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The Dust Bowl Exodus

Draught and Great Depression RefugeesCreated by: PICRYLDated: 2017
Part of the daily motorcade of drought refugees. The Montana-North Dakota state line
The Dust Bowl exodus was the largest migration in American history that happened during the Great Depression. Although overall three out of four farmers stayed on their land, the mass exodus depleted the population drastically in certain areas. By 1940, 2.5 million people had moved out of the Plains states; of those, 200,000 moved to California.
Arriving in California, the migrants were faced with a life almost as difficult as the one they had left. Like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, some 40 percent of migrant farmers wound up in the San Joaquin Valley, picking grapes and cotton. They took up the work of Mexican migrant workers, 120,000 of whom were repatriated during the 1930s.
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Date picker's home. Coachella Valley, California
No garbage disposal. Brawley, Imperial Valley, California
Mexican field worker, father of six. Imperial Valley, Riverside County, California
Truck driver's family. Imperial Valley, California
Imperial Valley, California. Old Mexican laborer saying "I have worked all my life and all I have now is my broken body"
Oklahoma Refugees from the Dust Bowl, Looking for Work on the Cotton Fields, Now Encamped Near Bakersfield, California
Drought refugees from Oklahoma looking for work in the pea fields of California. Near San Jose Mission
Mother of family camped near a creek bed, panning for gold. "Slept in a bed all my life long till now--sleeping on the ground." Near Redding, California
Imperial Valley, California, Mexican. He tells his story: he helped drive the French out of Mexico, fought against Maximilian, and he has, by serving the crops for many years, help build up Imperial Valley
Jack Neill, "migratory fruit tramp," on banks of Pulah Creek near Winters, California. He owns one acre subsistence farm near Porterville. Represented migratory laborers as speaker at Commonwealth Club, San Francisco (See published "Transactions" of the Club). Education: two years to University of Montana
Migrant agricultural worker's family. Seven children without food. Mother aged thirty-two. Father is a native Californian. Nipomo, California

Migrant agricultural worker's family. Seven children without food. Mot...

Photograph shows Florence Thompson with two of her children as part of the "Migrant Mother" series. For background information, see "Dorothea Lange's M̀igrant Mother' photographs ..." http://www.loc.gov/rr/prin... More

"Cleanliness." Southern California. Oklahoma refugees camping in Imperial Valley, California
Homes of Mexican field laborers. Brawley, Imperial Valley, California
Oklahoma potato picker's family encamped on the flats near Shafter, California
Over this bridge drought refugees are crossing the Colorado River into California. U.S. 80 / Dorothea Lange, 1935.

Over this bridge drought refugees are crossing the Colorado River into...

Photograph shows cars crossing a bridge with a sign with the word "Yuma" on the top. Title from item.

The slums of Brawley. Homes of Mexican field workers. Imperial Valley, California
Migrant workers' camp, outskirts of Marysville, California. The new migratory camps now being built by the Resettlement Administration will remove people from unsatisfactory living conditions such as these and substitute at least the minimum of comfort and sanitation
Camp of single men by the roadside. They have come in to work in the pea fields. Nipomo, California
Housing for Mexican field laborers. Brawley, Imperial Valley, California
Potato harvesters. Kern County, California
Migrant agricultural worker in Marysville migrant camp (trying to figure out his year's earnings). California
Marysville camp for migrants. Resettlement Administration. Shows utility unit and camp sites (toilets, showers, laundry). California
Squatters along highway near Bakersfield, California. Penniless refugees from dust bowl. Twenty-two in family, thirty-nine evictions, now encamped near Bakersfield without shelter, without water and looking for work in the cotton
Oklahoma dust bowl refugees. San Fernando, California
Garbage disposal. Brawley, Imperial Valley, California
Home of Mexican field worker showing water supply. Brawley, Imperial Valley, California
Outskirts of San Bernardino, California. A new home in California. Drought refugees from Colorado now making a new start in California. Living in Cotton Gardens.
Once a prosperous Texas farmer, near Bakersfield, California, now come to California looking for work and work for his family in cotton. No work, and no money
Transient potato workers camping along the highway. Near Shafter, California
"Water." Southern California
Date picker's home. Coachella Valley, California
A street in Brawley, Imperial Valley. Homes of Mexican field laborers. California
Along the highway near Bakersfield, California. Dust bowl refugees
On location of Resettlement Administration film near Bakersfield, California. Three brothers, drought refugees from Texas (note water barrel)
Migrant Mexican children in contractor's camp at time of early pea harvest. Nipomo, California
Housing. Brawley, Imperial Valley, California
Children of Oklahoma drought refugees on highway near Bakersfield, California. Family of six; no shelter, no food, no money and almost no gasoline. The child has bone tuberculosis
Entrance to Marysville camp for migrants. Marysville, California
Mexican mother in California. "Sometimes I tell my children that I would like to go to Mexico, but they tell me 'We don't want to go, we belong here.'" (Note on Mexican labor situation in repatriation.)
Squatters along highway near Bakersfield, California. Penniless refugees from dust bowl. Twenty-two in family, thirty-nine evictions, now encamped near Bakersfield without shelter, without water and looking for work in the cotton

Squatters along highway near Bakersfield, California. Penniless refuge...

Title and other information from caption card. Transfer; United States. Office of War Information. Overseas Picture Division. More information about the FSA/OWI Collection is available at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc... More

Drought refugees from Oklahoma looking for work in the pea fields of California. Near San Jose Mission
Roadside camp near Bakersfield, California. "Come to California." The wordly posessions of refugees from Texas dust, drought and depression
Dr. Tugwell visiting rehabilitation client's home. Baca County, Colorado
Mike Sullinger, who has a farm near Carson, North Dakota, looking for rain
Drought refugees from South Dakota on highway making sure that nothing falls off the trailer to the Pacific Coast. Montana
Wife and five children of migratory fruit worker. American River camp on outskirts of Sacramento, California. Have worked in the fruit since 1931. "We don't make a living, but we live on what we make"
A very blue eagle. Along California highway
Cotton camp near Exeter, California. The woman is a native of California
"Home" of a migrant worker's family. Kern County, California. Lately came from Oklahoma
Dr. Tugwell and Chairman Cooke of the drought committee look at a nest of barbed wire in Texas dust bowl. President's report
President Roosevelt with rehabilitation client. Mandan, North Dakota

President Roosevelt with rehabilitation client. Mandan, North Dakota

Photo shows U.S. Secret Service agents: Paul Hart, center, facing left; and August "Gus" Gennerich, right (Source: Secret Service archivist, 2012)

Drought refugees from South Dakota. Montana
Dirty clothes and flies. American River camp, near Sacramento, California
Drought refugees. Penniless Oklahomans camped along highway. Came seven months ago. "Can't make it. Want to go back. Ate up our car. Ate up our tent. Living like hogs." California
Home in "Little Oklahoma," a community that has grown out of migrant potato and cotton workers. California
Migrant pea workers on the road with tire trouble. California
Tubercular father of a family of nine who are stranded in New Mexico with no money
Oregon or bust. Leaving South Dakota for a new start in the Pacific Northwest
Privy in cheap migratory camp. San Joaquin Valley, California
Oklahoma mother of five children, now picking cotton in California, near Fresno
Occupants--one more home on wheels. California
Migrant camp in California during the pea harvesting. San Luis Obispo County, California
Drought refugees from North Dakota
Once a Missouri farmer, now a migratory farm laborer on the Pacific Coast. California
Dr. Tugwell. Bismarck, North Dakota
American River camp, Sacramento. Home of Tennessee family, now migratory workers. Seven in family, came to California July 1935, following relatives who had come in 1933. Father was a coal miner in Tennessee. Reason for coming to California. "Our neighbors were coming. We only got one or two days work a week (relief.)  Thought we could make it better here." Since arrival family has worked in walnuts, tomatoes, peaches, and the mother has worked in a fruit cannery
Dr. Tugwell at reception for President Roosevelt. Bismarck, North Dakota
Winter migrant camp on the outskirts of Sacramento, California. Each family has to build its own shack; they pay one dollar and twenty-five cents a month ground rent, including water. Eighty families living here in November 1936. They work in the fruit during the summer, migrating from harvest to harvest
An oil worker builds himself a trailer and takes to the road. California
California home of Oklahoma drought refugee
Squatters' camp near Farmersville. Tulare County, California
1936 drought refugee from Polk, Missouri. Awaiting the opening of orange picking season at Porterville, California
Texas drought refugees in cotton camp near Exeter, California
Drought refugees. California
Drought refugee's car on U.S. Highway 99 between Bakersfield and Famoso, California. Note: the photographer passed twenty-eight cars of this type (drought refugees) between Bakersfield and Famoso, thirty-five miles, between 9:00 and 9:45 in the morning
Camps of migrant pea workers. California
Camps of migrant pea workers. California
Children of drought refugees camped by highway outside of Fresno, California. The parents are working in the cotton field
California migrant camp
Migrant worker from Oklahoma repairing tire on California highway
Migratory workers' "kitchen" near Shafter. Kern County, California. Squatters' camp
Migrant camp on the outskirts of Sacramento, California on the American River. About thirty families lived on this flat
Part of migrant family of five, encamped near Porterville, California, while waiting for work in the orange groves
Migrant family looking for work in the pea fields. California
Son of destitute migrant, American River camp, near Sacremento, California. The boy has dysentery. See mount 9921-C
Example of self-resettlement in California. Oklahoma farm family on highway between Blythe and Indio
Migrant winter camp on outskirts of Sacramento, California. Eighty families, build their own shacks, pay one dollar and twenty-five cents a month ground rent which includes water. One half-mile from American River camp
Drought refugees from Abilene, Texas, following the crops of California as migratory workers. "The finest people in this world live in Texas but I just can't seem to accomplish nothin' there. Two year drought, then a crop, then two years drought and so on. I got two brothers still trying to make it back there and there they're sitting," said the father
Child of an impoverished family from Iowa stranded in New Mexico
Auction sale notice. New Hradec (vicinity), North Dakota
Vernon Evans and family of Lemmon, South Dakota, near Missoula, Montana.  Leaving the grasshopper-ridden and drought-stricken area for a new start in Oregon or Washington. Expects to arrive at Yakima in time for hop picking. Makes about two hundred miles a day in Model T Ford. Live in tent
Dr. Cooke, chairman of drought committee, at abandoned farm near Guymon, Oklahoma. President's report
President Roosevelt speaking from train. Bismarck, North Dakota

President Roosevelt speaking from train. Bismarck, North Dakota

Photo shows U.S. Secret Service agent William "Bill" Simmons, bottom left (Source: Secret Service archivist, 2012)

Drought refugees from Texas encamped in California near Exeter. Seven in family
Mr. Page and Colonel Harrington of drought committee at farm near Guymon, Oklahoma
Drought refugees from Glendive, Montana, leaving for Washington
Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California
Part of the daily motorcade of drought refugees. The Montana-North Dakota state line
Slums of Brawley. Mexican field workers' homes. Imperial Valley, California
Wife and sick child of tubercular itinerant, stranded in New Mexico
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