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Izumizaki family in strawberry field with orchard, Pajaro Valley, California

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Izumizaki family in strawberry field with orchard, Pajaro Valley, California
Izumizaki family photograph, Shades of Watsonville Archives/Watsonville Public Library


This object appears in the following sections:

Making the Exhibition
Creating an 1890s Orchard in a Museum — Getting to Work

Making the Exhibition
Creating an 1890s Orchard in a Museum — Piecing It All Together

Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895
Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 — Working the Fields

Utility Brand fruit crate label

Chinese workers in a strawberry field

Filipino farm workers

Izumizaki family in orchard, with crops planted between the trees, Pajaro Valley, California
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection

Japanese laborers began to replace Chinese laborers in Watsonville in the 1890s, working in the sugar beet fields and orchards. Although Japanese immigrants began their American lives as farm laborers, some became sharecroppers, leaseholders and landowners. And many more formed familes than their Chinese predecessors because of a loophole in the 1907 Gentleman's Agreement which allowed women to come over to the United States. Still, in 1924, the National Origins Act barred Japanese immigration, and again cut off a source of farm labor in the region. This family is in a young orchard, with strawberries planted between the rows of trees.

Physical Description
Date Made:
about 1900

In the 1890s, apple farming really took the Pajaro Valley by storm. Orchardists planted symmetrical rows of Yellow Newtown Pippin and Yellow Bellflower trees, giving the valley a new look. By 1901, area farmers had planted 156,000 trees on 1,780 acres, and the region’s apple boom was in swing. In 1909, the valley shipped out 2 million boxes of apples. As the newly planted orchard crops took time to mature, orchard owners often planted other cash crops—like strawberries and sugar beets—in between the trees, so that they could make money while the trees matured. All these new crops required a lot of labor, and California growers hired large numbers of ethnic laborers to plant, cultivate, pick, and pack their crops.

Watsonville farmers employed Chinese men to work the land until Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which stopped these laborers from immigrating to the US. In the 1890s, growers began to hire Japanese workers. By 1900, Watsonville counted 400 Japanese among its few thousand residents. In the 1920s, when Japanese immigration was restricted, Watsonville agriculturalists became more dependent on Filipino and Mexican workers. With each new round of hiring, growers helped change the ethnic composition of central California.

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