural
      4. Nobody's ownership; free to all, except that
        the public takes the ground value (irrespective
        of improvements) through the single tax,
        from the land users, which practically means
        a disguised form of public ownership, or at
        least a condition very near it.
    3. Methods of use:
      1. Parceling the public land into homesteads of
        one-family size, and reselling these to the cultivators
        on the basis of individual fee simple.
      2. Giving the homesteads to cultivators on the
        basis of perpetual leasehold.
      3. Public cultivation, either direct or through
        communes or co-operative associations.

Comparing these programs one with another and with the existing conditions, one reaches the following conclusions: All the programs tend to treat the land problem merely as a question of ownership. Each favors a specific form of ownership almost as an all-inclusive remedy for defects in social relations so far as they depend upon land cultivation and land use. The argument is based upon reasoning, a mere logical calculation, and on what the authors of the program desire. The existing conditions and tendencies are much more varied and complex than they seem to appear to the land reformers.

[Pg 109] First, there is nothing new or untried in these programs, for almost all the advocated forms of land ownership are already existing side by side. It seems that no one single form is able to remedy the defects in the land situation. We have in this country national (Federal), provincial (state), and municipal or communal ownership, with small-scale private ownership predominating. We also have special land taxation, as, for instance, in certain cities that tax unimproved land higher than improved land. These existing forms of land ownership are competing with one another. The forms which allow more efficient cultivation, result in greater social stability, and are based on social justice will be the winners in the march of the economic and social progress of the country.

The bold claim of Marxian or German Socialism that large private land ownership, erroneously identified with cultivation on a large scale, is going to prevail through absorption of small private land ownership is rapidly losing ground. The small landowners are able to enjoy, through co-operation, all the technical advantages of large-scale cultivation, retaining as well the advantages resulting from individual initiative and efficiency. There is a marked movement toward co-operation among the small farmers the world over. In Denmark it has developed to the highest degree.

[Pg 110] Second, mere land ownership is only a part, though a vital part, of the problem. Many other important things have to be considered.

If a man has land, but lacks capital or credit, he is unable to make economic use of his land. If he has both land and capital, or credit, or in other terms purchasing power, but lacks access to sources of supply in which to buy seeds, breeding stock, and implements, he still is unable to make use of his land. If he has at hand all the needed implements, seeds, and stock, but lacks knowledge and experience in farming, he might entirely fail in his enterprise. Even if he possesses the necessary knowledge and produces grain, milk, beef, and other agricultural products, he must have a market for his products, be it a domestic or an international market. This involves transportation facilities, trade organization and regulation, tariff, and other forms of organized international relationships, economic and political.

Moreover, land cultivation requires social stability, security, and order, for an investment in land improvements must wait long for its returns. If a man does not know who is going to harvest his fields, or who is going to get the product of his toil, he will be disinclined to sow anything. A striking illustration of such a state is the case of the western provinces of the Russian Empire, where the battle lines for several years were[Pg 111] surging back and forth. First the Russian monarchy collected the farm products, then came the Germans, then came the civil warfare. When there is no security for a land cultivator, neither for his products nor his very life itself, there can be no production. There is land enough and there are cultivators enough, but the population starves because of unsettled political and international conditions.


In considering the land situation as it exists, it is true that the ownership of land or, rather, the access to land, is of primary importance. The question arises, Is there enough land in the United States for all citizens who desire to become cultivators?

The Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Lane, states [17] that more than 15,000,000 acres of irrigable lands remain in the hands of the United States government. There are between 70,000,000 and 80,000,000 acres of swamp and overflowed lands in the United States of which about 60,000,000 acres can be reclaimed for agricultural purposes, and there are about 200,000,000 acres of cut-over or logged-off lands which are suitable for agricultural development.

[Pg 112] Although it might be questioned how much of these unused lands are economically available under normal conditions—for no rigid investigation has been made—still the fact remains that unused lands—swamps and deserts, cut-over and burned-over lands—are being continually improved and taken under cultivation by private and public effort. Not one land improvement and colonization company visited by the writer complained of lack of land. All the companies seemed to want more settlers and more credit. This fact indicates that there is economically available land in our country, and probably plenty of it, for a normal process of reclamation and colonization.


In the field investigation, the main questions of immigrants desiring to settle on land seemed to be where to find land of the "right kind," and how, in acquiring it, to avoid being cheated by private land sellers. The questions as to whether there was land available and what its price was were of minor importance. In many cases the immigrants had been employed in war industries and had saved money enough to buy a farm, but they were unable to decide where to settle and what kind of land to buy because they feared land sellers. Their experience with these agents[Pg 113] had awakened an almost universal fear of private land dealers.

To facilitate the access to land, the private land-dealing trade must be put upon a higher level. There must be Federal legislation regulating land dealers doing business in two or more states, state legislation for dealers doing business within one state only, and municipal legislation for the land dealers doing business within the city limits only. Through co-operation of these governments uniformity of such legislation can be secured and maintained so far as various local conditions and peculiarities allow.

Such regulative legislation should aim at doing away with misrepresentation and frauds in land dealing. As an effective assistance in the enforcement of the laws all private land dealers should be licensed, interstate dealers by the Federal, state dealers by the state, and city dealers by the city governments. By refusing or recalling licenses a considerable number of land sharks—get-rich-quick charlatans in the real-estate business—can be sifted out of the trade and the necessary confidence on the part of land seekers can be secured.

According to a report made in 1916 by the Committee on State Legislation of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, a sentiment was then growing in most parts of the country favoring the enactment of laws for the regulation[Pg 114] of real-estate brokerages under state authority. This sentiment is still growing, and the secretary of the association says that realtors in several states continue to introduce bills in their legislatures with the belief that it will be possible to pass them.

In only one state has such a law passed. The state of Wisconsin enacted a law in 1919 [18] which provides for the establishment of a state real-estate brokers' board consisting of three members, at least two of whom are real-estate brokers in the state, appointed by the Governor. The Director of Immigration, Department of Agriculture, acts as secretary to the board. The latter issues licenses to the real-estate brokers and salesmen doing business in the state. An annual license fee of ten dollars from a broker and five dollars from a salesman is required. License may be refused or revoked by the board for misstatement in application, for fraud or fraudulent practices, for untrustworthiness or incompetence in real-estate business.

The board receives complaints against any real-estate broker or salesman. It may conduct hearings and investigations, subpœna and compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and production of documents, books and papers. The board shall, from time to time, publish the names of licensed real-estate brokers and salesmen,[Pg 115] with information as to when each license expires. The publication shall include the names of those real-estate brokers and salesmen whose licenses have been revoked at any time within one year prior to the time of the issue of publication.

This Wisconsin Real Estate Licensing law has been in operation a year. Mr. B. G. Packer, Director of Immigration, and secretary to the Real Estate Brokers' Board, gave to the writer the following information in regard to the results of the operation of the law so far.

This law requires registration of all real-estate brokers and salesmen doing business in the state. In the past there was no way to tell who they were or where located. The license is good for one year, and thereupon a new application must be made. This gives the board a check on the dealer's operations the preceding year. The board requires him to cite all legal actions arising out of his real-estate business whether he was plaintiff or defendant.

It is a common practice with some dealers to take a judgment note for commission which can be entered up without process and execution levied against the property of the defendants. The defendant can open up the judgment and put in a defense if he can show misrepresentation and fraud. This year, when several applicants applied for new licenses, the board found this condition and the licenses were refused.

[Pg 116] The applicant for license must show affirmatively that he is trustworthy and competent. In the past the state took no pains to find this out. The licensing board operates as a poor man's court of redress in transactions arising out of the land business. In the past the purchaser's remedy was a more or less satisfactory suit at law.

The licensing board can make investigations and hold hearings on its own motion. In the past the initiative had to be taken by the party claiming deception.

Last year the board granted licenses to 4,600 brokers and salesmen, denied 20 applications, revoked 2 licenses, and has at present 60 hearings pending on applications for licenses in 1921.

The Wisconsin license law does not reach the owner who has worthless land to unload upon an unsophisticated purchaser. Besides this, the law has other limitations. But nevertheless it is a step ahead.

Pennsylvania, the Southern states, and cities in many parts of the country have required a license fee or an occupation tax from real-estate men, but such laws do not regulate, because, as the above-mentioned report states, "no matter how high the fee, the usual run of licensing or prosecuting official will not use his authority to establish moral standards." Furthermore, "in New York and most Northern and Western states,[Pg 117] even the slight check of the occupation tax is absent and there is no formality to be observed in entering our profession by any person, no matter how unreliable, irresponsible, or incapable, and whatever his record."

After agitation covering a period of twelve years, the real-estate brokers of California succeeded in 1917 in having enacted a law for the regulation of real-estate brokerage. In 1918 this law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, on the ground that insurance men were exempted by the wording of the act and that such exemption made the law discriminatory.

The Real Estate Commissioner of the state gives the following synopsis of the law:

The act "provides for the issuance of licenses to two classes of persons—the broker himself, who, in addition to taking out a license, is required to put up a bond running to the state of California, and the salesman, who is defined as one in the employ of a licensed broker and ... is not required to put up a bond." The act is administered by a Real Estate Commissioner appointed by the Governor. Upon petition to the Real Estate Commissioner appointed by those aggrieved in their dealings with brokers or salesmen, a hearing is provided before the commissioner, and upon proper showing the petitioner may be granted the privilege of suing the broker on his bond.... There is also a provision for the filing of complaints against brokers and salesmen concerning their conduct and, upon investigation, if found guilty, the commissioner is empowered to revoke their licenses. The law provides a heavy penalty for a broker—a fine of $2,000 or a prison sentence of two years—and in the case of corporations,[Pg 118] a maximum fine of $5,000. The fees for licenses are, for brokers, $10 per annum, and for salesmen, $2 per annum.

The operation of the law appears to have been extremely successful and to have been heartily indorsed by the public generally and by all the reliable real-estate dealers and salesmen in the state. The Real Estate Commissioner gives the following picture of the results of the law during the eight months it was in force:

1. It gave the realtors faith in each other, each being under bond and licensed by the commissioner with power of revocation in case of violation of the law.

2. It increased the confidence of the public generally in the realty business, for the law afforded the public a ready and inexpensive means of redress in case of wrongdoing.

3. During the eight months, some sixty complaints were filed with the commissioner, and all were adjusted without even a formal hearing up to the time the law was thrown out, March, 1918. Some twenty-five hundred dollars was returned to defrauded purchasers through appeals to the commissioner.

4. The deterrent effect of the law on wrongdoers will never be known, but must have been far-reaching.

5. So satisfactory was the law that the public, the bankers, and especially the realtors, are preparing again to present to the legislature during the winter of 1918–19 a more carefully worded law governing the realty business.

One of the services rendered by the Department of the Real Estate Commissioner was the issue of a directory of licensed real-estate brokers and salesmen in the state. The first copy was published October 1, 1917, and contained about[Pg 119] four thousand names, as well as other material such as maps, laws, and legal opinions, designed to be of practical value to all realtors. It was intended that this directory be issued quarterly and be distributed to licensed brokers, with a subscription price to others of one dollar a year. The commissioner regarded this directory bulletin which bound together in fraternalism the real-estate men of the state, as only one of the many possibilities of extending valuable aids through his department to the real-estate profession, and so indirectly to the agricultural industry.

Although there have been attempts in other states to secure legislation, so far they have been unsuccessful. In essentials they have resembled the California law, although differing in details, such as amounts of bonds, fees, and penalties. In Minnesota, several years ago, the State Immigration Commission was instrumental in introducing a land-regulation bill which was killed by the efforts of the land dealers.

In 1914 the Executive Committee of the Real Estate Association of New York submitted for the consideration of the association a bill for the licensing of real-estate brokers and the creation of a real-estate commission. In 1916 a bill similar to this one was introduced in the legislature of the state of New York, but failed of passage. In Texas a bill was approved by the Texas Realty[Pg 120] Association, but was not enacted into law. In addition to efforts for legislation in the states there have been national recommendations.

The Committee on State Legislation of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges in 1913 reported on a bill for the regulation of the real-estate business. The main provisions are as follows:

A State Board on Real Estate Licenses shall be established, consisting of five members, all real-estate men, appointed by the Governor, and having its headquarters in the state capitol. Every person engaged in the real-estate business shall apply for a license to the board. The applicant shall present proof that his standing is above reproach and that his record for honesty and fair dealing is clear. The applicant shall file a satisfactory bond in the amount of $1,000, conditioned on the faithful performance of any undertaking as a real-estate broker, the bond to be renewed with each renewal of the annual license. The fee for the license shall be $10 for each dealer, firm, or corporation, and $2.50 for each salesman, the fees to be, respectively, $5 and $1 after the first year. Licenses shall expire each year. The board shall have power to revoke at any time any license where the holder thereof is guilty of gross misrepresentation in making sales, etc., or of any other conduct which, in the opinion of the board, is opposed to good[Pg 121] business morals. The board shall investigate all complaints; it shall have power to subpœna witnesses. Any person violating the act shall be fined not less than the compensation or profit received or agreed to, and not more than four times that amount, or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

The Legislative Committee of the Interstate Realty Association of the Pacific Northwest has proposed a real-estate license law for the state of Washington, the main provisions of which are similar to the others already quoted.

Although there has been no successful state-wide provision, in Portland, Oregon, an ordinance licensing real-estate brokers was approved in 1912, including the salient features of the proposed state laws. Application is made to the city auditors, with proof of the applicant's good standing and square dealing. The Council Committee on licenses has power to revoke or withhold, and penalties are provided for.

As an example of the occupational tax law applying to the real-estate business, the law of the District of Columbia may be mentioned. The District of Columbia (1914) has a law imposing a license tax of $50 per annum on real-estate brokers or agents. The assessor of the District said that the fee was not large enough to restrict character of trade, and that the payment[Pg 122] of the fee was the only qualification for a license.


In addition to the need for honest dealing there is everywhere felt the need of bringing farm sellers and buyers together through a public agency. Certain states, in co-operation with the Federal Department of Agriculture, have made provision for doing this. For this purpose an office is created similar to a public employment office. It aims to provide the farm sellers and buyers with more or less reliable information without cost to either side.

In the state of Maryland the Extension Service of the state college, in co-operation with the Federal Department of Agriculture, has worked out a farm-description blank for farm sellers. The blank contains questions in regard to the location of the farm, its size, distance from communication lines, and inhabited places of various sizes and market facilities, its soil, its fences, buildings, water supply, ownership, price, and other points intended to show the condition and value of the farm for sale. The office distributes these blanks among the county agents, from whom the farm sellers secure the blanks. The county agents forward the completed forms to the main state office, which periodically publishes the collected information for farm buyers.

[Pg 123] This information is available to farm buyers for the mere asking. Anyone can see, in the state office or in the published volume, the blanks describing in detail the farms for sale. In this way they can be directly connected with the seller of the selected farm, without agents or advertising cost to either side. Thus misrepresentation can be avoided to a certain degree. The Extension Service, however, does not enter into any financial arrangement or give any guaranties. Aside from the information contained in the filled forms, it gives information of a general character concerning the agricultural possibilities of the state and of various sections and localities in it. At present the Service is particularly interested in locating the returned soldiers.

As such a public agency system is of comparatively recent origin and has not had time to develop, it is impossible to judge with certainty its future possibilities. In theory the operation of the system seems to be an easy matter, but in practice it is complicated. The farmers who intend to sell their holdings have to be informed of the work of the office, and equally the farm buyers have to be acquainted with the plan. This involves education of the farmers by an extensive advertising campaign, which requires time and expenditure of public money. However, there is a real need for such a public agency[Pg 124] and the results of the attempts to establish and develop it have been encouraging.

It would be desirable that the states which have already established or will establish such public agencies should co-operate with one another through the Federal Department of Agriculture and, with the assistance of the latter, should organize a central office as a clearing house. Nation-wide advertisement should be made by the central office for all the states in co-operation. In this way the farm advertisements would be made more effective—unnecessary repetitions, and the expenses connected with these, would be avoided. Through interchange of experiences a uniform system might be established. Such a central office, in co-operation with the Immigration Bureau, Department of Labor, should inform immigrants who desire to establish rural homes of the various farm opportunities.


Up to this time both public and private efforts have been applied to the reclaiming of unused lands, rendering valuable service to the progress of the country. There ought, however, to be no question whether reclamation work should be a public or a private enterprise. If a number, and even a large number, of the private land-development[Pg 125] companies have hitherto mined in the pockets of their land buyers instead of in the land itself, this has been largely because of the lack of any public regulation of private land-improvement companies. However, a number, perhaps a majority, of the companies have improved their land and have secured settlers who have made a success in the cultivation of the improved land. Therefore it would be a grave mistake to abandon or even to repress private enterprise in land-development work. It should be encouraged by the extension of public credit through the land companies and by putting their business under public supervision.

Where considerable areas have to be reclaimed, involving large expenditures and a long period of waiting for returns, public reclamation is preferable.

Although reclamation and colonization work are closely connected and dependent upon each other, still there is a marked difference. It is one thing to plan and irrigate a desert area and quite a different thing successfully to populate the irrigated land. The first is mainly a technical enterprise, while the other deals mainly with human beings. The people who direct and prosecute reclamation works—civil engineers and other technical experts—might not be good colonizers. The duties of the latter consist in selecting suitable settlers, directing their land-cultivation[Pg 126] work, and organizing and directing the community life of the settlers. On the other hand, colonizers, trained agriculturists, and community workers might not be able successfully to conduct reclamation works. Therefore these two fields ought to be recognized as distinct and provided for separately.

Almost all the proposed plans of land settlement fail to make such a distinction. They propose that the same public agency should acquire land, improve it, and colonize it. The same is true in regard to most of the private land-improvement and colonization projects. They plan to improve land and at the same time colonize it, which too often consists merely in securing land buyers and leaving the latter, after they have made their initial payment, entirely to their own fate.

Private land-improvement companies doing business in two or more states should be brought under the jurisdiction of the Federal Reclamation Service. They should be licensed, their projects approved, and their general methods of business regulated. Private companies doing business within state or city limits should be regulated by state irrigation or drainage district authorities, with whom the Federal Reclamation Service should co-operate in every possible way.

In order that the Federal Reclamation Service[Pg 127] may be extended and expanded to meet the growing demands, further legislation must be passed by Congress. Liberal appropriations are needed both for the acquisition and reclamation of unused lands of different classes, as well as for the increase of the staff and working forces of the Service. The bills under consideration were discussed in Chapter VI. The bill introduced by Representative Mondell of Wyoming effectively provides for this service.


The word "colonization" suggests the following: populating a given unused area of land suitable for cultivation, according to a plan covering the selection of people, the cultivation of the land, providing credit and markets, instruction in land cultivation, planning, organizing, and directing of community life in its numerous branches, such as co-operation for various purposes, education, recreation. Colonization work in the modern sense is a new, delicate, and complex field, for it affects all sides of human life.

There is a wide difference of opinion the country over as to whether colonization should be a public affair or be left to private initiative and effort. Those who favor private colonization claim that public colonization is wasteful, uneconomical, that it puts a new burden on the[Pg 128] taxpayers, and savors of Socialism. Those who favor public colonization maintain that private colonization companies in the very nature of their endeavors work for their own profit, considering the settlers' interests and public welfare of secondary importance. Colonization results must not be counted only in the terms of money, but also in the terms of social value to the community and to the country.

Again the writer has to call attention to the fact that both public and private colonization is going on side by side all over the world. In certain foreign countries public colonization is predominant, while in this country the reverse is true. Only the state of California has undertaken public colonization as an experiment on a small scale, and so far with success.

It would be advisable that both public and private colonization go on, one competing with the other and learning from the other's experience. Private companies must be regulated and licensed by public authorities, and public credit should be extended to them. All this requires that the colonization work be organized on a nation-wide scale.

To meet the national need there should be established an interdepartmental Federal colonization board with the following duties:

(1) To make community plans. This would involve the location of settlements, their roads[Pg 129] and building sites; plans for division of land into farms; plans for erection of farm buildings; plans for town sites and buildings as colony centers, parks as playgrounds, etc., all to be surveyed and put in working shape by the Reclamation Service, Department of the Interior.

(2) To select suitable people for settlement on the lands acquired and improved by the Reclamation Service, with the preference to be given to former soldiers.

(3) To distribute the selected immigrant settlers of non-English mother tongue, including soldiers, having in mind the need of mixing different races with the native settlers so as to facilitate the process of incorporating all into American life.

(4) To plan and organize the economic life of the colonies. This means the introduction of, and instruction in, farming and methods of cultivation suitable to the land, climate, and other conditions surrounding the colony, the organization of buying and selling co-operation in the colonies, provision of markets, etc.

(5) To plan and organize the educational, recreational, and general community life of the colonies—schools, libraries, lectures, games, etc.

(6) To regulate and license or charter private colonization companies.

Among the policies of the Colonization Board a very prominent one should be a proper distribution[Pg 130] of the immigrant settlers. Owing to the lack of any public plan or measures for the distribution of the immigrants in the country in the past the results have been astonishing. The Little Polands, Italies, ghettos, Germanies, and others in our great industrial centers are well known, though the word "Little" is not applicable in every case. It is especially inapplicable where the compact immigrant settlements exceed in numbers the largest cities of their home countries. For instance, according to the last census figures, there were in the city of New York more Italians (including their children) than the population of Rome, more Germans than in Cologne, about as many Irish as the population of Dublin and Belfast together, and about three times as many Jews as there were in the British Empire.

All this is already known to the public at large. What is not popularly known is the fact that there are foreign provinces in the agricultural sections of the country. There whole counties and even a number of neighboring counties are populated by immigrants of the same race and nationality. Such provinces have become self-sufficient; they have their own towns, their own schools, churches, industries, stores, select local public officials of their own nationality, speak their own tongue, and live according to the traditions and spirit of their[Pg 131] home country. These traditions and this spirit are kept alive by their schools, churches, and libraries, and by the absence of any direct contact with American customs and traditions. From such localities came a considerable number of the American-born drafted men who could not speak, write, or even understand English.

Such foreign provinces in the rural sections of the country are principally found in the North Middle Western states and Western states. When the writer, during his field investigation, arrived in such localities—for instance, in the southwestern part of North Dakota—he found that the townspeople, business men, and public officials, as a rule, understood English, but spoke German or Scandinavian among themselves. In talking with any man in the street the writer had to resort to the man's mother tongue, while the farmers back in the country, as a rule, did not speak English at all. Yet many of them were born in this country.

On the whole, the impression of the writer was that the larger the rural immigrant colony, the less it showed evidences of American influences. This was quite apparent in regard to the Slavic and especially the Polish colonies visited by the writer in a number of states.

The immigrants already settled in large colonies of one nationality cannot be redistributed, but they can be reached by other means, one of[Pg 132] which is an efficient public-school system, which is dealt with in later chapters.

Measures should be undertaken for the distribution of the new immigrant settlers so as to avoid their congregation in large colonies of only one nationality. The experience of private land dealers and colonization companies shows that it is not wise to settle a single immigrant family among native settlers or the settlers of another nationality. Such a family becomes lonesome and sooner or later leaves the settlement. Therefore the immigrants must be settled in groups according to their nationalities.

The question is, how large such national groups must be in order to keep the settlers in the colony and at the same time to avoid their becoming clannish and remaining untouched by American influences for a generation or a number of generations. The observation of the writer and his interviews on this question with the people engaged in colonization have led him to the conclusion that such groups ought to be of from five to fifteen families each, settled in the same neighborhood among either groups of other nationalities or native settlers.

Such distribution of the immigrant settlers in smaller groups is favored by the immigrants themselves. As a rule, they are eager to learn American ways as soon as possible, and usually accede with alacrity to distribution, provided no[Pg 133] violent compulsion is used and they are directed to land where they are able to make a success by their investment and toil, without being cheated or exploited. The writer discussed the size of a rural immigrant group of the same nationality in a number of the immigrant colonies. The settlers, even the Russian sectarian peasants, believed that if there were not less than five families in one group no loneliness would be experienced. If there were no more than ten or fifteen families there would be no danger of their becoming clannish and self-sufficient, for they would of necessity have to deal with other groups and intermingle with them for both business and social purposes.

A rigid selection of settlers on the basis of their ability to farm and to stay on the farm is of prime importance. Among the applicants for farms in new colonies there are three main classes of people, each distinct from the others: (1) those who have experience, knowledge, and otherwise ability for land cultivation and the capacity for sticking to a job. These should be selected and will contribute to the success of the colony, which ultimately depends upon the settlers themselves; (2) those who are hunters for easy pickings in the way of a piece of property or for an opportunity for safe investment or for speculation. These should be avoided as the plague; and (3) those who are not suited for[Pg 134] rural life and heavy toil on the land, mostly city people who dream of changing their life for improvement of their health in the country, for an independent life, or for an easy-going life, of fresh air, sunshine, flowers, and birds. Such people are not able to make a success of farming and should be avoided. These classes of applicants are found among immigrants as well as among natives, soldiers, and civilians.

How important the selection of settlers is for the success of colonization and settlement on land is shown by the close scrutiny of prospective settlers made by the agents of modern private colonization companies and also by certain state immigration officials. They ask an applicant about his supply of money or credit, about his experience, about his past in detail, his habits, his inclinations, and his aspirations. They judge him by his appearance, his physique, and his health. He is also questioned about his family life; special attention is given to the attitude of his wife toward rural life, her past experience, the probability of her being satisfied and able to stay permanently on the farm and carry the heavy burdens of a farmer's wife. Finally, the prospective settler is warned of the existing conditions in the colony, of the heavy toil and the difficulties, and of the long period of waiting which must elapse before he can enjoy the results of his investment and labors. Selection made in[Pg 135] this way will guarantee the success of a colonization enterprise, be it public or private.


A last measure which is extremely important and must not be overlooked in any planning for land settlement is the extension of public credit to settlers through the Federal Farm Loan Board. This, of course, applies not only to the settlers in the colonies established by the Federal Colonization Board, but also to those of private colonization companies regulated and chartered by the Colonization Board, and to individual settlers. There must be certain safeguards against loss. To accomplish this there could be established a settlers' credit division in the Federal Farm Loan Bureau, with a special land colonization credit fund. A similar plan was proposed in the bill introduced by Representative Knutson, May 27, 1919.[19]

Some such provision is indispensable in any comprehensive land policy, and should secure a place in legislative enactment.


No amount of legislation or smooth-running administrative machinery can provide, however,[Pg 136] for one of the most fundamental factors in modern small-farm production.

Every colony of small farmers nowadays needs to provide for co-operation among its members. There is no other way for them to enjoy the technical advantages of large-scale farming in the buying of seeds, stock, fertilizers, tools, machinery, and other necessities at wholesale prices, in the selling of farm products at the best prices; in the establishment of creameries, etc. The buying of necessary costly machines, such as stumping machines, tractors, threshers, headers, is beyond the financial power of an individual settler. Even should he be able to acquire them, he cannot use such machines to their full capacity on his small piece of land. But in co-operation settlers are able to buy the heavy machinery and to use it to its fullest capacity. Mutual insurance and credit established through co-operation are another substantial assistance to the success of the settlers.

Home and farm buildings


The co-operative buying and selling organization of a Finnish farming colony in upper Michigan which the writer investigated in detail proved to be a great money saver to the settlers. The enterprise has grown from a small undertaking into the largest business organization in the town, with its great warehouse overshadowing the railroad station. In the beginning the surrounding native farmers and townspeople were[Pg 137] hostile toward it. They both feared the competition as well as the broader results of an undertaking of "foreigners," led by their "demagogic leaders." Its former opponents have radically changed their attitude, and many are joining the organization. They find that co-operation means voluntary, concerted, and co-ordinated action for the common advantage, and that it is not contrary to the American spirit.

One of the leaders of the Finnish co-operative association explained that the defects of the local private stores served as the first inducement for the settlers to establish a co-operative store.

The private stores usually set arbitrary and high prices on the goods, which are often of poor quality and limited variety. As a result, a co-operative store among our settlers was established. We found that the association, in its meetings and activities, served as a school for the development of mutual understanding and fellow-feeling among its members. In the direction of Americanization our co-operative movement has done much good already. Its success has made the native farmers respect us. A number of them have already joined our association. Should our enterprise grow wider it may be expected to unite the farmers of different nationalities, immigrants and natives, into one community.

The interviews of the writer with the native farmers fully substantiated these statements of the Finns. One of them said that when the Finnish settlers came the native-born people did not expect much good from them. They were looked upon as strange intruders, entirely ignorant in[Pg 138] farming. But as time went on they made good not only as farmers, but also as business men in their co-operative buying and selling association. They were found to be good, sober, and industrious people.

The co-operative movement was apparent in northern Wisconsin, where numerous co-operative creameries have been organized among the settlers of various nationalities. The carrying of milk to the creamery results in the regular meeting of settlers every day; business meetings and other activities of the association afford opportunities for the settlers to get together and work together. In addition to this the immigrant settler, as a member of the co-operative association, comes face to face with the wider business world—banks, railways, commission merchants, manufacturers, market conditions, price fluctuations, etc. As an individual producer he comes to know the larger problems involved in marketing his product and his vision and understanding broaden.

Almost all immigrant settlers interviewed on the subject of co-operation were in favor of it. "Co-operation helps us!" were words often used in answer to the question why they favor co-operation. This "help" should not be understood in the material sense only. Co-operative action, though it begins in economics, extends to and ends in the creation of ideal, socio-psychological[Pg 139] values. The co-operator works and fights in the spirit of solidarity. He satisfies his wants through concerted action. His psychology is more complex and his aims become higher than those of a private individual.

Co-operation is a child of necessity. It cannot be created by outside suggestion or mere preaching. When there is a need and conditions are favorable the co-operative movement comes into being. Unquestionably the need for co-operation is greater in the rural districts than in the cities, and yet the rural conditions in many respects make the development of co-operation more difficult. The main obstacles, according to the rural co-operators themselves, consist in the lack of business connections and markets, in the absence of knowledge of efficient business methods, and in credit difficulties. It is hard to find an able and trustworthy business manager for a co-operative store in a village.

Notwithstanding all difficulties, the co-operative movement among farmers and especially among immigrant settlers has lately begun to grow with extreme rapidity. For instance, in 1917 in the state of Wisconsin there were agricultural co-operative associations in the following numbers: 380 creameries, 718 cheese factories, 98 feed and produce associations, and 124 live-stock concerns. [20]

[Pg 140] One of the first difficulties in the way of establishing a co-operative association is its incorporation proceeding. Most of the states up to this time have had no special laws covering co-operative associations. In such cases they have to be incorporated under the laws relating to private companies or those covering charity and public-welfare associations.

A number of states have enacted laws for the promotion and protection of co-operation among farmers. The Wisconsin law, Chapter 368, Laws of 1911, makes provision for the establishment of organizations conducting business on the co-operative plan. No member is allowed to own shares of a greater par value than one thousand dollars. No member is entitled to more than one vote. Dividends on the paid-up shares are allowed to be no more than 6 per cent per annum; 10 per cent on the net profits has to be set aside as a reserve fund. When this has accumulated up to 30 per cent of the paid-up shares, 5 per cent goes to the educational fund to be used for teaching co-operation. One half of the remainder of the profits has to be paid as a uniform dividend upon the amount of purchases of shareholders and upon the wages and salaries of the employees, while the other half has to be paid to the nonshareholders on the amount of their purchases.

In case of productive associations, such as[Pg 141] co-operative creameries, or elevators, dividends have to be paid on raw materials delivered. In case an association is both a selling and productive enterprise, the dividends may be divided on both goods purchased and material delivered. All concerns which do not comply with the provisions of the above law are prohibited to use the term "co-operative" as a part of their corporate name or the designation of their business.

According to the Nebraska law, Senate File No. 88,

the words "co-operative company, corporation, or association" are defined to mean a company, corporation, or association which authorizes the distribution of its earnings in part or wholly on the basis of, or in proportion to, the amount of property bought from or sold to members, or of labor performed, or other service rendered to the corporation. A co-operative concern has the power "to regulate and limit the right of stockholders to transfer their stock, and to make by-laws for the management of its affairs, and to provide thereon the term and limitation of stock ownership, and for the distribution of its earnings."

The California law, Civil Code, Secs. 653M to 653S, provides for organization of agricultural, viticultural, and horticultural co-operative associations which shall not have a capital stock and shall not be working for profit. Each such association shall determine by its by-laws the amount of membership fee, the number and qualifications of members, conditions of voting, the methods of business, and the division of earnings.

[Pg 142] There is no question that every state must have special legislation for co-operative associations quite distinct from that relating to private business concerns. A co-operative association must have the legal power to regulate and limit the right of shareholders to transfer their shares, to make by-laws for the management of business, to limit the share ownership, to decide on the proportion and method of distribution of its surplus earnings. It must limit dividends on shares to the prevailing rate of interest and provide a certain percentage for a reserve fund until the latter has accumulated up to a certain proportion of the capital invested. A part of the remainder should be retained for educational and other social-welfare purposes, the rest proportioned to the amounts of goods purchased, products contributed, or services rendered. The co-operative law should provide for one-member-one-vote. Irrespective of the number of shares owned, or the goods purchased, or the products contributed, or the services rendered, only one vote should be granted to each member.

Aside from such legislation, each state, as in New York, should have a special office with adequate forces for the advice and direction of farmers and settlers who desire to organize a co-operative association, as well as for those who have already established such an association and are meeting with difficulties.

[Pg 143]


[Pg 144]
[Pg 145]


The term "Americanization" is used in two senses. In the narrower one it applies to our immigrant population only, and in a broader sense it applies to everybody, natives and immigrants alike. This means the Americanization of America. This broader meaning embraces the whole national life in all its conditions, tendencies, and forms of expression.

When the writer accepted the invitation of the Study of Methods of Americanization to make a field investigation of rural developments from the viewpoint of Americanization, he was certain that the study must be conducted in relation to the immigrant colonies only. The study of the Americanization of America would lead us nowhere, especially in view of the smallness of available forces and the shortness of time. The study must be confined, therefore, to the immigrant elements of the population, and even then it could only be a preliminary survey to reveal the problems to be studied later in detail.


But the first observations in the field study soon convinced him that a broader scope is inevitable.[Pg 146] For instance, inquiry into the conditions of the immigrants in relation to the acquisition of land for cultivation necessarily led him to the general land question in the country, land policies, land laws, land-dealing methods. In even a more striking way did the field study of immigrant education in the rural districts lead to the question of general public education in rural communities regardless of their racial composition.

Students and teachers


Young scholarship winner


Education has always been more of a problem in rural districts than urban. Evidence of this is found in the 1910 Census, which shows that for every illiterate person living in an urban community there are approximately two living in rural communities. The higher per cent of illiteracy in the rural districts is even more marked in the states where immigrants are settling than in the country as a whole. In New Mexico, Arizona, and California the ratio is about 250 illiterates in the country to every 100 in the city. Among the foreign born in rural districts in three of these states an exceptionally high per cent of illiteracy prevails. For Texas 35 per cent, New Mexico 34 per cent, and Arizona 37 per cent, of the rural foreign born are illiterate—in contrast to 13 per cent for the United States. With the exception of Louisiana these per cents are the highest in the country and presage a problem that cannot be overlooked in a consideration of land settlement for the foreign born.

[Pg 147] Equally significant are the 1910 comparisons of the figures for immigrants' inability to speak English in urban and rural communities. Although the contrast for the country as a whole is not so striking, being 21.9 per cent in cities as compared with 25.2 per cent in rural districts, the differences in the four states where new immigrants are settling on farms are considerable.

Per Cent Unable to Speak English, of Total Foreign
Born, Ten Years of Age and Over, in Urban
and Rural Communities
  Per Cent  
  Urban Rural Ratio of
Rural to Urban
Texas 41.8 64.0 153.1
New Mexico 28.5 61.7 216.5
Arizona 48.2 62.6 129.9
California 10.5 22.4 213.3
United State 21.9 25.2 115.0

Over 60 per cent of the foreign born in rural communities in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona are unable to speak English. The principal foreign group is composed of Mexicans who come from a non-English-speaking country which has a high per cent of illiteracy. They go into the rural communities of these border states, where there is practically no schooling opportunity[Pg 148] either for learning the English language or for learning to read and write. While only 22.4 per cent are not able to speak English in California rural districts, this is more than twice as many as are unable to speak it in California cities. This is a high ratio in the one state in the country which provides public settlement projects. While these situations are perhaps extreme, their existence is manifestly inexcusable in a land which prides itself on educational opportunity for all. There is virtually never equality of opportunity in rural and urban communities, for either native or foreign born, and the immigrant who lives on the land is especially handicapped.

In another report[22] of this study there is evidence which points to lack of educational and social opportunities in rural districts. The average length of time after arrival in the country before petitions for naturalization papers are filed is tabulated by occupation for more than twenty thousand cases. These figures show that, for all occupational groups of any size, agricultural workers take the longest time, about fourteen years, before petitioning. The average length of time for workers of all occupations is about ten and a half years. Back from the currents of life, with fewer opportunities to overcome disqualifications, the farm worker does not become a citizen as quickly as his city brother.

[Pg 149] The term "education" as applied especially to the rural population is a very broad one. It comprises everything which helps to elevate the people materially as well as mentally and spiritually. In this direction various educational agencies are working. The most important of them might be classified as follows:

  1. Schools:
    1. Public:
      1. (1) general.
      2. (2) evening.
      3. (3) home teacher.
      4. (4) vocational (training in agriculture).
    2. Private:
      1. (1) general.
      2. (2) church or parochial.
  2. Churches:
    1. American, service in English.
    2. Immigrant, service in foreign tongue.
  3. Libraries:
    1. Public:
      1. (1) community or town.
      2. (2) traveling.
      3. (3) package.
      4. (4) school.
    2. Private:
      1. (1) church.
      2. (2) school.

Among these agencies the public school is the foremost in the Americanization process. It[Pg 150] directly influences the children and through them their parents—the adult immigrants.


An observer of the home life of immigrant families finds a marked difference between the parents and the children who attend American schools, as well as between the American-schooled children and their European-schooled brothers and sisters. These differences lead often to friction and dissension in the families, and though each difference may be concerned with a trivial matter, yet in their entirety they represent the variation of the American from the immigrant.

The writer once entered the home of a large Russian immigrant family just when a quarrel between two sets of children was going on. The European-trained children wanted the window shades rolled entirely up, for the sake of more light, while their American-bred brothers and sisters insisted that the shades be left halfway up, as the Americans have them.

Another illustration of these differences is found in the fact that the immigrants are conservative in clinging to their old-country diet. The first breach is usually occasioned by pie—the American national dessert. The immigrant children learn about it and taste it in the school[Pg 151] cooking classes and also in the neighboring American families, insisting that their mothers make it also. As a result the pie appears on the immigrant table, though in the poorer families only on holidays.

In the case of language, the parents and their European-schooled children continue to speak at home their old-country tongue and read newspapers and books in the same language. The American-schooled children prefer to speak English and read American newspapers and books, taking a special pride in this. They answer their parents in English, although the latter do not always understand English. They call themselves Americans, in distinction from their European parents and older brothers and sisters. "My father, mother, and older sisters are Poles, but I am an American!" answered an American-born Polish boy of about twelve years when asked about his nationality.

"How do you know that you are an American?"

"I was born here and I speak the American language."

In the Italian colony at Vineland, New Jersey, to give only one instance, there was marked conflict between the children who went to the public schools and their parents over the use of the Italian language. The children wanted to speak English and some even refused to talk Italian,[Pg 152] though their parents wanted them to and tried to teach them. The children commonly acted as interpreters between Americans and their parents, especially their mothers. Unfortunately, they did not conceal their contempt for the latter for failing to understand and use English.

Often such differences are so pronounced that the immigrant parents are greatly grieved over the "estrangement" caused by the influence of the American public schools. This dissatisfaction takes an especially acute form among the sectarian immigrants. In San Francisco there are over four hundred families of Russian sectarian peasants—Molochans, Jumpers, etc. Their religion opposes war and military service, and on that account they were exempted from the draft. Notwithstanding this, four or five of their young boys volunteered, in spite of the opposition of their parents and of the whole colony. When the writer visited the colony last year the colonists were much agitated and upset. They openly cursed the American schools and the city streets for ruining their boys spiritually. "If we can't settle on land in the rural districts, then we have to get out of America!" exclaimed the aged leader. In rural districts, they think, they would be able to keep their children from going "astray." The street influence is absent and the school-attendance law is not so severely enforced as in the city, the immigrant leader believed.

[Pg 153] In the Polish farming colony centered at South Deerfield, Massachusetts, where the Polish children all attend the American public schools, the children learn English quickly and prefer everything American to everything Polish. The parents are very much distressed over losing their children as Polish people. For this reason the parents stated that they were extremely eager to establish their own Polish school where they could teach their children the Polish language and Polish history. Only lack of money has so far prevented the founding of such a parochial school.


When an immigrant group is planning either a parochial or some other type of private school of its own, one of its arguments is always that this school will keep the children in its own group, racially and religiously.

The North Middle Western states—Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Nebraska—have large immigrant groups. In the rural districts of those states it is a fact that where there exists a private or parochial school, the public school is neglected, poorly equipped, and has a very small attendance.

A county superintendent of schools in Minnesota reports:

[Pg 154] One of our greatest drawbacks in attendance is the parochial schools. These retard the attendance and keep the school terms down. [23]

A county superintendent in South Dakota writes:

In a number of districts the attendance is so small, owing to the fact that many attend the parochial school, that interest and enthusiasm are lacking. [24]

Another report from Minnesota states that,

the poorest schools in the country are in communities where there are private schools in connection with a church.

The children attend these for years at a time, and when they return to the public schools find themselves behind their former companions. [25]

In 1915–16 there were in the state of Wisconsin 78 rural public schools enrolling five or fewer children, and 445 rural public schools enrolling six to ten children. The state school authorities explained to the writer that the small enrollment in certain public schools does not always indicate that there are not enough children of school age in the district or that the children do not enroll. Very often in the same district there is a well-developed parochial or private school attended by immigrant children. The parents prefer these[Pg 155] schools to the public schools for racial and religious reasons, and contribute liberally to their development and maintenance.

In a number of cases where there are public and private schools in immigrant localities, the writer observed an active and intentional neglect of the public schools by the local school authorities. For instance, in some cases where the state gives a certain sum of money for the support of the public schools, the money is deposited in the bank instead of being used for the development of the public schools. Such deliberate neglect of the public schools by the immigrant local school leaders was quite conspicuous in the state of Wisconsin.

[Pg 156]


One of the greatest negative agencies, and in a large number of cases consciously negative agencies, affecting the Americanization of immigrants in our rural districts has been private schools. Among these—the writer wishes to be entirely outspoken—the most conspicuous have been immigrant Catholic and Lutheran parochial schools and Hebrew schools.

Many of them are run in the spirit of preference for the old country and for the immigrant race or nationality to America and the American nationality. Furthermore, the very spirit and aim of their methods are foreign to America. In their training of children they lay special stress on discipline, obedience, on the form of things, on punctuality, on memory, and on mechanism. All these qualities have been desirable in the "subjects" and in the small "subject nations," from the point of view of the monarchical and aristocratic European regimes, with which Catholicism and Lutheranism have been identified, or of the Talmud, upon which extreme Hebrew nationalism is based.

[Pg 157] The authorities of parochial schools, especially the higher authorities, such as bishops, allow themselves to criticize sternly the American public schools for looseness, too much freedom, lack of moral teachings, etc. A prominent German Catholic bishop, who has been for thirty years in America and who can hardly speak English, stated to the writer that the American colleges, high schools, and even public schools are no good, that their aim is to prepare children and students to get easier jobs, to get along in life without labor and effort. Religious and moral teachings are entirely lacking in his opinion and the schools work against these teachings. Especially, the training of girls in America is entirely wrong. They are not educated to be good housewives, but are just reared for an easy and joyful life; in fact, girls are too lazy to do family work or any work. The severely nationalistic churchman was unable to approve the democratic spirit of the American public school with the stress which it lays upon freedom of action, self-reliance, initiative, and imagination in children. He looked upon children as if they were somebody's property or tools, not human beings with individual destinies.

How important the parochial schools are considered to be by certain immigrant nationalistic leaders and high clergy is shown by the speeches delivered at the southeastern Wisconsin district[Pg 158] conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and other states, held in the summer of 1918. Prof. A. Piper stated that,

we must concentrate all our powers upon keeping our hands on our schools. To hold our schools we must compete with the public schools, must hold classes five days a week, and must work with all the strength that is in us. The most important part of all of our missionary work is the work in our schools.

The importance of concentrating effort on the parochial schools was further emphasized by W. Grabner, Milwaukee, who asked:

What has made Chicago the greatest Lutheran city in the world? [and replied] I say it was the Lutheran parochial school. It has served as a nucleus for all Lutheran families to settle about. Round it all life and activity centered. Our Lutheran forefathers nourished the little Lutheran schools with all the powers they possessed.

The situation in the rural districts of various states in regard to the private and especially the parochial schools in connection with the Americanization of the children of immigrants born here and abroad is shown by the following field notes and material collected by the writer.


The Nebraska State Council of Defense made a report on the foreign-language schools in Nebraska, dated January 14, 1917. The data were secured through the personal investigation of[Pg 159] Miss Sarka Hrbkova, chairman of the Woman's Committee, aided by Miss Alice Florer of the State Superintendent's office, and through the efforts of the county chairmen of educational propaganda of the Woman's Committee. Professors Link and Weller and other representatives of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod co-operated with Miss Hrbkova. The following facts indicate the extent of parochial schools in Nebraska. [26]

Foreign-language schools are located in 59 counties of Nebraska. There is a total of 262 schools in which it is estimated that 10,000 children receive instruction in foreign languages, chiefly the German. In these 262 schools 379 teachers are employed. Five thousand five hundred and fifty-four children are attending the schools of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, this number including those in the summer sessions as well. About 20 teachers give instructions in their homes or in church buildings. Of these 379 teachers in private schools, 2 give instruction in Danish, 6 in Polish, 14 in Swedish, and 357 in German. Less than 2 per cent of the teachers of these schools are certified. About 120 of the German teachers are likewise ministers in the German Lutheran parish where the school is located. The county superintendents of the 59 counties in which the foreign-language schools are located reported that in only a few cases do these schools give the equivalent of the eighth-grade public school. For the most part, the eight years' attendance at such a school fits pupils for the sixth grade of the public schools.

In certain schools in Fillmore, Cass, Franklin, Gosper, Jefferson, Pawnee, and Wayne Counties the instruction is given entirely in the German language. In about 200 of[Pg 160] the schools three hours daily is devoted to instruction in the German language.

In Deuel, Fillmore, and Jefferson Counties the superintendents report that the German national hymn is sung in certain foreign-language schools. In Nance and Washington Counties they report that it was formerly sung, but not this year. In Cedar Creek District No. 88, Cass County, Reverend Kunzendorf, teacher, states that they do not sing the American hymn because they do not sing any hymns at all. The American national hymn is not sung in about 100 of the German-language schools. Over 100 foreign-language schools lack an American flag. One minister, Rev. J. Aron, from Wayne County, writes, "We have no flag, but will see to it that one be put up, if requested to do so." In Madison the minister declared foreign-language and parochial schools are not required by law to have an American flag, and therefore he does not display one.

Public schools have been closed and forced out by German parochial schools in Cedar County, Cheyenne County, Clay County, Colfax County (No. 36), Gage County (No. 103), 2 in Johnson County, 5 in Platte County, District No. 99 in Saline County, 8 in Seward County, No. 38 in Stanton County and Wayne County. In Cedar County the Bow Valley, Constance, and Fordyce schools are taught by Sisters. In the following counties there are public schools with only four or five pupils, because the German-language schools absorb the pupils: Clay, Cedar, Cuming, Dixon, Howard, Nuckolis, Platte, Polk, Seward, Stanton, Wayne, and Webster.

The following statement was made by Prof. C. F. Brommer, Hampton, Nebraska, president of the Lutheran Synod of Missouri, at the hearing before the state Americanization Committee held in Lincoln in September, 1918:

I think we have more parochial schools than any other Protestant body in this state; between 150 and 160, with about 5,000 children in these schools.

[Pg 161] In answer to a question by a member of the committee, Professor Brommer said:

I know of one [public school] district where there is no public school. There is no need of one, as the children all go to parochial school. There are a few such cases.

George Weller, of Seward, Nebraska, stated to the same committee:

German has never been taught in our schools [German Lutheran] as an end, but as a means to an end. We could not teach the old folks English, and in order to allow the children and the parents to worship together we taught the children the German language.

J. W. Robb of Lincoln informed the commission that in one district the Germans control the public-school board and they closed the public school two months in a year, and the children are deprived of two months in English schools or must go to a German parochial school during that time.


The situation in regard to parochial schools in North Dakota has been and still is, perhaps, more serious than in Nebraska. The writer in his field study in North Dakota was impressed that the public officials were afraid to do anything more than recommend certain desirable changes in these schools; some were even afraid to visit the German counties or sections on public business, such as Liberty Bond or Red Cross drives.[Pg 162] Several reasons were given, such as politics, ignorance of the German language, and even care for their own safety. Therefore an English-speaking German woman was engaged to speak for Liberty Bonds in North Dakota German sections. She was successful only because in her German public speeches she praised the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty and condemned the Czechoslovaks in Russia. "Well, she brings home the bacon. For what else do we care!" ironically exclaimed a North Dakota man to the writer.

The State Superintendent of Public Education made the following statement to the writer when he asked for data on the foreign-language schools in the state:

The State Department of Public Education has no authority whatever over the private and parochial schools in the state. There is no legal ground for collecting information in regard to them.... There have been cases when children of immigrant groups, attending a private or parochial school, had to learn the foreign tongue of other groups.

A Catholic bishop stated:

The first grades in the parochial schools use German because the children who enter the schools do not know English, and it is far better and more successful to start work with them in their mother tongue as a teaching language. At the same time, they teach them English. As their knowledge of English gradually grows, the teaching in the higher grades is transferred to the English language.

[Pg 163] To the writer's question whether the non-German children in their parochial schools—for instance, Bohemians and Hungarians—have also to start in German, the bishop said that in some cases this is true, for they are not able to find teachers for each language.

In the bishops diocese there are 37,000 Catholic families. Among these are 2,000 Indian families, about 2,000 Bohemian families, and between 300 and 400 Hungarian families. The rest are German families, over 100 of whom are from Germany; about 2,000 were born in America, and the rest are Germans from Russia.

An American church head made the following statement, in reply to an inquiry about the schools:

Strasburg, Emmons County, has a large parochial school where German is the only language both for teaching and speaking. The public school there has only a handful of children. There are plenty of parochial schools in which German is taught exclusively in McIntosh and Emmons Counties, and in the western counties (in the town of New Salem, etc.). Some of the teachers, of whom a goodly number are Sisters, cannot speak English at all. Children of other nationalities would also be under German influences. There is undoubtedly German propaganda in these schools, and American or other children become Germanized. Every graded school, private and public, should be conducted in English exclusively. Every teacher need not be American born; many foreign-born people are better citizens than some native Americans. But every teacher should have to understand and speak the English language. No one should teach, preach, or hold public office who cannot speak English.

[Pg 164] The editor of an English daily in Bismarck, North Dakota, said:

The Americanization work is weakest in North Dakota, and yet it is more needed here than anywhere else, for the population is mainly composed of foreign elements. Foreign-language churches, parochial and other private schools, and certain American public schools in which, as it is in a number of places, the teaching language is a foreign language, very often German—are keeping the old country alive in the state. We have a large number of the second generation, grown-up people born here of foreign-born parents, who do not know how to write or read English, who do not know anything about America, but know well the history of Hohenzollern and Hapsburg dynasties in Europe.

A leader of the Women's Organization, North Dakota Council of Defense, made the following statement:

The Red Cross work, food-conservation work, and child-welfare work are organized in every county, a wide-awake woman being chosen as county head. Great difficulty is experienced in reaching the foreigner. A large number of them, especially women, do not understand English, and do not know enough about the country, its traditions, and spirit. Aside from remaining foreigners, they are in many cases unbelievably ignorant. For instance, the organization undertook a baby census, which included weighing the babies. The baby of a German housewife was underweight—that is, below normal. When its mother learned of this she began to cry hysterically. After the other people succeeded in quieting her she expressed the fear that the American government would kill her baby for being below normal weight.


The statistical data on parochial and other private schools in the state of Minnesota for[Pg 165] 1918, compiled by the Department of Public Instruction, are as follows:

Enrollment and Language Used in Parochial and
Private Schools in Minnesota, 1918
Number of parochial and private schools   307
Number of pupils enrolled   38,853
Number of teachers   1,359
Number of schools using English only   94
Number of bilingual schools in which the teaching is in    
   English and German 195  
   English and Bohemian 1  
   English and Dutch 1  
   English and French 4  
   English and Norwegian 1  
   English and Polish 10  
   English and Danish 1  
      Total 213  

The Isanti County school superintendent reports for 1915–16:[27]

The poorest schools in the county are in communities where there are private schools in connection with a church. The children attend these for years at a time, and when they return to the public schools find themselves behind their former companions. We wish arrangements might be made so that these schools could not teach the branches unless the teachers were as well equipped as the public-school teachers and that the children could be sent to them only at the confirmation age for two years.

[Pg 166] The Martin County superintendent reports: [28]

Parochial schools should be required to report to the county superintendent the names of their teachers, length of term, etc. The teachers should be required to make monthly reports and be subject to the same supervision of inspection as those of public schools. Their certification should also be subject to state approval. Failing this, the pupils should be required to attend the public schools for at least eight full years, or until they complete the regular eighth-grade work.

Near St. Cloud, Minnesota, there is a Slovenian colony of about fifty to sixty families. Near by there is a much smaller German colony with a German parochial school in which the teacher, at the time of the writer's visit, was a German and the teaching language was German. Quite a number of the Slovenian families sent their children to this school, where they were Germanized instead of Americanized. A Slovenian family head explained to the writer that those Slovenians who are sending their children to the German school do it for a practical reason. They expect some time to visit their native Austria, where German is the state language. The man claimed that about one tenth of the settlers do not understand English, and that only about one fifth of them can speak and write English,[Pg 167] although the colony was founded in America about fifty years ago.


The following statement made by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in the state of Michigan to the writer, September 11, 1918, shows the situation in regard to the private schools in that state. Parochial schools exist as follows:

One hundred and sixty-six Catholic; 124 German Lutheran; 19 Adventists; 22 Christian Reform. There is a total of 331. Of these, 190 maintain as many as eight grades, and 62 maintain more than eight grades. In the grades below the high school there is an attendance of 43,836, and in the high schools, 2,813. There are employed about 1,200 teachers. Eighty-six schools use German as a medium of instruction, German partly; sixteen use Polish; 5 use French. Only 2 schools in the state give no time to the teaching of the English branches. Seventy per cent of all the schools use the English language only as a medium of instruction. The census of the state contains 892,787 children of school age, five to nineteen years, inclusive. There are enrolled in the public schools of the state, 635,020. We regret that we have not yet the data from Saginaw and Detroit. The city of Detroit alone would perhaps show a parochial-school attendance as large as the parochial-school attendance of all the rest of the state.

In a Finnish colony in upper Michigan the writer found three one-month religious summer schools, well attended. One of the leaders of the colony stated that they have only Finnish[Pg 168] teachers in these schools and the teaching is in Finnish. The program contains mainly religious instruction and a limited amount of Finnish history. The expenses are paid by the church treasury. The people want these schools for maintaining their religion among the children as well as for sentimental nationalistic reasons. The schools are conducted in the public-school rooms during summer vacations.

In the same section of the state the writer visited an old and comparatively large Polish colony, located at Posen. His field notes supply the following information: There is at the church a four-room parochial school, housed in a substantial brick building, with five teachers, including the priest. The school year lasts ten months. Teaching is in English, except that an hour each day is devoted to the Polish language and Polish history. The priest admitted that the teaching of religion is in Polish. The school program is the same as in the standard public schools of eight grades. The same textbooks are used. Although the law does not require examination of the children, nevertheless to appease the county officials and show the efficiency and value of their school they send the children to the county board of education for examination, and the county board has always expressed great satisfaction with the advancement in education of the children of the Polish[Pg 169] school. The teachers are all Poles, appointed by the bishop, candidates being presented by the priest.

The need of this school the priest explained as follows: It Americanizes the children more quickly than the American school—that is, it is more efficient in teaching the children the American ways of life and American history than the American public schools, for the teachers are all Poles, know their people and their psychology better than do the teachers in the public schools. During a later discussion the priest admitted that the church service is in the Polish language and that the Polish school exists rather for sentimental reasons of a racial character than for practical reasons. The settlers also claimed that the Polish school and the church service in the Polish language are needed, for the reason that they like this better; they complained that the expenses are too high; they would have the county or state help them. Sometimes a few adults come to the school, but they are irregular in attendance.

The priest explained that the issue of the immigrant schools in the state has become practically a political issue, and to his mind it ought not to be, at least not in such a sharp form. Prohibition of these schools would have a bad effect on the foreign-born population. The schools might be modified and reformed and the state might[Pg 170] exercise some sort of control and supervision over them, but only so far as it is agreeable to the colonies themselves. In this way the schools would be a valuable asset to the education of the people. They would work toward Americanization, better than the ordinary public schools, for they can reach the depths of the soul more easily than the American schools. He believed that his school would be an ideal means to this end.

The writer observed in this colony that the majority of the colonists are of the second and third generations. Not many families are foreign born. The colony is on the way to Americanization. The main causes holding it back are as follows: the colony is to a large degree isolated from the outside world; the Catholic Church and its schools are keeping the Polish language and the racial characteristics very much alive. The writer heard in the town grown-up people talking Polish. All the people the writer met spoke English fluently. In the street he noticed several groups of children playing; some spoke Polish, some English. Two boys were talking together, one speaking Polish, the other English. In watching and hearing the boys, the writer felt the influence of the Polish church and school over them. The faces and build of the people have a specific Slavic character. Otherwise their appearance is American.

[Pg 171] At Holland, Ottawa County, Michigan, there is a large long-established Dutch colony, the vast majority of the settlers being already of the second and third generations. The colony is far advanced on the way to Americanization. The writer found the town and farming districts surrounding it almost the same as any native rural district. He did not hear any Dutch spoken in the streets, stores, or public offices. Yet the Dutch language was the language of the service in the churches and the teaching language in the parochial schools up to recent years. In regard to this fact the local church head explained to the writer:

Aside from a number of lower parochial schools, there is one parochial high school and one parochial college, Hope College. The high school is a preparatory school for the college. The college prepares ministers for the village churches. The language used in the high school and college was formerly Dutch. They taught Dutch history, literature, and mainly religion—Bible study. But during late years English has become the teaching language, and the Dutch language has remained only as a subject of study. Up to this time the leaders of the colony have been working toward Americanization unconsciously, but now they have awakened to the fact that the Dutch are rapidly Americanizing. They accept this fact as a desirable one, and are now working consciously toward the end of Americanization. They realize that even if they would like to keep the Dutch nationality alive in the colony, they would not be able to do it, so that they yield to the inevitable. The activities in the church and parochial schools have now to be turned more toward Americanization.

[Pg 172] In a German colony at Au Gres, Michigan, the writer learned that the colonists have a parochial school in which the teaching is in German. They teach the German language, the Lutheran religion, and the rudiments of sciences. The church is composed entirely of Germans. Both ministers are appointed by the German Synod. The Congregational church has Saturday and Sunday school. The Saturday school lasts from nine until twelve in the morning, and the Sunday school from nine until ten in the morning. The teaching is in German; the subject is Bible study, and also the learning of the German language and the singing of hymns. The meaning of these schools was explained to the writer by the settlers as follows: The parents would like to have their children know the German language, be able to read and write German, and be instructed in religious matters, for neither German nor religion is taught in the American schools. The local native settlers stated to the writer that the German parochial school ought not to be there. It is a Germanizing school, opposed to America and Americanization, they argued.


The Superintendent of Public Education of the State of Wisconsin told the writer that there is no law enabling the public authorities to supervise[Pg 173] or inspect the private schools or even to collect information in regard to them, except in a roundabout way. There is a law requiring that the county boards keep records of school attendance and this law enables the county boards to learn the attendance of every school in each county. The enrollment in private and parochial schools in Wisconsin was as follows:

Enrollment and Teaching Force of Private and
Parochial Schools in Wisconsin, 1914–15 and
  1914–15 1915–16
Number attending private or parochial
   schools only—counties
24,370 25,373
Number attending private or parochial
   schools only—cities
21,736 18,556
Number attending both public and private,
   or parochial schools—counties
34,335 34,958
Number attending both public and private,
   or parochial schools—cities
1,441 3,276
Teaching force of private and parochial
   schools in counties:
      Men 288  
      Women 600  
            Total 888 909

There was a case in Wisconsin in 1918 of a German father sentenced to five years in the[Pg 174] penitentiary for persuading his son to evade the draft. An editorial commenting on the case said:

This man, though German in every sense of the word, was born in America. Yet when he was on trial he had great difficulty in understanding questions put to him in English. Born in America, educated in American schools, nearly fifty years old, yet "he had great difficulty in understanding questions put in English!" Why? Because in the German—not American—community in which he was raised the education of American citizens was conducted in German.

A rural postmaster of German descent in a small backwoods town in Wisconsin, who claimed to have lost long ago his faith in "the Kaiser's Fatherland," as he put it, stated that there are thousands and thousands of such victims of the German parochial schools in the state, who, though born and brought up here, are unable to converse freely in English. This is especially true among those who live on farms in a German colony and go only to a German school and church.

Now these people suffer and are ashamed of themselves. But who is responsible? I think both the German clergy and other leaders for victimizing these people, as well as the American public for allowing such mischief.


In regard to the situation in South Dakota, the Federal Bureau of Education reports (Bulletin, No. 31, 1918) that,

[Pg 175] some counties, Hutchinson, for example, are largely peopled by German stock. A large portion of the school population attend German Catholic and German Lutheran parochial schools in which German has been used largely as a medium of instruction. (Recently stopped by order of the State Council of Defense.) In this county, and in Hanson County, the German-Russian Mennonites still live the quaint community life brought with them from Russia. German, not English, is the language of the villages, although in most of the schools English is the medium of instruction.


The California Commissioner of Public Education stated to the writer that the state authorities have no right to interfere in any way with the private and parochial schools and that he is not legally able to collect any information in regard to these schools.

Even the leaders of the Russian sectarian peasant colonies maintain some sort of a private school of their own. The San Francisco colony has classes for children two evenings a week, in which they are taught reading and writing in the Russian language. In Los Angeles the colony leaders explained that their children learn the Russian language in their homes, where Russian is spoken exclusively, and that they learn Russian reading and writing in their Russian private evening schools, one hour each evening. The peasants themselves teach them. The parents have to pay certain small sums to the teachers.

[Pg 176] The leaders expressed a keen desire that the city should provide them with a Russian school, for they would like to have their children able to read, speak, and write the Russian language. If they should not be able to settle in America on the land they would be compelled to return to Russia. The leaders of the Russian colony at Glendale, Arizona, said that they are attempting to teach Russian to their children in the evenings and other spare time, but owing to lack of time and proper teachers they have not made much progress.


The local manager of the Hirsch fund in Woodbine, New Jersey, a Jewish colony, stated that there is in the colony a Hebrew school supported by individuals and to a certain degree by the Hirsch fund. It is a Hebrew school connected with activities of the synagogue, maintained for religious purposes. It corresponds to the parochial school of Christian churches. About sixty pupils attend this school.


It goes without saying that during war-time excitement, with its heightened suspicion, the statements made by the defenders of the foreign-language[Pg 177] schools and their opponents do not always correspond to the reality. It has been the writers impression that the defenders were inclined to diminish the negative influence of these schools, while their opponents in a number of cases saw these schools darker than they really were.

For instance, it was a usual experience of the writer, when he arrived in an immigrant colony and explained either to individual leaders or to a meeting of the whole colony the purpose of his inquiry, to receive at the outset the following answer: "Well, we are all Americanized; we are all Americans; we understand and speak the American language and love the country; we are not a colony at all, but just plain American people of a certain old-country stock," etc. When it developed that the language of their church service and the teaching language in their private schools was their old-country language, the leaders began, with certain embarrassment, to admit that the old folks and the late arrivals do not understand English, and therefore the mother tongue of the parents becomes the home language for both the young and old. And since some settlers intend to return to the old country, and do not like to lose their former nationality—their old-country tongue is used in the churches and taught in the schools.

Perhaps the Polish settlers were most outspoken in their attachment to their nationality,[Pg 178] while the German settlers were either silent or denied their preference for the German nationality; their main argument in favor of the use of German in their churches and schools was based on purely religious grounds. It was solely on this religious ground that they explained the higher proportion of German-language schools to the number of German immigrants than obtains in any other immigrant national group. The Jews claimed that their racial characteristics, such as diet, moral conceptions according to the Mosaic laws, and study of Hebrew history, were really contributions to America. They justified on this ground the cultivation of their racial differences, maintaining that there is nothing in this opposed to American ideals, but that, on the contrary, it is in accord with what this country stands for and fosters.

On the other hand, the opponents of foreign-language schools often viewed them as the sole hindrance to the better understanding and acceptance of American ways and institutions, the creators of disloyalty. They would close all foreign-language schools in the country at once, without any further consideration.

As a result of the war-time revelations and excitement, certain changes have taken place in these schools. In a number of states the use of a foreign tongue as a teaching medium and even as a subject of study in the common schools has[Pg 179] been prohibited. In a number of places the immigrant leaders themselves have voluntarily changed their teaching language to English under the pressure of both public opinion in general and that of the members of their own group. "It is an injustice to our own people if we teach them a foreign tongue instead of the language of this country," stated a Lutheran pastor to the writer.

But in many cases the nationalistic leaders expressed their dissatisfaction with the changes "enforced" upon them. They expressed the opinion that after peace is established their people would have things their own way through their votes. Many of them are already naturalized and still more are going to be.


The elementary foreign-language schools undoubtedly perform a service in preventing the disruption of families and are justified to this extent. The question arises, however, whether much more cannot be done to assist the parents, through evening schools and home teachers, to learn the language and customs of the country. If this work could be adequately done, it would not be necessary to hold the children back by teaching them a foreign language, only to be used to bridge a temporary gulf in their homes.

The justification for foreign-language elementary[Pg 180] schools does not apply to the higher institutions. In the Dutch colony at Holland, Michigan, the writer was struck by the fact that while the people were largely Americanized and English had become their home or mother tongue, the colony leaders insisted on the Dutch language in their high school and college. The only explanation given was that this was done unconsciously. During recent years they had become conscious of the need and the inevitableness of Americanization, and, as a result, had substituted English for Dutch in their higher schools.

The Jewish colony in Woodbine, New Jersey, had a Jewish agricultural college, supported by the Hirsch fund. To the writer's inquiries as to why there was need of a special Jewish agricultural college, why the Jewish boys cannot enter American agricultural colleges, receiving scholarships from the Hirsch fund if need be, the answers of the authorities were varied: They had to follow the will of Baron de Hirsch; in a special Jewish institution the Jewish boys are kept from "going astray"; teaching and training can be better adjusted to the peculiarities of the Jewish boys, etc.


There is no question that the foreign-language private schools have done great harm to the[Pg 181] country as a whole and to the immigrants themselves. The question is, What has to be done?

The parochial schools must be regulated by the following measures: All elementary private schools should be licensed or registered in the office of the public-school authorities; all should meet the same requirements as the elementary public schools in regard to the qualifications of teachers, school terms, program, teaching language, and inspection and direction by the public-school authorities. Exception might be made to permit religious instruction certain definite hours during the week to the American-born children in English and to recently arrived immigrant children in their mother tongue as well as instruction in their mother tongue as an extra cultural subject. The lessons should be given by a duly qualified teacher.

In another volume [30] of these Studies there is a further discussion of a successful experiment along this line. The parochial schools of New Hampshire have co-operated voluntarily with the state authorities. Progress toward regulation and the establishment of a minimum standard in all schools in the state has been made. Only through some such provision can this country insure equal opportunity to its potential citizens.

[Pg 182]


Immigrant or foreign-language churches are needed by the immigrants so long as they have not learned to understand the English language. But for those immigrants who have been long enough in this country to know English and for the immigrants' children born in America no foreign-language churches are needed. If the church authorities conduct the church services and activities in a foreign tongue for those immigrants who understand and speak English, they then do this for racial or nationalistic reasons—as a service to the old country or to a nationality other than the American nationality. That this is often the case is shown by the fact that certain foreign countries have been financially supporting churches here for their people who have come to America; for instance, the former Russian monarchy gave liberally for the establishment and upkeep of Russian Greek Orthodox churches in this country.

In the use of foreign language in nearly all the rural colonies visited by the writer where there[Pg 183] was an immigrant church, the language used in the church services was the old-country tongue, although occasionally the services were bilingual, both English and the foreign tongue being used.

In North Dakota an American minister described the situation as follows:

Most of the German Catholic and Lutheran church services are in German; some are bilingual. The Lutherans almost entirely have all-German services. In the western part of the state a Bohemian or a Slav can get only the German tongue. Scandinavian churches also use their own tongue. All foreign churches here use their own languages. Quite a number of foreign ministers are foreign born. Some can scarcely speak English.

At a hearing before the state Americanization Committee in Lincoln, Nebraska, held in the fall of 1918, a large number of the priests and pastors of immigrant churches testified as to the use of the old-country language in their church services and pleaded for its retention. It was apparent from the testimony that the foreign-language church service was prevalent throughout the state in the immigrant churches. Practically every priest or pastor claimed that the majority of his congregation could not understand services in English.

The following extracts from the testimony are characteristic. Peculiar emphasis was laid by the church authorities upon the fact that although the people might understand and speak[Pg 184] English fluently in their everyday affairs, yet they could not understand church service or religious instruction when these were given in English.

Statement of H. F. Hensick, Madison, Nebraska, pastor of German Evangelical Lutheran Church:

In my own congregation in Madison there are thirty-six who are not able to understand the religious instruction in English; they are those who were born in this country or who came here years back.

Statement of Richard Kuehne, Lincoln, Nebraska:

We have in Lincoln about eight thousand German-Russian people; the most of them cannot follow an English sermon at all.

Statement of M. Lehninger, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, representing Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of Wisconsin and other states:

While there are a good many people who do understand English well and speak it quite fluently in everyday conversation, they all have had their religious instruction in German, and they understand a German sermon where they cannot understand an English one. The people of my church have come partly from Germany and partly from Canada, and many communicant members are native-born American citizens, and still it is a fact that perhaps only half a dozen members of the two hundred and fifty communicant members will have the full benefit of an English sermon.

Statement of Vic Anderson, Minden, Nebraska, Swedish Lutheran:

[Pg 185] It is my judgment that 35 per cent of our people do not understand preaching in the American language. They can do business in that language, but when it comes to understanding the interpretation of the Bible, they would like to have it in the Swedish language because that is the language that their fathers and mothers taught them in.

Statement of John H. Steger, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, St. Paul German Church:

Half of my congregation cannot understand the English language.

Statement of C. F. Brommer, Hampton, Nebraska, Lutheran pastor:

In every congregation, but mostly in the congregations of the city, we have people who understand the English sermon as well as the German sermon, and then I think the majority speak, read, and write English, in common, everyday life, perfectly, but they still would derive greater benefit from the German than the English sermon, and I think there are probably nearly 98 per cent of our congregations and people who do not understand the English sermons and never will learn to understand them. These are mostly old people. When they came here they did not have the time nor the opportunity to learn the English language.

Statement of Adolph Matzner, Lincoln, Nebraska, representing the Nebraska district of the German Evangelical Synod of North America:

The majority of the voting members of our congregation are immigrants. They came to this country thirty or forty years ago; they settled in the country; they had no opportunity to get acquainted and to learn the American language. In the country and small towns they have no night schools, and these people never had a chance to learn the American[Pg 186] language. We have members in the congregation who are able to understand it, or at least able to do their business in the American language. They can talk to you about politics and about the weather, but they cannot get the benefit from an American sermon that they can from a German sermon. They would perhaps understand a sermon on how to keep cool on a hot day, but when you come to a sermon on religious subjects they are not able to understand it.

Most of the priests and pastors stated that there were so many difficulties in the way of having separate English and foreign-language services, the former for the children and those who understand English, and the latter for the old people who do not understand English, that it would be practically impossible to do this. The argument usually given was that presented by Joseph G. Votava of Omaha, a Roman Catholic, representing the Bohemians:

About having separate meetings for the old folks and the children—this question came up from Greeley County, and they wanted us to have our German service between nine and ten, and Sunday school between ten and eleven, and from eleven to twelve an English sermon. The old folks and the children come together in the same vehicle, and they certainly don't expect the children to sit down on the curbing or in the shade until the old folks get through, and therefore it is hard to separate the meetings in the rural districts, of which we have many congregations all over the state.


That it is possible to have bilingual services successfully was testified to by John P. Gross, Hastings,[Pg 187] Nebraska, a United States citizen born in Russia, representing the Adams County Council of Defense. He said:

Then we were told to have one preaching service a week in the English language, and we all agreed to do that, and we were told we could have as much German besides that one English sermon as we wanted. And we agreed to have that one English sermon. I went to my congregation of three hundred and fifty people, at least half of whom did not get any benefit from the English sermon, and I put it before them and told them, this is what we are requested to do; you don't have to do it, but they would like to have you do it, and they unanimously voted in my church, and every other church in the county, to adopt the plan. Our congregations in the evening are not as large as before because some of the older people do not come now, but enough come to church who are living in our community so that we can hold the service. So we have lost in one way, but we are slowly gaining along another way; one old grandfather there said it would have been better if these plans had been adopted fifteen years ago. And this plan has worked very satisfactorily in our county.

In several of the rural immigrant communities visited by the writer there were successful bilingual churches. In the Polish colony at Posen, Michigan, the sermon in the Catholic Church is in two languages, Polish and English. The priest explained that the Polish language is needed, as the people, especially the older people, understand it better and the priest is able to penetrate their souls more intimately in their mother tongue. The English language is needed for two reasons: among the colonists are a few[Pg 188] American farmers who belong to the same church and do not speak Polish; and a few of the younger generation understand English better than Polish, especially those newcomers who have been born outside of the colony among Americans.

In the Dutch colony at Holland, Michigan, the churches are bilingual. One service in the morning is in the Dutch language and the other in the evening is in the English language. English has become a necessity because a number of the young people have difficulty in understanding Dutch, and also because a number of the congregation are either native born or of some other nationality.


On the whole, the writer, in his field study, was impressed by the fact that the rank and file of the immigrant congregations favored the English-language service, while the priests and pastors were opposing it. Whenever an English-language service had been lately introduced it had been done under the pressure either of the members of the congregation or of the state Council of Defense.

The clergy often maintained that the foreign-language service was needed, even in cases where the members of the congregation were largely American born and understood and spoke English well in everyday life. Perhaps the most[Pg 189] conspicuous in making such claims were the German Catholic and Lutheran priests and pastors. According to a number of them, no other language than German is suited for services, no matter how far advanced the church members are in the use of English.

There were cases where among the membership of a German-language church there were Bohemians or Scandinavians or Poles. To the writer's question whether services for these people were conducted in their mother tongue, the answer was usually given in the negative, with the explanation that there was no money to engage additional preachers and that these people understood German well. The only explanation of such extreme claims for foreign-language services is the nationalism of the clergy.


Certain church authorities hinder amalgamation of the immigrants by making severe requirements in regard to "interfaith" marriages. For instance, in a case where one party is Catholic and the other is not, the Catholic Church requires a written sworn statement from both parties in regard to certain conditions which they must fulfill in their married life. What these conditions are the following blank given to the writer by a Catholic bishop shows:

[Pg 190] In Casu Disparitatis Cultus.

Vel Mixtae Religionis.



I, the undersigned, never baptized (baptized in the .......... Church), of .......... do hereby promise that if .......... receives from the Bishop a dispensation to marry me, I will never by word or act interfere with .......... faith in the Catholic Church or with .......... practice thereof, and that I will not prevent the children of either sex to be born (and already born) from being baptized and brought up in the faith and practice of the Catholic Church. I also promise that in the solemnization of my marriage, there shall be only the Catholic Ceremony.

Signed in presence of

.........................      .........................

Date .........................


I, the undersigned, of .........., a Catholic, wishing to marry .........., unbaptized (baptized in the .......... Church), do hereby promise that, if the Bishop finds canonical cause for granting me a dispensation, I will have all my children baptized and reared in the Catholic Church, and that I will practice my Religion faithfully and do all I can, especially by prayer, example, and the frequentation of the Sacraments, to bring about the conversion of my consort.

Signed in presence of

.........................      .........................

Date .........................

[Pg 191] There is no question that such requirements may prevent a number of marriages between native born and immigrants, when one is a Catholic and the other a non-Catholic. It is not always possible for a non-Catholic to follow the required conditions and as a result family quarrels and the disruption of families may occur. The writer has observed three such cases. In one case there were involved a native and an immigrant, and in two cases immigrants alone.

A similar ban or check on interfaith, which often means international, marriages is found among sectarian immigrant groups. Their extreme religious sentiment prevents them from marrying outsiders, and as a result inbreeding occurs. They marry close relatives and defectives. For instance, near Lincoln, Nebraska, where a small German colony of Mennonites is settled, the birth of idiots and otherwise defective children was so noticeable that the colony's leaders and their neighbors decided to bring about a change. The marriage of close relatives was prohibited and the ban on marriage with outsiders was done away with. This change has had a very good result, according to the colony's leaders. The change was possible only because the sectarian beliefs had been weakened under the pressure of the general American conditions.

The orthodox Jews are similarly opposed to[Pg 192] the marriage of their members with the Gentiles. So far as the writer has learned, they do not require signed promises. They are uncompromising in such matters and ostracize any one of their members who marries an outsider.

The usual explanation of the need of such a ban or check on interfaith marriages is that if the parents are of different faiths the children will be lost to the Church. Whatever the explanation or justification of the Church opposition to interfaith marriages, it often applies to immigrants and makes for their continued separation from America.


Very often the priests and pastors of the immigrant churches are freshly arrived immigrants themselves. They scarcely speak English and know little about America. Consequently they are not able to educate the members of their congregations in American ways. On the contrary, they tend to criticize America and favor their old country in their sermons, public addresses, and activities. During recent years quite a number of such church heads have been prosecuted in the courts for their seditious utterances and activities.

Testimony given at the hearing before the state Americanization Committee in Lincoln,[Pg 193] Nebraska, showed how many of the ministers know little of the English language and little of America:

Joseph G. Votava of Omaha, representing the Bohemians, Roman Catholic, stated:

A great many of the ministers have come from foreign churches and countries, and if you gentlemen were forced to listen to them making English sermons, I don't know whether you would go to church very often or not.

Rev. F. E. Pomp, Omaha, representing the Swedish Evangelical Mission Association of Nebraska, said:

A great many of the ministers in our denomination were born in Sweden; some preach very well in English, but the majority, perhaps, of those born in Sweden cannot preach in the English language.

The statement of Rev. Matt W. Nemec, Wahoo, Nebraska, Bohemian Roman Catholic, was:

There are eight of these gentlemen who have come over here and are in training, and they cannot speak the English language fluently, and it would be a great hardship for them to come up before the young people who speak English very well and try to preach in English.


An immigrant church can do much toward the amalgamation of its members. There are a few[Pg 194] immigrant churches, Catholic as well as Protestant, which are doing valuable work in this direction. But while an immigrant church can do much good it also can do much harm when its services and activities are conducted in the spirit of preference of the old country to America. To prevent such harm some action must be taken by the public.

The writer recommends that the immigrant church heads (priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis, and others) should be American citizens either by birth or by naturalization. Foreign-language services should be conducted for freshly arrived immigrants only, and for those old-time immigrants who have not mastered English.

Immigrant churches should be required to report regularly on the Americanization progress of their congregations (number of families, home language, service language, naturalization, etc.) to the state or Federal Bureau of Education.

[Pg 195]


The preceding three chapters show how important is the public school as an instrumentality of Americanization. The question is whether the rural public school meets present-day requirements. Field investigations and search through both public and private reports have convinced the writer that the rural public school is the most neglected class of all the educational institutions in the country. It is far behind the times. It not only does not adequately meet the problem of immigrant children, but it does not even root out illiteracy from the rural population in general. Some of its limiting features are inevitable, while others are gradually being changed.


The great majority of rural public schools are one-teacher schools. The Commissioner of Public Education of California stated that there were in the state of California in 1918, 2,300 one-room public schools and 410 two-room schools. Over[Pg 196] a third of all the Wisconsin school children, city as well as country, and 42 per cent of the Wisconsin school-teachers, are found in the one-teacher country schools. [31] A report on school conditions in Arizona shows that 149 rural schools, or 70 per cent of a total of 214 reporting, are one-teacher schools.[32]

The one-teacher school usually means a crowd of children of various grades taught by one teacher during the same day. In most cases the recitation work can go on only with one grade at a time, while the other grades have to do study work. Without the supervision of the teacher, this is much less efficient than the recitation work. About two thirds of the rural teachers answering questionnaires sent out by the United States Bureau of Education [33] instructed eight or more grades and held from twenty-two to thirty-five classes a day, which means that the recitations averaged the absurdly short time of nine to thirteen minutes. A few teachers manage to lengthen the recitations by a system of organizing the grades into groups and of combining classes, but this is the exception, not the rule.

As a rule the one-teacher schools have limited[Pg 197] room and equipment. Most of these schools visited by the writer were small one-room frame buildings with porchlike attachments on which were built a tiny hall and dressing "rooms." Quite a few did not have even these "modern conveniences." The toilets are usually at a distance from the building and are not always kept clean.

Several teachers stated that the smallness and poverty of the schools have a depressing influence upon the teachers and prevent any great respect on the part of the people toward the school.

A third defect of the one-teacher school consists in its monotony and lack of color and variety as compared with larger schools. Rivalry is lacking and the recreation enterprises are limited. Of course, much depends upon the qualities of the individual teacher, but a good teacher does not stay long in a one-teacher school; she is attracted by better opportunities elsewhere.

Dissatisfaction with the one-teacher school the writer found to be quite general, even among the immigrant settlers. The Finnish settlers at Rudyard in upper Michigan expressed the wish that the government should give a better public-school system, although the existing schools were said to be standard schools. They wanted three or four-room schools, a better heating system, and higher salaries for teachers. Only in this way could better teaching forces be attracted and kept steadily in the same schools.

[Pg 198] The Polish colonists in Posen, Michigan, explained that they have six one-room standard public schools in the colony and its vicinity, but that as the teacher has to deal at the same time with eight grades the efficiency of her work is naturally below what it should be. The settlers said that consolidation or enlargement of the schools is badly needed. No agricultural training is included in the school work.

Reverend Kuizinga of the Dutch colony at Holland, Michigan, stated that in the backwoods parts of the colony, in purely rural districts, the school activities ought to be more efficient than they are; certain schools might be consolidated so as to make fewer grades for one teacher, teachers' salaries must be increased, and the program for teaching citizenship broadened.

A leader of an Italian colony at Canastota, New York, stated that the Italian parents appreciate the schooling of their children, who attend the American public schools, speak English among themselves, and prefer the American to the Italian ways of life. In regard to the same colony, the county school superintendent said that the Italian children attend school fairly regularly, are able pupils, and excel American children in their studies.

There is at least one school district in the same colony which has a defective one-teacher school, which the writer chanced to visit. The[Pg 199] trustee of the school, an American woman, married to an unnaturalized Italian settler, said that she was worried about getting a school-teacher for next year, as the county pays only $17 a week. Last year it paid $15, and that was an increase of $3 over the former salary. She thought the county might possibly pay $20 this year if she could not get anyone for less. The people did not like the teacher they had last year—they thought she did not know enough. There are now seventy-three children of school age, but there were only twenty-six before, and the schoolhouse is only large enough for twenty-six. The building is very small, oblong in shape, with a small partition at one end for cloakroom and entrance. The school board voted $250 for enlarging the building and taking down the partition, but the trustee was certain that this would not be done for that small sum, as "lumber is so high, and the carpenter wants something." The building needed painting and a number of the windows were broken The woman said that last year many children of school age worked instead of going to school, as there was nobody to force them to go. Now that she was trustee, she said, she would see that everybody went.


The defects of the one-teacher school have led to the consolidation movement which is rapidly developing[Pg 200] throughout the country. The Superintendent of Public Instruction of North Dakota reported in 1916 that the consolidated school was becoming more and more the school of the rural districts and he recommended liberal state aid to these schools. There were at that time 123 "open country" consolidated schools in the state and 210 town consolidated schools, the latter being in reality rural schools.

One county superintendent reported that in the last two years a number of districts had voted to consolidate their schools; another said that 40 per cent of the pupils were attending consolidated schools. The Rural School Commissioner of Minnesota stated that consolidation has a very promising growth in the state; that 210 districts have been organized, half of which were established during the two years ending in 1916. And so the story goes in each state that has a largely rural population.

There is some opposition to this movement by parents who live farthest from a proposed consolidated school, because of the distance and inability to provide children with hot lunches. But this opposition is easily overcome by the provision of public transportation facilities for the children and by serving hot lunches at the schoolhouses. Some opposition comes from the landowners in the neighborhood of a one-teacher school which has to be closed on account of consolidation.[Pg 201] Their fear that there will be a lowering of land values is baseless, as the settlers in that section get much better school accommodations through consolidation than they had before.

Advantages of the consolidated school over the one-teacher school are obvious. It makes possible a better division of time in recitation and study. The teaching is more efficient on account of specialization and a better and more stable teaching staff.

In the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, the writer found the following statements in the reports of various county superintendents for 1916. [34]

Barnes County:

The past two years have been marked by the number of districts that have voted to consolidate their schools. Five township consolidated schools have been built in the open country. Each of these buildings has four schoolrooms, a good-sized gymnasium, an auditorium with a stage, domestic-science room, and a manual-training room. They are modern buildings in every respect, steam heated, water system for drinking fountains and toilets. One six-room village consolidated school and one open country two-room school have also been completed. They are also modern buildings. In these schools the country child has equal opportunities with the city child. These schoolhouses are used as centers for the social life of the neighborhood and are proving most successful.

[Pg 202]Benson County:

Several districts during the past two years have consolidated. We believe these schools are demonstrating their superiority over one-room schools at least in the way of graduating pupils from the eighth grade. Ten schools operating as consolidated schools graduated as many farm boys and girls as did nearly eighty one-room schools, during the past year.

In connection with practically every consolidated school is some form of community or farmer's club.... Especially during the past year much was done through these agencies for the promotion of rural life, social and educational. The consolidated school principal, with his faculty, is experiencing a new and enlarged obligation and opportunity.

Bowman County:

Considerable work for consolidation has been done from this office. Sixteen public meetings have been held, and the proposition of consolidation thoroughly discussed with more than twelve hundred of our people. Through this system of education the movement is finding favor with our people, and it will be only a short time before more than half of this county is consolidated.

McHenry County:

We have three purely country consolidated schools, each serving a township, and from our experience here we have come to the conclusion that districts of this kind are not a success with bus transportation unless they have an assessed valuation of $175,000 or more. Part of the burden of transportation must be borne by parents of the children attending school. With the family transportation system these schools are working out very well, being able to employ three teachers and run nine months of school per year without exceeding the maximum tax levy.

Eighteen consolidated and graded schools were in operation in the county last year, and 40.2 per cent of all the children in the county are now enjoying graded school facilities.... McHenry is a purely agricultural county.

[Pg 203] Everywhere the consolidated school has been successful and has shown far greater efficiency than the scattered one-teacher schools. This gives promise that the consolidated rural school will in a few years prevail.


In a number of states visited by the writer the prevailing type of rural school-teacher was a girl of from eighteen to twenty years of age. That the country school-teacher is an astonishingly young person is attested by all reports on the subject. An educational survey of South Dakota [35] showed that the largest group of rural teachers range between nineteen and twenty-five years of age; twenty-nine teachers were under seventeen years of age, and fifty-three were just seventeen.

Most of the teachers about whom the writer collected information were serving their first or second year. Only a few had been teaching for three or more years. According to the above survey of South Dakota, 31 per cent of the rural teachers were teaching their first school, and only 9.6 per cent had taught as many as four schools. Few teachers, the report showed, have taught more than one or two years in a school, while the average teaching life of a rural teacher is three and three quarters school years. The[Pg 204] instability of the profession is so great that it is necessary for the state of South Dakota to recruit annually about one third of its total teaching force of 7,000.

An investigation made by the United States Bureau of Education in 1915 covering all sections of the country found that the number of school years taught by the average rural teacher was six and one half, but stated that the large majority of these teachers fell far below the average. The average time spent by a teacher in one community is extremely brief; the investigation showed that it is less than two school years, or considerably less than one calendar year. Even this average is considered a high one for the majority of the teachers.

Equally illuminating figures on this point are contributed by the state of Wisconsin. The state Superintendent of Education reports as follows:

Length of Teaching Service in Wisconsin Rural
Schools, 1915–16
Period Teaching Services
in Locality
Total Teaching
1 year or less 4,136 1,421
2 years 1,650 1,545
3 years 508 1,093
4 years 187 738
5 years 83 517
6 years and over 66 1,316
            Total 6,630 6,630

[Pg 205] A number of the teachers that the writer interviewed had only grammar-school education, with a year or two of high school. Only a few had full high-school training. In general the training which qualifies the rural teacher for his work is appallingly slight. Of the rural teachers in South Dakota covered by the survey mentioned, 58.3 per cent had completed a four-year high-school course; 45.8 per cent reported attendance at professional schools; 54.2 per cent became teachers by taking examinations instead of by going through normal schools and colleges of education.

The investigation of the United States Bureau of Education referred to above brings out the striking fact that about one third of the rural teachers have had no professional preparation whatever, not even summer courses or other short courses. It was discovered that 4 per cent of them had less than eight years of elementary training, and that 45 per cent of the rural teachers have completed four years of high-school work, but have not done more.

A bulletin of the United States Bureau of Education [37] presents the following facts regarding the training of rural school-teachers: The average rural school-teacher remains in the teaching profession[Pg 206] less than four school years of 140 days each. This means a complete turn-over of teachers every four years, or that about 87,500 new teachers must be provided annually. During the school year ending 1915 the normal schools graduated 21,944 students. It is quite certain that most of these found positions in towns and cities, as did most of those graduating from schools of education in universities and colleges. Therefore the great majority of the 87,500 new teachers needed annually for the rural schools must go to their work professionally unprepared.

Extracts from the reports of county superintendents in various states show the same low level of qualifications; one reports that nearly 40 per cent of his teachers have been untrained and inexperienced. The following quotations are taken almost at random from the 1916 reports of county superintendents filed in the office of the state Superintendent of Public Education of North Dakota, [38] and might be duplicated by reports from almost any other state having a largely rural population.

Bowman County:

During the last two years (1914 and 1915) nearly 40 per cent of our teachers have been untrained and inexperienced. We are trying to convince our school boards that training[Pg 207] for teaching is just as essential as training for any other vocation in life, and that the trained teacher is worth more and should receive more pay than the untrained, and that the sooner we engage trained teachers for our schools the sooner we will have better schools.

Logan County:

There is a lack of permanency in the teaching force (due to lack of resident teachers—over 90 per cent are non-residents), and this has many disadvantages. Too many of the rural teachers are not in sympathy with the rural conditions in this county.

The teachers in the rural districts, especially in the backwoods places, impressed the writer as having little influence upon the surrounding community, particularly in cases where the community was composed solely of immigrants. The immigrants seem not to take the teacher seriously. A number of them said that they do not go for any practical advice to the school-teacher, believing that such a young girl knows little. In personal interviews the teachers said that they are doing some Americanization work by explaining to the children certain big historical events in the country's life, such as Washington's crossing of the Delaware, the battle of Bunker Hill, the liberation of the negroes. Their understanding of the difference between the American democracy and the European autocratic and aristocratic governments seemed to be vague. Even their knowledge[Pg 208] of American history was mechanical rather than conscious or interpretative. In general, the writer was impressed that teachers of this type—young girls—themselves need further development before they can do effective educational work in the schools, not to speak of the community.

The teachers themselves complained of low salaries, difficulties in handling boys, especially immigrant boys who come from big cities. There are hardships in finding suitable living quarters and board, particularly in new immigrant colonies where the people live in shanty-like shelters and continue to eat pork and sauerkraut, sour milk, herring, onions, etc. One teacher, a girl about nineteen, told the writer that she could find an American farm only at a distance of five miles from the school and that she had a hard time to reach the school from her boarding place in the winter snows and blizzards.

Not one of the teachers interviewed expected to make teaching a lifetime profession. They all looked upon their present position as only a stepping-stone to a better life. They hoped either to continue study and go through college, or to take up skilled office work, such as that of a stenographer or bookkeeper.

The average salaries of rural teachers are given in the reports of various state superintendents as follows:

[Pg 209] Average monthly salary of teachers in rural schools in
North Dakota: [39]
Year ended June 30, 1914$53.25
Year ended June 30, 1915 54.92

Average monthly wages of teachers in rural districts in
South Dakota: [40]
Year ended June 30, 1915$53.75
Year ended June 80, 1916 55.04

Average monthly salary of teachers in Nebraska, year ended
July, 1916: [41]
Females 50.94

Average monthly wages of teachers in rural districts in
Minnesota, 1916: [42]
Men $62.00
Women  52.00

Teaching salaries of rural school-teachers in Wisconsin,
1914–15: [43]

Percentage receiving less than $40 0.2
      "      " $40–$49 78.9
      "      " 50–59 17.9
      "      " 60–69 2.4
      "      " 70–79 0.5
      "      " 80–89 0.1
      "      " 90–99 none

In regard to the influence of the nationality of the teacher upon her work in a public school there have been no authoritative data published.[Pg 210] In a number of the immigrant colonies investigated by the writer immigrant teachers were employed. While both the colonists and their leaders claimed that a teacher of their own nationality can get better results in her work than a native teacher, because of her intimate knowledge of the colonists and their children, the school authorities and the native neighbors did not believe there was any difference. If a teacher of foreign parents was born in America or immigrated in childhood, has received American schooling and normal training, and if she speaks perfect English, knows and loves the country, there cannot be any difference.

In one case the head of a native family expressed his dislike of a teacher of Finnish nationality on account of her defective English and because she taught foreign songs and plays to the American children. As the teacher was on vacation, the writer could not interview her. The colonists themselves believed that she was a good teacher, for the children liked her; and the county superintendent was satisfied with her teaching progress.

In Vineland, New Jersey, there were four teachers in the public schools of Italian parentage. These teachers would be counted as Americans in every way. As they understand Italian, know the Italian immigrants and their children, they get better results in their school and community work than the native teacher. One good[Pg 211] thing is that they stay in the same school much longer than the latter.

In general the writer is inclined to the opinion that, given equivalent abilities and training, the teacher with the command of the foreign language can do better work in an immigrant community than a native-born teacher who speaks only English. Such a teacher must be thoroughly imbued with the American spirit and traditions. She will have a better chance of imparting these to her pupils and their parents if she has also a knowledge of, and sympathy for, the nationalistic backgrounds and inclinations of the people in her community. This is a rare combination to find in a rural school-teacher, but it typifies the characteristics needed to succeed in amalgamating the colonists, both young and old, into a common life and purpose.


It is a fact that school attendance is much poorer in the agricultural sections than in the industrial centers. It is believed that on an average about 20 per cent of the rural children of school age do not attend school at all. The attendance of the children of immigrant settlers is less than that of the children of native farmers. The immigrants are more used to child labor in the old countries. They are hard pressed financially,[Pg 212] often paying off mortgages and developing new land. The land and colonization companies are sometimes known to encourage rather than discourage the use of child labor by the settlers in their newly created colonies.

The states vary in the length of school term provided for children, ranging from about five months to over nine months. In only three fifths of the states, however, are children compelled by law to attend the full school year. [44] In only rare cases are the compulsory attendance laws completely inforced, so that the average amount of schooling the child gets is less than that prescribed by law, and in a number of states less than the amount of schooling available. This is especially true in rural districts.

The situation in some of the states where land settlement is being carried on is indicated by the data given below. Although urban and rural figures are not distinguishable, those given are for predominantly rural territory. Wherever city populations are included it is a safe assumption that the attendance showing is better than in the country districts alone. In Arizona, where conditions are almost entirely rural, the percentage of children not attending any school is 14 per cent or above in every county, and runs as high as 48 in one of the counties.

[Pg 213]
Percentage of Population in Arizona Six to Twenty-one
Years of Age in Schools and Not Attending
School, 1915–16
Counties In Public
(Per Cent)
Private or
(Per Cent)
Attended No
(Per Cent)
Apache 77 7 16
Cochise 72 3 25
Coconino 70 11 19
Gila 80 1 19
Graham 78 6 16
Greenlee 76 1 23
Maricopa 81 4 15
Mohave 65 11 24
Navajo 72 14 14
Pima 57 12 31
Pinal 77 1 22
Santa Cruz 47 5 48
Yavapai 70 5 25
Yuma 78 1 21

The irregular attendance of children at the schools in rural districts of Minnesota is commented upon as follows:[46]

Irregular attendance is an evil beyond calculation, and we have much of it in the open country school. Many schools last year showed an average daily attendance of less than 60 per cent—children in school only one half or two thirds of the time.

[Pg 214]Anoka County:

The loss of time in the consolidated school is only two thirds of that lost in the other rural schools.

Kittson County:

During the fall of the year farm hands are very scarce, and many of the older children have to be kept out of school to assist with the farm work. On account of deep snow and cold many children have to stay out of school during winter. Transportation in winter would help improve attendance in winter.

The per cent of attendance for the entire state of North Dakota was, for the year ending June 30, 1914, 87 per cent, and for the following, 88 per cent. [47] County superintendents in the state sent in the following reports for 1916.

McIntosh County, which is largely populated by Germans:

An investigation showed that hundreds of children of school age were either not attending school at all or were lamentably irregular in their attendance, for no legal or otherwise good excuse. In order to set an example, several cases were prosecuted, and this seemed to have a good moral effect all over the county.

Children farming


Ransom County:

About half our county is consolidated. I find that we have 1,750 pupils enrolled in our graded and consolidated schools, the average daily attendance of which is 75.4 per[Pg 215] cent. There are only 993 pupils enrolled in the one-room schools, and their per cent of attendance is 59.4 per cent.

In South Dakota the actual attendance of those enrolled in the country schools is less than 60 per cent. [48] From Campbell County it was reported as follows:

Most of our people are German-Russians and do not favor long terms of school, as they want the labor of their children. For this reason it is hard, even impossible, to secure regular attendance. Their schools must not begin earlier than October, and close by April 1st.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction of Nebraska reports for 1916 as follows:

The average daily attendance, based on enrollment, is a fraction of 72 per cent. The loss is mostly to the rural children. Country people find it somewhat easier to provide employment for their children than do the people of our towns and cities, consequently the attendance in our city schools is larger and more regular, and a much larger percentage enroll.

In California the compulsory-school-attendance law is rigidly enforced, except in the case of floating families. In this connection the Commissioner of Public Education made the following explanation to the writer: The California industries are mostly seasonal, which means that the vast majority of labor forces are seasonal and floating. During the seasons of fruit and hop-picking,[Pg 216] cannery and lumber operations, large numbers of laborers' families move from place to place. To keep track of their children and to compel their school attendance is almost beyond the power of the present school authorities, especially as they are now organized.

The state school-attendance laws vary greatly, and one finds still more variety in the enforcement of these laws. The greatest difficulties are experienced in the rural districts. Using child labor in farming is a deep-rooted tradition. The children are looked upon by their parents as their economic asset. Moreover, it is a hard-headed conviction among the rural population that child labor is beneficial to the children themselves; they learn to work, their bodies are strengthened, they acquire good habits of life, etc. That the children are deprived of the opportunity to play—to develop as their nature requires—and to acquire a general education; that this results in their mental abilities and social instincts being undeveloped, the young people remaining bashful and shy; and that even their physical development is greatly restricted by overwork—the rural advocates of child labor cannot understand nor recognize.

In many cases the county school superintendents are elected by the people who, in the main, are the parents of children. When the position of the superintendent depends upon the will of[Pg 217] the parent farmers, it is often impossible to enforce the attendance law.


There is widespread dissatisfaction with the present program of the public schools among the rural population. They say that no practical training is given to their children. They feel that the teaching is aimed to prepare their children for high schools and colleges only, where only a very small percentage ever go. For instance, the Minnesota Department of Education reports for 1915–16 that approximately 70 per cent of the country children do not go beyond the elementary grades. Only 5,532 out of 215,427 children in rural schools graduated from the eighth grade for the year. Those who do enter high schools, and, later, colleges, are indeed lost to the rural population, for the college-trained boys and girls seldom return to the soil. The children who do not enter high school remain on the farms, but they have secured almost no practical training for rural life, either as farmers or farm laborers. Instead, they have been prepared for high school.

The school program was especially sharply criticized by the Russian sectarian peasants at Glendale, Arizona. "Why, the school is making out of our children dancers and soldiers of war,[Pg 218] instead of farmers—soldiers of the soil!" exclaimed a gray-headed "prophet" in disgust. Another peasant, perhaps not so high in the sectarian hierarchy, wanted the school to teach their boys how to run and repair automobiles and tractors.

The observations and inquiries of the writer led him to the conclusion that the criticism of the school program by various elements of the rural population is justified to a large extent. The school program at present generally prevailing offers little practical training for farmers' boys and girls. A native farmer in New Jersey explained to the writer: "There is no use keeping my children in school after they have acquired knowledge of reading and writing. They grow and learn more on my farm than in the school, for I want them to become land tillers and cattle raisers." This is perhaps an exaggerated and overdrawn statement, but, nevertheless, the present rural public-school program works in favor of the city at the expense of the rural communities.

Up to recent years the prevailing teaching language in the public schools has been English, but in a number of the public schools in the immigrant rural sections the teaching language has been German. This is true in the states of Nebraska and North Dakota. A prominent church head informed the writer that there are[Pg 219] at least half a dozen schools in McIntosh County, North Dakota, paid for by the money of the state, under the direction of the County Superintendent of Schools, in which the entire teaching is in German.

The writer found still more numerous cases where a foreign tongue was a subject of study in the elementary public school, though English was the teaching language. Both a foreign tongue as the teaching language and a foreign tongue as a subject of study in the elementary public schools are now done away with under the pressure of public sentiment against these practices.


The limitations to efficient rural-school administration are many. According to a recent bulletin of the United States Bureau of Education [49] in more than half of the states the county superintendents are elected by the people, and in the remaining states they are either elected or appointed by county boards, county courts, state boards, state Commissioner of Education, Governor, president of township boards, district boards of education, city or town boards, township directors, parish boards, local school boards, or union boards.

[Pg 220] In the majority of cases the parents control the local school inspection and direction. Such democratic control would be desirable provided the parents were as enlightened and expert in school training and education problems in general as school-teachers and their inspectors and superintendents. As a matter of fact, the parents, especially in the rural districts, are quite backward, and often even ignorant, in these problems. This is the root of the trouble with the local school inspection and direction. A county superintendent is not always elected for his merits as an educator, but often for his popularity, influence, and "agreeableness." An elected county superintendent usually cannot come into conflict with the parents—for instance, by insisting on a rigid enforcement of the school-attendance law entailing the arrest of the parents for disobeying the law—without losing his position at the next election. This condition causes frequent change or "rotation" of the county school superintendents, and is in itself a considerable defect of the existing system of school inspection and direction. With a few exceptions, county superintendents who were interviewed complained of this "rotation" to the writer.

In most cases no educational or experience qualifications are required by any higher authority for inspectors. As a result local politics, village gossip, and jealousies have free play.

[Pg 221] Usually there is no provision for office expenses, assistant, or clerical force. The superintendent's salary is low, often lower than a teacher's salary. The superintendent of Ziebach County, South Dakota, received only $44.76 monthly, while the average teachers salary was $55.04 per month. Another county superintendent told the writer that all his salary went for gasoline and repairs for the automobile with which he made his inspection tours. To the question why he served the county without compensation he answered, "Because I love the 'game' and have my own private income."

Another defect is the fact that the superintendents have to cover too large a field. A county contains from one hundred to three hundred teachers, and nearly as many schools. The county superintendent is able properly to inspect all the schools under jurisdiction only once or twice a year, which is not sufficient for the direction of the school work. Quite a number of the county superintendents complained about the lack of authority over teachers, especially in their selection and appointment. Under such a condition, if a teacher carries out the superintendent's wish or advice, she does so merely from courtesy.

On the whole, most of the local school inspectors and superintendents interviewed by the writer impressed him favorably so far as personal[Pg 222] character went. They seemed to like their work and were doing what they could under the circumstances.


There is no other public institution in the country so varied in its organization, its strength, its methods and ways as the elementary public-school system. It ranges from a shanty-like to a palace-like building, from a teacher almost illiterate herself to a teacher with an education and training which fit her for a college chair, from a few hundred dollars of yearly appropriation to tens of thousands of dollars for upkeep of a single school, from one teacher to a staff of teachers in one school, from an almost voluntary attendance to a rigid compulsory attendance. All these wide variations, in themselves picturesque, are a weakness of the system.

When the writer speaks of the weakness of the elementary public schools he uses this term in a relative sense, keeping always in mind that there is no other tool in the hands of the government so powerful in stamping out and keeping out illiteracy and hyphenism as the public school.

To make it meet these tasks a uniform public-school system based on standard requirements should be established throughout the country by the Federal, state, and local governments[Pg 223] closely co-operating with one another for this purpose.

The Federal Bureau of Education should certainly be developed and elevated to the status of a department similar to that in a number of the states, and in almost all foreign countries.

The reorganization and the support of an efficient public-school system would require heavy public expenditure, a substantial part of which should be contributed by the Federal government to the states as an inducement to the latter to meet the minimum standard requirements in regard to the public-school system and to accept Federal inspection of the schools for the purpose of ascertaining that the states and the counties were keeping to the minimum requirements, which might be as follows:

(1) Enlargement of one-teacher schools through either consolidation or development; no less than two teachers and no less than three classrooms in each school.

(2) At least a general high-school education, two years of training in teaching methods, practical and theoretical acquaintance with agriculture, with library work, with first aid and with recreation and community activities, should be the minimum requirements for candidates for teachers in the rural public schools.

(3) The rural teacher must receive a satisfactory[Pg 224] living salary throughout the calendar year, to be gradually increased as the years of service increase. A pension for old age, and accident and health insurance, should be provided. Near the schoolhouses there must be established "teacherages," small experimental farms with family living houses for the teachers.

(4) The school year should be made to coincide with the calendar year, with a number of short vacations during the time of special farming seasons, such as planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. The work done by the children for their parents during the vacations should be considered as a part of their school curriculum. They would report on their work to the school, and receive instructions on how to do the work in a better way, and at times the teacher in charge of the children's home work would make inspection and instruction tours in the district during the vacation periods.

(5) Each child must be compelled to attend the public school, or a private school which fully meets the requirements of the public school, until he has completed the elementary-school education. Such school attendance should be rigidly enforced throughout the country, which would be possible if the local school authorities, in the enforcement of the law, were made more independent of the will of the parents in their districts. In addition to the inspection by the local[Pg 225] authorities, a Federal system of inspection and direction should be established.

(6) English should be the teaching language in all public schools.

(7) There should be included in the school program instruction in farming methods, varying according to the local soils, climate, and other conditions and requirements.

[Pg 226]


The adult immigrant settlers need American education, the women more than the men. This fact was clearly impressed upon the writer during his field investigation. The women do not penetrate the American world; they live in the Old World, their children live in the New, and the men in a mixed world. No matter how brokenly or how fluently their husbands speak English, with but few exceptions the wives either speak it not at all or attempt a few syllables of the strange language with a hesitation and shyness which soon cause them to fall silent and retire in favor of their children or husbands. Their social visits, their contact with women and men other than their family, are confined to members of their own nationality. They live in a cage, in which they suffer, but to which they cling because it is all of life that they know.


To reach them, to bring them out into the world in which their families live, is a difficult task.[Pg 227] It must be undertaken and accomplished, first, for the purely humane reason of lightening their lot and making them individually more happy in the New World; second, for the sake of preventing the disruption of families, the corner stone of the present social order; third, for the sake of creating and sustaining good citizenship. Whether immigrant women vote or not, they are an inevitable influence in the political life of the country. They must be helped to keep pace as nearly as possible with their children, who are increasingly under the influence of the American environment, especially the public schools. Not only that, but education of the mothers means a more effectual development of the children, for the mother is the greatest educator of the nation. The first question is how to reach them.

It is easy to say that the native women should go to them, establish friendly social relations, and in this way influence them. The writer observed in the field that such attempts have been made in earnest, but without much result. The first difficulty is the lack of a common language. Next is the difference in the levels of intellectual development. One might question what common grounds for social intercourse there would be between an American farmer's wife with either grammar-school or high-school education and some European peasant's wife, illiterate, impossibly shy, and downtrodden.

[Pg 228] Still, there is a way out. In almost every immigrant rural colony one may find a more intelligent immigrant woman, either a mother of a family who has been long in this country or an elder daughter who has received a public-school education, speaks English satisfactorily, and who, at the same time, speaks the immigrants' language and knows the families in the colony more or less thoroughly. Such women should be approached first, should be brought into intimate contact with the native families, and should be induced to take a course of training and become organizers or teachers of the adult immigrant women in the colony. They will be able to effect an organization which might be called the "Women's Club" or "Mother's Club." Instead of creating an entirely new body, such organizations as exist can and should be utilized; there may be clubs, some co-operative association or a benefit society. There may be no organization and one may have to be initiated. In that case it is desirable that the more developed immigrant women be appointed to the directorate of the new organization.


It would seem advisable for our high schools, normal schools, and colleges specifically to train their immigrant girl students to become home teachers in the colonies of their respective nationalities.[Pg 229] Such home teachers, qualified and trained for their work, should receive an adequate, living salary. Their duty would be to visit the immigrant homes, talk with the mothers, tell them how to rear their children, how to care for the health of the family, how to prepare meals of American food and in American ways, how to can and preserve, and how to work in the home garden. They should organize recreation facilities, reading circles, amateur theatricals, choruses, etc. The home teacher should organize the women into afternoon classes for learning English and should induce them to visit the evening classes with the men. She also would be the intermediary for the establishment of friendly and social relations between the immigrant families of different nationalities and the native American families. She should be attached to the teaching staff of the local public school.

Such home teachers have been employed in California under the direction of the Home Teacher Act passed in 1915. The conditions of employment, the duties and qualifications of the home teachers are outlined by the Act as follows: [50]

Boards of school trustees or city boards of education of any school district may employ teachers to be known as "home teachers," not exceeding one such home teacher for every five hundred units of average daily attendance in the[Pg 230] common schools of said district, as shown by the report of the county superintendent of schools for the next preceding school year. It shall be the duty of the home teachers to work in the homes of the pupils, instructing children and adults in matters relating to school attendance and preparation therefor; also in sanitation, in the English language, in household duties—such as purchase, preparation, and use of food, and clothing—and in the fundamental principles of the American system of government and the rights and duties of citizenship. The qualifications of such teachers shall be a regular kindergarten primary, elementary, or secondary certificate, to teach in the schools of California, and special fitness to perform the duties of a home teacher; provided that the salaries of such teachers shall be paid from the city or district special school funds.

The provisions of the law at present limit its application to congested neighborhoods.

In regard to afternoon classes for the women, one of the home teachers, Mrs. Amanda Mathews Chase, writes as follows: [51]

Organize mothers' classes to meet afternoons at the schoolhouse. This group work seems to me absolutely necessary in order to cover the ground efficiently, and also because of the outlook and inspiration for the mothers.... I would suggest forming classes from the leading nationalities, each class to meet two afternoons a week. One afternoon the program can be an English lesson, followed by cooking, cleaning, or laundry. The other afternoon the program might comprise English followed by sewing, mending, weaving, or similar handcraft instruction. Sanitation, including personal hygiene, and patriotic teaching should be kept in mind.... Every forenoon will be spent in the homes. After all, the classes will only be islands in the sea of your[Pg 231] visiting. You must visit to form the classes and visit to hold them. You must visit to see that the knowledge absorbed at school is actually put into practice at the home. You must visit to talk over many matters too delicate and personal to be taken up on class afternoons.

The school system of Los Angeles has, under this law, employed an educated Jewish woman from Russia for work in the colony of the Russian sectarian peasants. The impression of the writer when he visited the colony was that she was doing splendid work in helping the peasant women. The writer's belief is that if she had been of the Russian nationality she would have accomplished still better results, as the writer observed some antisemitic feeling among the peasants in connection with her. One peasant woman told the writer that this home teacher was a good protector for them, but did not recognize that she was their educator. As the colony is large, the home teacher really could not do much educational work other than to supervise the attendance of the children at school and to help disentangle family difficulties. It would be advisable to train and employ home teachers who are of the same nationality as the people of the colony in which they work.


Immigrant women's organizations have been already started here and there on the initiative,[Pg 232] and by the efforts of the immigrant women themselves. For instance, Finnish women in Calumet, Michigan, have organized an "Americanization Club" for Finnish women, with the intention of extending the movement into other Finnish colonies in America. The program of the meetings consists of learning American songs, of addresses on America, its history, civics, women's social work, child welfare. The club activities hope to combat disloyalty, which the club members believe to exist among a number of the immigrants of certain nationalities. The main aim of the club, as its leaders state, is to assist in the Americanization of the Finnish women in America—to eliminate the hyphen, to make the Finnish-American women Americans.

The Council of Jewish Women in Newark, New Jersey, has established an Americanization center for the Jewish women, mothers and grown-up Jewish girls; while this center is in the city it illustrates the principle involved. The activities of the "center" consist of an afternoon English class for mothers, in order that they may "overtake their children on the long road of learning," and of an English class in the evening for Jewish girls who work in the factories. The chairman of the council states that they have found a way to make the learning of English really interesting to the foreign-born woman, that until now the woman who wanted to keep up with her children[Pg 233] in English had had to go to the evening school, where she found a mixture of men and women of all races and all ages. She soon fell behind the younger and smarter pupils, and lost her interest. In these English classes of the "center" the women are practically all of the same age, the same race, and have the same interests.

These attempts at Americanization by the immigrant women themselves, under the stress of the tragedies caused by the estrangement of their children through the American schooling, point the way to the remedy above outlined. Help the immigrant mothers to keep pace with their children. This is even more important, the writer believes, than work with the immigrant fathers.


When the writer visited an immigrant rural colony and found there a large number of old-time immigrants still unnaturalized, there were two explanations given. There was, first, the red tape in the naturalization proceedings; and second, ignorance of English and of American geography, history, and form of government. There had been no opportunity to learn all these things, although the colonists had wanted to. Only in a few cases did their own neglect seem to be a cause for their not being naturalized.

The following field notes of the writer, taken[Pg 234] at random, illustrate the situation in regard to the knowledge of English and the naturalization of the settlers in the immigrant colonies.

Italian colony, Canastota, New York. Writer's observations:

A large number of the men spoke very little English. The women did not speak English at all. All the children spoke English.

Statement by their leader, a storekeeper:

The settlers have organized an "American-Italian Citizens' Club." All the Italian voters, 117 in number, belong to this club. The purpose of the club is to educate Italians in citizenship and to assist them in becoming naturalized. There are about 250 unnaturalized Italians of voting age. Two causes have kept them from naturalization: first, their ignorance; second, the red tape of the procedure. Seventy-five per cent of the adults are illiterate; 50 per cent of them do not understand English; only about 25 per cent of the adults write and read English.

Portuguese colony, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Statement by the priest:

Seventy per cent of the adults understand English; 50 per cent speak English; 10 per cent speak and write English; about 80 per cent are illiterate, not only in English, but in their own language as well. The lack of education and culture of the adults is the main obstacle in the way of their becoming Americans. For promotion of Americanization, settlers should learn English and American ways of life—attend evening schools.

Statement of a native storekeeper:

The only trouble with these Portuguese is that they lack even elementary education. The vast majority do not know how to read and write even in their own language. As a[Pg 235] result, quite a number of families live in dirt in their homes, and these are a source of danger in the spreading of disease. I do not believe that school would help these old people, for they never have been in any school and it would be very hard to teach them anything. The only hope is in the second and future generations.

Russian sectarian peasant colony, San Francisco, California. Statement by one of their leaders:

Five per cent have second papers; from 30 to 40 per cent have first papers.

Russian sectarian peasant colony, Los Angeles, California. Statements made to the writer by the peasants themselves at a general meeting of the colony members:

All but one of the members of the colony are unnaturalized. About 5 per cent have taken first papers. In explanation as to why they are not naturalized, they brought several reasons. First, lack of English; second, they have not felt so far that they are settled permanently; third, they fear compulsory military service in case they are citizens; fourth, their religion is opposed to violence, which the government often uses in enforcing laws. During the discussion the writer felt that they believed that their not being citizens had helped keep their sons from being drafted into military service. The writer explained that their sons were not drafted solely because of their religion, as conscientious objectors, and not at all because they were not citizens. For their own benefit and the benefit of the country the writer advised them to become citizens as rapidly as possible. They did not either approve or reject the proposal, but the writer felt that there was some suspicion.

Statement by the home teacher working among these peasants:

[Pg 236] There ought to be schools to teach English to the parents at which their attendance would be compulsory. The children now think they are above their parents. The parents would gain by the compulsory school. The children obey the teachers in school, but will not obey their parents. The children go home and tell their parents that they don't have to obey them. They lie to their parents. For instance, the parents are opposed to dancing, but the children dance just the same. The parents are so ignorant! They read the Bible, but they don't know what is in the Bible.

Russian sectarian peasant colony, Glendale, Arizona. Statements made by the peasants at a general meeting:

Not a single one of them is naturalized. Not one has taken first papers. To the question why, they explained that they are firm believers in the Kingdom of God, which is immeasurably higher than the human kingdom and human governments. They are interested in the spiritual kingdom and do not care for politics in any way.

Polish colony, Posen, Michigan. Statements by the local priest and the settlers themselves:

About thirty men of voting age are not citizens. This is due purely to neglect and the red tape in acquiring papers. Both Republican and Democratic organizations exist, but most vote the Republican ticket, believing that the Republicans keep the country's business going better.

Polish colony, South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Statements by their leaders:

Almost every adult Pole understands English to a certain degree and is able to make himself understood. About half of the adults can write English, including those who can only write their own names. About 50 per cent of the Poles are illiterate even in the Polish language.

[Pg 237] Large, long-established Italian colony, Vineland, New Jersey. Statements by their leaders:

A large number, possibly two thirds, of the adults do not speak English. All Italian farmers have first papers and intend to become Americans, and about two thirds have second papers.

So it goes through all the rural colonies of immigrant settlers. Everywhere the crying need is for education and training in English, in citizenship, in agriculture, in everything. For the remedy, everyone turns to the evening school for adults.

A large majority of the rural immigrant colonies in the country, including small country towns, are without evening schools, without libraries, without any educational facilities by which the adult immigrant settler might learn the country's language, ways of life, the meaning of citizenship, or better farming methods.

The public evening schools up to this time have been a city institution. [52] Only during recent years have they made their appearance in the centers of a few rural immigrant colonies. These have been temporary establishments undertaken either privately by native Americans in co-operation with the local immigrants, or publicly on the initiative of the local government authorities. The money required has been raised by collections or the local government has made temporary[Pg 238] appropriations. Usually the idea of a school for adult immigrants was taken up by some public-spirited and patriotic local leader, a meeting was held, money secured, a teacher employed, and the immigrants invited to attend the schools. Almost in every case the enterprise seemed to be successful at its beginning. The school was well attended and the teaching and studying enthusiastically started. But after a week or two the students began to drop out. Then, owing either to the decrease of students or to the lack of money, the school was closed.

In a large Portuguese colony at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, a township evening school was established in 1917–18. It was well attended, but after two months the school was closed on account of lack of funds, though it was very much needed.

In regard to an experience in establishing a Methodist evening school in the Italian colony at Canastota, New York, the county school superintendent made the following statement:

The greatest problem in the education of Italians here is how to educate the parents. In 1915 they organized at the Methodist church an evening school for the Italians. About forty students appeared, and attended the school for about three or four weeks. They then gradually ceased to attend the school. The causes were several: there appeared a doubt with them whether the teachers and supporters of the school were not trying to induce them to join the Methodist church; second, there were no regular teachers, the lessons were given by volunteers, and this resulted in[Pg 239] irregularity in teaching; third, a certain amount of shyness was apparent. If such an evening school were to be organized for them with no religious connections, and if it were a regular school, the Italians would attend it.

In Holland, Michigan, where there is a large, long-established Dutch colony, there was an evening school, but the attendance declined, the people claiming that they had no time to attend it.

At South Deerfield, Massachusetts, in a Polish colony, there was established an evening school a year or so ago.

It was a good thing for us [explained an elderly, bearded leader of the colony]. Quite a number of our people attended it, but the great majority did not. They simply did not want to, for they had lots of work to do at home. Perhaps their bashfulness was the main obstacle. You see, people with beards and lots of children do not feel well in school. Look at me. Wouldn't I feel awful there?

In Woodbine, New Jersey, a large Jewish colony, the local manager of the Baron de Hirsch fund, in charge of the financial affairs of the colony, stated that there are evening classes held in the public schools during the winter. Adults may attend these classes, but they do not. General subjects are taught in these classes.

A prominent Italian in the Italian colony at Vineland, New Jersey, said that evening schools were needed there. A year ago they had one with two teachers, but the funds gave out. The people attended. These night schools would[Pg 240] teach voting, civics, etc., to the adults. The superintendent of schools in the town said there were no classes in English for the adult immigrants, but suggested that for Americanization purposes classes should be organized and that the Italian leaders should be approached and persuaded to bring in Italian people to the classes.

In the Bohemian and Slovak colonies at Willington, Connecticut, there were no evening classes or schools, though several of the settlers thought it would be a good thing to have such a school and believed that the people would go if they had a chance.

In interviews, the rural evening-school students usually explained that they felt "funny" and were shy and awkward in the school. They went to the same school which their children attended, sat on the same benches, had the same teacher, and read the same books which their children did. Finally, they stopped, deciding that their children could do the learning of English for both themselves and their parents. They also explained that their time was too limited to allow of school attendance. After the daily farm work they have to do chores.

Around a farm, especially a new, developing farm, there are countless things to be cared for. There is no moment when a settler can say: "Now everything is done and I am free." Besides, even if he does take time and goes to the[Pg 241] evening school, he feels tired there and is restless about the work left undone at home. Another explanation given by the immigrants in regard to their failure to attend the school was that the school did not teach anything useful to them in their farming, and that the progress in learning English was slow, almost imperceptible. It seemed to them that never would they be able to master the language, and they grew disappointed and discouraged.

The impression made upon the writer was that the complaint about lack of time and weariness was not well founded. There are certain seasons, especially in winter, when the settlers have time to go to the evening school. Even in the heavy working season they might attend school, for their fatigue from farm work is rather physical than nervous or mental.


The root of the trouble is in inadequate programs, in defective teaching methods and unsuitable teachers. The knowledge of English, American ways and standards of living might well be developed in the immigrant settlers during the process of teaching them something useful, necessary, and interesting. A simple course on farming methods, local conditions, and useful information could be given, with the probable[Pg 242] result of awakening their enthusiasm and taste for more.

Such a program makes it essential that the evening-school teacher know farming and rural conditions in general and be familiar with the home life of the students and their racial peculiarities, to which he has to adjust his methods. Possibly the best teacher would be a settler's son or daughter who, after high school, has had training in agriculture and teaching methods. The students should be graded according to their race, level of mental development, and learning ability, whenever this is possible.

The ordinary method now in use consists in imitating and repeating the words and sentences, often disconnected one from another, and the stories told by the teacher. The formal copying of the words and sentences written on the blackboard by the teacher, and reading children's books are sufficient to discourage the most ambitious student. Conversation is more successful than the story-telling method, and exercises in the reading of popular textbooks on farming and of popular essays on American history, geography, etc., are far more interesting to the adult settlers than children's stories.

Newly arriving immigrant family


Town speaker


The evening school in the rural immigrant colonies should be provided and attendance for the adult non-English-speaking immigrants urged, until they have mastered simple English,[Pg 243] the elements of citizenship, and a rudimentary knowledge of farming.

In almost every colony visited the writer discussed with the settlers the advisability of compulsory attendance at evening or afternoon classes. No one was against compulsion, though a number suggested qualifications. For instance, the evening school should operate in the wintertime; the teaching should include subjects useful in farming; in the case of hired men, the school time must be paid for by the employer; the evening school should be a public institution, not a private, charitable, or religious enterprise; if private organizations wish to establish evening schools, they should do so only under public regulation and control; the purpose of the evening school should be to teach English, civics, and other useful subjects, not to serve any special or private interests, party, or class; the evening school should be free of charge to immigrants.

A few settlers wanted the evening school to teach the operation and repair of automobiles and tractors; some wanted singing, music, and theatricals taught; some wanted to be instructed in the growing and harvesting of special crops, as, for instance, onions, tobacco, and cotton. In general, the immigrants expect from the evening school more than English and citizenship. They want practical knowledge which helps them in their farming.

[Pg 244]


So far as Americanization is a question of education and so far as the printed word is an instrument of education, the reading of American literature by the immigrant is of inestimable value. It might be safely stated that almost every time an immigrant reads something in English, be it only a trade label on a tomato can or an advertisement in a street car, he learns something about the country, at least a word or two of the country's language.


As a rule a newly arrived immigrant is eager to learn English. It gives him a new sensation and a feeling of pride to know and speak another tongue. When he has succeeded in mastering a few of the most common words and expressions, like "no," "yes," "how do you do," "good-by," "street," "lunch," and others, he likes to use these words in his conversation with fellow immigrants. When he says to his friend in his native[Pg 245] tongue, "Let us go to lunch," the last word is in English. His eagerness to learn English is increased by the practical needs of everyday life—to get a job, to understand the foreman's directions, to buy or sell something, to travel, to apply for licenses, or to make agreements. Everywhere the immigrant confronts English.

In addition to the signs on streets and shops, a newly arrived immigrant soon becomes acquainted with the great American daily, especially its "help-wanted ads." Here he looks for a job, reading the "ads." with the aid either of a dictionary or of some one of his fellow immigrants who has already mastered the "ad." language with its queer abbreviations. When he has established himself in a job, perhaps he begins to think of taking up a systematic study of English. He enters an evening school if there is one in his town. There he makes his first acquaintance with the American book—too often a children's reader containing stories such as "Puss and Her Kittens," "Patty and the Squirrel," "The Dormouse," "Lullaby," "Andy and the Worm," which, though perhaps very interesting to children, do not correspond to the requirements of his mental development. Nevertheless, the stories are related in good English and he goes ahead.

As time passes and his mastery of English grows, he begins to read items in the daily papers and stories in the Sunday editions. Later he[Pg 246] takes up the reading of books, perhaps first those related to his trade, or the subjects which are connected with his future plans in America. Still later he begins to read books about America in general, its history, geography, nature, social life, etc. An immigrant seldom takes to American fiction. He ardently tries to be practical, being mainly interested in that which is useful and helpful. When he reads general literature about America he does this for the purpose of learning to know his new country, knowledge which would help him to make a success here. The writer has often been approached by immigrants with requests that he recommend literature on, for instance, making a certain kind of candy, or pickles, or on hog raising or concrete building. Frequently he has had to translate or assist in the interpretation of various formulas and receipts.


A demand of this kind for literature by the immigrants indicates three problems in connection with their education through the printed word: first, the immigrant should be advised in his selection of publications, told which might be the most useful to him. He is quite unable to make this selection for himself; second, the means for acquiring the desired publications should be[Pg 247] supplied. As a rule the immigrant has little money to spare for books; third, there should be encouragement and cultivation of the reading habit among the immigrants as an efficient means of their general education and, through this, of their Americanization.

All these problems can be met through the institution of the public library—a great agency for socializing knowledge in a modern democracy. Though America is one of the countries most advanced in the development of public libraries, still the development has not kept pace with the requirements. This is especially true in regard to the rural communities. Particularly in rural immigrant communities, the public library is still lacking. Out of about forty rural immigrant colonies visited by the writer during the past year, about thirty had no library facilities at their disposal, while the remaining ten were able to pride themselves on some sort of a library, either school or parish.

Both these kinds of libraries appear to be very unsatisfactory. As a rule the school libraries are small and contain mainly children's books, so that the adults have not much interest in using them. The parish libraries contain mainly ecclesiastical literature and books on the old country's history and general affairs. The majority of these last-named books are in a foreign tongue.

An old Polish settler stated that the children[Pg 248] sometimes bring books home from the school, but that there is nothing in them for the older people, while the church library is not much, either, for who cares to read of one Sigismund or of one Friedrich der Grosse? The settler concluded by saying that he and his fellow immigrants would like to read American books about America. His colony needed an American public library.

The dean of the extension division of the University of Wisconsin reports that there are 72 per cent of rural communities which are without public libraries. This is in a state where the library facilities are comparatively highly developed. It has been the writers impression, while visiting the Wisconsin backwoods immigrant communities, that though the various traveling and package libraries and library "stations" are successfully operating in other parts of the state, they have not yet reached these wilderness communities to any extent. As a rule the rural immigrants do not even know of the existence of such libraries.


Yet the demand for literature among the rural population is great and growing rapidly. Take, for instance, the package library of the extension division of the above-mentioned university. It[Pg 249] has more than 10,000 packages. Each package contains collected literature—books, newspaper, and magazine clippings, statistical tables, etc.—dealing with a certain subject. It is sent, under certain conditions, to anyone who requests it. The demand for such packages has more than doubled each year. During 1908 and 1909 there were sent out 524 packages on 116 subjects to 136 localities, and during 1915 and 1916 there were sent out 5,948 packages on 2,404 subjects to 483 localities. The reason why such wonderful carriers of knowledge do not reach the rural immigrants is obvious; the immigrants do not know of their existence. Even if they do know, they do not understand how to order them. In many other states conditions are much worse.

What must be done to make the library common to every rural settlement? What kind of a library is best suited to the needs, and how shall it be extended to the backwoods rural communities?

The recommendation of the writer is that the school libraries be developed and put on a higher level, with special adult and children's sections. A library board should be created in each county as a unit operating under a state law for the purpose of directing and developing a county library system. A library tax should be levied upon each county. Schools, community halls, and stores should be made library stations, so[Pg 250] that the settlers could have easy access to the books.


Then there is the question of the selection of publications for the libraries intended for immigrant communities. In this, the conditions and requirements of the immigrant settlers have to be taken into consideration, for it would be useless and wasteful to select books in which the settlers are not interested and which they do not want to read.

First place must be taken by publications concerning farming. Particularly should there be included in such libraries the publications of Federal and state Departments of Agriculture. Then comes the literature for the learning of the English language: dictionaries, grammars, textbooks on composition, etc. Recreation literature—books on sports in the open, plays, music, etc.—would be also in demand. Then come the publications related to American history, geography, nature, economics, government, and social life, and other serious publications containing information about the country's past and present.

Finally comes fiction. A few immigrants who have acquired the habit of reading fiction prefer to read stories and poems of a more realistic character, like those of Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Ernest Poole, Mark Twain, Arnold[Pg 251] Bennett, Longfellow. The traveling libraries need not be voluminous so much as of good quality. Aside from being practically useful, they should try to help the rural immigrant settlers to improve their standards of living and to broaden their intellectual horizon.

But who is going to stimulate and lead such an extension of the libraries into the backwoods communities? The national and state-wide library associations would be the ones to undertake this work. As they succeeded in the extension of the American library to the battlefields of Europe, so they without doubt will succeed in the extension of the library to the firing line in our own country—to the line where future America is in the making.

There is no doubt that rural communities will respond to national assistance and greatly benefit by it. Even if only a small beginning could be made very soon, increased demand and local initiative would undoubtedly justify the project.

The day is not distant when the need of community books in every American community will be recognized as an indispensable supplement to all schooling work. In the new colonies that are being planned by colonization companies the library as a part of the general community scheme must not be overlooked. As the advantages of having book supplies available become[Pg 252] manifest, it may be possible to provide local housing facilities as well as trained assistants.

There may be a room or even a separate building that can be given over to this purpose. If there is a general community building, no better use could be devised for a portion of it than a small, practical, accessible library. If not the primary object of such a community building it would certainly be an important one.


A public recreation hall in a rural community may be made one of the most effective Americanizing agencies. Public meetings, lectures, amateur theatrical performances, dancing, public celebrations, games, sports, etc., may be held there. It is the neutral place where all community members, natives and immigrants of various races, religions, and tongues, meet one another and learn to know one another, where the much-needed social visiting among the natives and immigrants may have its inception.

Rural community center plan


One of the characteristics of the European immigrants is their inclination toward singing, music, and amateur theatricals. In the old country there is rarely a village which does not pride itself on some sort of an amusement organization, be it a choir, a band, or a drama group. These are to European people what[Pg 253] sport, baseball, football, and the like are to the mass of Americans. When the European immigrants come over they are strange and unsettled, they have little opportunity for amusement, they even neglect church attendance. But when they are settled and have begun to make ends meet, they usually take up their former amusement activities, perhaps singing first, then soon a band, and then the stage.

Under present conditions the natives seldom mix with the immigrants in their amateur amusement enterprises. The immigrants conduct these in their own tongue and select mostly their own songs, airs, and plays. It is equally true that the grown-up immigrants seldom acquire interest in the American sports like baseball and football. Their children, through the influence of the school and their intercourse with the American children, quickly become interested in the American sports, so much so that the parents fail to understand and appreciate their enthusiasm. "It's all right to a certain degree, but my boys seem to be already crazy for baseball, neglecting everything else. I am afraid for their future!" complained an elderly Italian settler to the writer.

Country life is poor in amusements and social intercourse as compared with city life. Still, through organized efforts, the rural social life can be made much richer and even very attractive. It was common testimony given to[Pg 254] the writer by the local community leaders that they have succeeded in keeping their boys and girls at home, on the farms, by building a community hall, organizing singing, games, and theatricals.

The community dances exert a great attraction in bringing the native and the immigrant boys and girls together for common pleasure. It is quite a sight to watch these dances: the village band is playing, the boys and girls are dancing, while the elderly people are sitting around the walls of the hall and watching the fun of youth, forgetting their daily sorrows and worries and remembering perhaps their own youthful days somewhere beyond the ocean. All, dressed in their Sunday finery, are in a festive mood.


Perhaps the most beneficial enterprise in the community work is the amateur theater. It gives the richest opportunity for self-expression. It includes acting, literature, singing, music, and painting. It amuses and teaches—it reflects and analyzes the social life and directs it in its entirety toward higher levels of achievements. Whatever the shortcomings and the sins of the Russian Bolsheviks, in one thing they have struck, the writer is sure, the right road. This is in placing the stage at the forefront in popular[Pg 255] education, if only in an experimental and theoretical way as yet. A properly directed amateur theater is second only to the school. In a rural community it brings together varied elements, brings out the best in each, and unites them by developing common aims and ideals.

The amateur country theater has made much headway in the state of North Dakota. The State Agricultural College at Fargo took the lead in the movement. The president of the college attributes the success of the country theater there not only to the influence of the college leadership, but also to the deep need for entertainment and the hunger for social life among the prairie people who are living on farms at long distances from one another. The fact that the population is largely foreign-born stock and has inherited an inclination toward stage plays is another reason.

Professor Arvold of the same college, who is in charge of the development of the country theater, stated to the writer that their little country theater has a strong Americanizing influence upon the population. It brings together both native born and immigrants of various nationalities. They learn to know one another. They learn about America, its history, present conditions, and future aspirations more than in any other way. The theater teaches them the country's tongue, for the plays are given in English.[Pg 256] He believed that every large rural community and groups of smaller communities in the same neighborhood should have an amateur theater.

The theater, public lectures, exhibitions, and the American outdoor sports should be centered in and around the community hall. Such highly varied activities in community life require a trained director. He should be a person with a good general education, with experience in rural life and affairs and in organizing group activities. He must be a good mixer and a lover of the work. For his work he should receive an attractive salary. Colonization companies have initiated such work, which should be taken over and maintained by the community itself.


To put the community work in the rural districts on an organized and permanent basis the writer recommends that a community board be created in each county as a unit operating under a state law for the purpose of directing and developing rural community work, similar to that which the writer recommends for the development of rural libraries. A community tax should be levied upon each county, the money received to be used for community work among the population in the county.

[Pg 257] In community union there is strength. Working and planning together for any undertaking, however limited and comparatively humble its dimensions, inevitably ties its promoters in bonds of greater understanding and sympathy. Native and foreign born united for enriching and enhancing their common life act as a powerful force for Americanization. Better than any artificially devised scheme is the spontaneous pulling together for a common need of all elements of the community. This constitutes real amalgamation in a democracy.

[Pg 258]
[Pg 259]




[1] John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, p. 11.

[2] Ibid.

Chapter I: Need of a Land Policy

[3] Jenks and Lauck, The Immigration Problem, p. 100.

[4] The figures for 1910 are taken from the Census of 1910, vol. iv, p. 303. The Census of 1900 does not give occupations by nativity. The figures for 1900 are taken from the Reports of the Immigration Commission, vol. xxviii, pp. 66, 71–79, prepared from original and unpublished data of the Census Bureau. Since the figures for immigrant female agricultural laborers are incomplete, it has been here assumed that they were in the same proportion to that of the males in 1910—namely, about 9 per cent. Therefore the figure 22,850 for the immigrant female agricultural laborers for 1900 represents an estimate of 9 per cent of the number of immigrant male agricultural laborers for 1900.

[5] Reports of the United States Immigration Commission, 1911, vol. xix, pp. 89–102.

Chapter III: Experiences in Acquiring Land

[6] California Commission on Land Colonization and Rural Credits, 1916. pp. 50–53.

Chapter V: Private Land Colonization Companies

[7] H. R. 3274, 66th Congress, 1st Session.

[8] Only those field notes are here quoted which vary from the description of the first colony.

Chapter VI: Public Land Colonization

[9] Senate Bill No. 584, chap. 755.

[10] In co-operation with the Federal government.

[11] Compiled from manuscript given to the author by the Department of the Interior.

[12] Federal Reclamation Laws of the United States. House Committee on Irrigation of Arid Lands, 66th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, D. C., 1920; chap. v, pp. 13–50.

[13] Reports of the Department of the Interior for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1919. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1920; vol. 1, p. 96.

[14] Work and Homes for Our Fighting Men, U. S. Reclamation Service, 1919 (pamphlet).

[15] Tabulated from table compiled by United States Reclamation Service, Work and Homes for Our Fighting Men, 1919, p. 20–21 (pamphlet).

[16] From Canada comes the news that at the end of January, 1921, 20,000 soldiers have taken farms, and that 42,000 of 59,000 applicants for land grants have been declared qualified and will soon get the land. Although the men have 25 years to pay off their land debt, several hundred have already paid in full. The Canadian soldiers have received 2,000,000 acres of farming land in government soldiers grants.

[A] Security required.

[B] In addition to Dominion advance.

[C] Amount not specified.

[D] Sufficient for clearing.

Chapter VII: A Land Policy

[17] Reclamation Record, Department of the Interior, Washington, D. C., July, 1918, p. 306.

[18] Wisconsin Statutes, Chap. 656, Laws of 1919, Sect. 1636-225.

[19] See chap. vi.

[20] Bulletin No. 182, May, 1917, Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Wisconsin.

Chapter VIII: Rural Educational Agencies

[21] Thirteenth Census of United States, 1910, vol. i, p. 1279.

[22] John P. Gavit, Americans by Choice (in preparation).

[23] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915–16, p. 84.

[24] Superintendent of Public Instruction, South Dakota, Report, 1916. Report of Superintendent of Hanson County.

[25] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915–16, p. 85.

Chapter IX: Private Schools

[26] Report of the Nebraska Council of Defense, January 14, 1917.

[27] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915–16, p. 85.

[28] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915–16, p. 92.

[29] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914–16 (1917), p. 93.

[30] Frank V. Thompson, Schooling of the Immigrant, chap. iv.

Chapter XI: The Public School

[31] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914–16 (1917), p. 51.

[32] "Educational Conditions in Arizona," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 44, 1917, p. 46.

[33] H. W. Foght, "Efficiency and Preparation of Rural School Teachers." United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 49, 1914, p. 19.

[34] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1914–16, pp. 84, 85, 87, 89, 109.

[35] "The Educational System of South Dakota," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 31, 1918.

[36] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914–16 (1917), p. 99.

[37] H. W. Foght, "Rural-Teacher Preparation in County Training Schools and High Schools," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 31, 1917, p. 5.

[38] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1914–16, pp. 89, 107.

[39] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1914–16, pp. 52, 70.

[40] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, South Dakota, 1916.

[41] Report of United States Commissioner of Education, 1917, vol. ii, p. 77.

[42] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915–16, p. 8.

[43] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914–16 (1917), p. 98.

[44] Department of Interior, Commissioner of Education, Report, 1917, Vol. II, pp. 69, 77.

[45] "Educational Conditions in Arizona," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 44, 1917, p. 67.

[46] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915–16, pp. 34, 75, 87.

[47] Fourteenth Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1916, pp. 67, 110, 121.

[48] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction of South Dakota, 1916.

[49] K. M. Cook and A. C. Monahan, "Rural School Supervision," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 48, 1916.

Chapter XII: Education of Adult Immigrant Settlers

[50] The Home Teacher; the Act, with a Working Plan, the Commission of Immigration and Housing of California.

[51] A Manual for Home Teachers; the Commission of Immigration and Housing of California, pp. 20–21.

[52] See Frank V. Thompson, Schooling of the Immigrant, chap. iii.

Americanization Studies

Schooling of the Immigrant.
Frank V. Thompson, Supt. of Public Schools, Boston

America via the Neighborhood.
John Daniels

Old World Traits Transplanted.
Robert E. Park, Professorial Lecturer, University of Chicago
Herbert A. Miller, Professor of Sociology, Oberlin College

A Stake in the Land.
Peter A. Speek, in charge, Slavic Section, Library of Congress

Immigrant Health and the Community. (In press)
Michael M. Davis, Jr., Director, Boston Dispensary

New Homes for Old. (In press)
S. P. Breckinridge, Assistant Professor of Household Administration, University of Chicago

Adjusting Immigrant and Industry. (In preparation)
William M. Leiserson, Chairman, Labor Adjustment Board, Rochester

The Immigrant's Day in Court. (In preparation)
Kate Holladay Claghorn, Instructor in Social Research, New York School of Social Work

Summary. (In preparation)
Allen T. Burns, Director, Studies in Methods of Americanization

Harper & Brothers Publishers

Transcriber's Note:

End of Project Gutenberg's A Stake in the Land, by Peter Alexander Speek


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