A Stake in the Land
by Peter Alexander Speek
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Copyright, 1921, by Harper & Brothers Printed in the United States of America


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.


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 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.


PAGE Publisher's Note v

Foreword vii

Table of Contents ix

List of Tables xii

List of Illustrations xiii

Introduction xv

Author's Note xxvii



I. NEED OF A LAND POLICY 3 Strength of Home Ties 3 Immigrants' Love of Land 5 Need for Land Regulation 10

II. LEARNING OF LAND OPPORTUNITIES 14 Friends, Agents, and Advertisements 14 Federal and State Immigration Offices 18 Policies in California and Wisconsin 19

III. EXPERIENCES IN ACQUIRING LAND 24 Russian Sectarian Peasants in the West 24 The Successful Colony at Glendale 30 Other California Cases 31 An Oklahoma Settlement 33

IV. INDIVIDUAL LAND DEALERS 36 Land Sharks 37 Lower Type of Land Dealer 39 The Public-spirited Land Dealer 42 "Realtors" 45

V. PRIVATE LAND COLONIZATION COMPANIES 49 A Typical Company 52 The Adviser 62 Children Overworked 65 Securing Credit 66 Conservation of Wooded Land 68 The Size of a Colony 69 Learning American Ways 70 Two Points of View 72 Colony Snapshots 78

VI. PUBLIC LAND COLONIZATION 86 The California Experiment 86 State Provisions for Soldier Settlements 91 The Reclamation Act 95 Proposed Federal Legislation 98 Provision in Other Countries 105

VII. A LAND POLICY 107 Wide Range in Programs 107 Plenty of Land 111 Public Regulation of Land Dealing 112 A Public Land Exchange 122 Reclamation a Separate Function 124 A Colonization Board 127 Extension of Public Credit 135 Co-operation Indispensable 135


VIII. RURAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCIES 145 Importance of Education 145 Bridging Differences 150 Parochial Schools 153

IX. PRIVATE SCHOOLS 156 Nebraska 158 North Dakota 161 Minnesota 164 Michigan 167 Wisconsin 172 South Dakota 174 California 175 Hebrew School in New Jersey 176 Opinions on Both Sides 176 Temporary Usefulness 179 Need for Regulation 180

X. IMMIGRANT CHURCHES 182 Bilingual Services 186 English Favored by Members 188 Opposition to "Interfaith" Marriages 189 Immigrant Pastors 192 Potential Powers for Good 193

XI. THE PUBLIC SCHOOL 195 Limitations of the One-teacher School 195 Growth of the Consolidated School 199 The Rural School-teacher 203 Irregular School Attendance 211 Practical Curriculum Needed 217 Need for Expert Administration 219 Proposed Measures 222

XII. EDUCATION OF ADULT IMMIGRANT SETTLERS 226 Importance of Reaching Women 226 The Home Teacher 228 Organization of Immigrant Women 231 The Public Evening School 233 Education Made Interesting 241

XIII. LIBRARY AND COMMUNITY WORK 244 Place of the Printed Word 244 Rural Needs for Books 246 Package Libraries in Wisconsin 248 Selection of Books 250 A Community Hall 252 Amateur Theatricals 254 Community Teamwork 256




I. Number (by sex) of foreign-born white persons engaged as farm laborers in the United States, 1900 and 1910 6

II. State legislation to promote land settlement for soldiers up to June, 1919 92-93

III. Soldier settlement plans for United Kingdom and provinces Facing 106

IV. Per cent unable to speak English, of total foreign born, ten years of age and over, in urban and rural communities 147

V. Enrollment and language used in parochial and private schools in Minnesota, 1918 165

VI. Enrollment and teaching force of private and parochial schools in Wisconsin, 1914-15 and 1915-16 173

VII. Length of teaching service in Wisconsin rural schools, 1915-16 204

VIII. Percentage of population in Arizona, six to twenty-one years of age, in schools and not attending school, 1915-16 213


Long, Hard Months of Work Separate the Rough Shanty from White Clapboards and an Automobile Frontispiece

Land Is Not the Only Stake in America for These Polish Parents Facing 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 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


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 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 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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.

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, 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 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.


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

[2] Ibid.


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 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 48. Glendale, Ariz. Russian Sectarians 49. Phoenix, 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. 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.






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 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.

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 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 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 ===================================

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 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 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.

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 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 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 mediaeval 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 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.

[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.



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.

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 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 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.

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 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, 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 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. 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:


Directing Certificate


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.

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?



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 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, 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 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 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 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, 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 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 Phoenix.


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. 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.

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 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.

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 exposes, 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.

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



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:

(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 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 "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 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 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 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 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:

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.

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.

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, 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."

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