As the citrus-growing regions of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys in eastern Los Angeles County expanded during the early twentieth century, the agricultural industry there developed along segregated lines, primarily between white landowners and Mexican and Asian laborers. Initially, these communities were sharply divided. But Los Angeles, unlike other agricultural regions, saw important opportunities for intercultural exchange develop around the arts and within multiethnic community groups. Whether fostered in such informal settings as dance halls and theaters or in such formal organizations as the Intercultural Council of Claremont or the Southern California Unity Leagues, these interethnic encounters formed the basis for political cooperation to address labor discrimination and solve problems of residential and educational segregation. Though intercultural collaborations were not always successful, Garcia argues that they constitute an important chapter not only in Southern California's social and cultural development but also in the larger history of American race relations.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A World of its Own
Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970
By Matt Garcia
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright © 2002 The University of North Carolina Press.
All rights reserved.
from Chapter 1
From the beginnings of the industry in the 1870s to the height of citrus production in the 1920s, industry and government literature depicted citrus ranching as an ideal occupation for eastern and midwestern investors. The warm, dry climate of Southern California, the availability of land, and the profitability of citriculture offered an attractive alternative to potential transplants nearing retirement, or those simply tired of cold weather and hard work. State and local government agencies, industry spokespeople, and the Southern Pacific Railroad Company produced pages and pages of promotional literature espousing the virtues of owning and operating a citrus farm in the Southland. For example, A. J. Cook, State Commissioner of Horticulture, published California Citrus Culture in 1913, a manual explaining to "the novice" the essential ingredients for a profitable citrus farm. Cook assured potential investors that a small orange grove of from ten to forty acres "[could] be cared for by its owner with very slight aid from others, and thus the greatest handicap in agricultureinability to secure laboris solved."7 Moreover, Cook emphasized that the labor, "never too arduous and uniform the entire year through," promised health, vigor, happiness, and comfort "to the owner of a citrus grove that is properly located and well cared for."8
Promoters of citriculture often argued that citrus possessed a natural affinity for Southern California's environment. According to one writer, "the same amount of well-directed industry upon a small area of land will produce more return [here] than in almost any section of the United States." He attributed this condition to nature, suggesting that "the difference between this and many parts of our land is that [here] nature seems to work with man, and not against him."9 Indeed, writers often projected the image of the yeoman farmer as the ideal citrus rancher and the foundation for a new and improved society in the far West.
Such visions conformed to the agrarian or pastoral myth associated with agricultural development in North America. Developed by Thomas Jefferson and Norman cartographer St. John de Crèvecoeur in the eighteenth century, the agrarian philosophy rested on the idea that American society would expand indefinitely westward. Thomas Jefferson advocated the development of agrarian communities because he believed that agriculture constituted the most virtuous of human endeavors and would strengthen the moral and democratic character of the nation. In his famous Notes on Virginia, Query XIX, Jefferson articulated this philosophy: "Is it best then that all our citizens should be employed in its improvement, or that one half should be called off from that to exercise manufactures and handicraft arts for the other? Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue."10
Jefferson acted upon this belief by prescribing a plan of orderly agricultural development in the frontier regions of his home state of Virginia. He advised that no more than ten people settle within a square mile, that primogeniture be abolished, and that education and government facilities be made conveniently accessible to all citizens. The Virginia legislature ultimately rejected Jefferson's original homestead plan, but his ideas significantly influenced land use patterns in the state and he successfully established one of the first public universities in the union.11 Although regarded as utopian by critics, the philosophy developed into an "ideal" for Western conquest and settlement in the subsequent century.
In his classic study, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, Henry Nash Smith argues that Americans often idealized Jefferson's concept of the agrarian community without observing why he cherished the philosophy. On the most basic level, the agricultural settlement was universally recognized as the line separating civilization from savagerythe domestication of the "Wild West" and the creation of a "civilized" and "productive" society. Yet Jefferson valued the tight-knit, agrarian settlement not so much for what it contributed to the American economy, but rather for the guiding principles it provided Americans. Jefferson believed that the ideal agricultural communities promoted material equality and discouraged social stratification. Notwithstanding his narrow focus on white, landowning, male suffrage, Jefferson's key contribution to American political thought was his emphasis on the creation of a nation based on family farmers-proprietors who performed all of their own labor. He believed such investments would lead to a populace deeply committed to participatory democracy and the creation of institutions that protected their interests. The equitable distribution of land and the common purpose of farming suggested a process of horizontal, or "even" development that Marx and his followers would later render as incompatible with a capitalist system. In fact, American settlement patterns during the nineteenth century contributed to the critique of Jefferson's philosophy as utopian. Ultimately, argues Smith, "the equalitarian overtones of this ideal were by no means acceptable to the country as a whole," and the "deeper belief in social stratification" prevailed.12
Americans' misinterpretation of the agrarian tradition generated important contradictions. The philosophy's implicit dependence on "nature" as the great equalizer conflicted with the notion of dominance inherent to capitalist societies. How could one adhere to the agrarian philosophy and accept social stratification if "labour in the earth" produced a more equalitarian society? This contradiction led Smith to conclude, "the capital difficulty of the American agrarian tradition is that it accepted the paired but contradictory ideas of nature and civilization as a general principle of historical and social interpretation."13 Equally important (though not considered by Smith): What if the labor that produces this virtue is performed by someone other than the farmer? Indeed, as historian Jack Kirby argues, there is no place in Jeffersonian agrarianism for nonfamily labor, the likes of which came to be employed on American farms during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Consequently, today we often speak of this tradition not as the "agrarian philosophy," but rather the "agrarian myth."14
Americans "resolved" the contradiction between nature and civilization by redefining the relationship of humans to the natural world. In The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, Leo Marx argues that prior to the industrial revolution, early capitalism in America developed vis-à-vis "geographic nature" rather than against social forms (such as feudalism), thus making "the relation between mankind and the physical environment . . . more than usually decisive." By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the predominance of technology produced yet another interpretation of the agrarian, or "pastoral" ideal. Rather than define nature strictly as external to human beings, Americans began to see technology, the natural world, and people as part of a universal nature. According to Marx, a "rhetoric of the technological sublime" assimilated technology into the natural world, while a "rhetoric of the nature sublime" "humanized" nature. By the end of the nineteenth century, Americans saw themselves sharing a common destinyuniting technology and nature to "[create] a society in the image of a garden."15
Los Angeles boosters embraced the concept of the garden as an accurate depiction of Southern California. The Southern Pacific Railroad Company, a major landowner in California and the primary transporter of citrus fruits, used "garden" tours of the region to lure midwesterners and easterners westward. Advertising "the way through the wonderful fruit and flower garden of Southern California," the company's tourist magazine The Inside Track characterized "citrus land" as one integrated landscape of cities, orchards, and mountains where residents lived in harmony with their environment. Tourists experienced a symphony of colors and aromas traveling eastward along the snow-clad peaks of Mount San Antonio, Mount San Bernardino, and Mount San Gorgonio. As the train coursed through the "orange belt" of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Valleys, tourists witnessed the bright green of alfalfa fields and grape vineyards, the silver and gray of alluvial sands, the golden brown of mountain walls, and the sweet smell and deep green of orange groves. Passengers ended their trip in the archetypal citrus colony, Riverside, possessing "all the advantages of an unsurpassed rural district and a model city."16
Although Southern Pacific promotional writers advanced an idyllic image of the landscape, the trip reflected a pattern of economic, social, and cultural development unique to the region prior to World War II. Los Angeles depended heavily on agriculture and industry in its "hinterlands" as a foundation for its economy. In addition to oil, citrus formed, to quote historians Ronald Tobey and Charles Wetherell, "the engine" of a regional economy. Between 1899 and 1937, the multibillion-dollar citrus industry in Southern California grew at a rate unparalleled by any agricultural product in the world, and unequaled by most other industries in the region. In 1913, ranchers received almost $40 million in return on their investment, paying out approximately one-third of this total in transportation cost. By 1930, citrus growers in the five counties of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Venturagrossed a phenomenal $144.6 million. As a point of comparison, the area's combined manufacturing wages earned in the movies, oil, and aircraft industries totaled $196 million. Moreover, land under citrus cultivation in Southern California increased from 83,600 acres in 1903 to more than 329,700 in 1944. Although the initial investment required a substantial amount of money and patience (trees did not bear fruit of marketable quality until five years after planting), the payoff was potentially very high. For example, the owner of an average, fully productive, debt-free ten-acre grove in 1929 earned $2,800four times the per capita income of Americans.17
Urban planners, geographers, and historians studying Los Angeles have commented on the unique structure of Southern California society. Dispersed economic development mitigated the formation of a city organized around a downtown district. Los Angeles's dependence on citrus and oil during its formative years significantly shaped what today many scholars regard as a "polynuclear" metropolis.18 While oil drilling and refining spurred urban development south of Los Angeles towards San Pedro, the establishment of citrus cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley expanded the metropolis eastward.19 In Los Angeles County, towns varying in size from Pasadena to Pomona and Ontario served as nuclei for local control and community development throughout the region. Although the California Fruit Growers Exchange (CFGE), the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and the Southern Pacific Company influenced the expansion of the citrus industry from their offices based in Los Angeles, growers successfully organized local clubs, grower associations, water companies, and chambers of commerce that decentralized this agriculture-based economy. According to famous Los Angeles lover and historian Reyner Banham, this spatial arrangement resembled an "instant townscape" seventy square miles wide rather than a traditional city.20
In analyzing the roots of Los Angeles's postmodern geography, urban theorists and historians have debated its cause and effect. While most scholars interpret Los Angeles' development as haphazard and random, state and metropolitan officials, investors, and city boosters prior to World War II celebrated the settlement patterns and eclectic economy of Southern California. For example, in Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis, Greg Hise demonstrates that urban planners and real estate developers intentionally "planned dispersion of jobs, housing, and services" throughout the metropolitan landscape beginning in the 1920s. Similarly, historian Virginia Scharf called 1920s Los Angeles a "great, diffuse urban agglomeration" that "would prove to be the prototype for twentieth-century American cities."21 Contrary to the city/suburb dichotomy subscribed to by traditional urban theorists, Los Angeles officials and investors embraced "suburbanization" as urbanization.
The Southern Pacific, CFGE, and real estate developers were not alone in their enthusiasm for Los Angeles' unique landscape. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (LACC), the agency responsible for organizing the city's economic growth, acknowledged the importance of agriculture to the regional economy. The LACC aggressively promoted agricultural development in the county by publishing literature that compared the Southland to the most productive regions of the Mediterranean. In 1907, the agency strongly endorsed a bond issue that supported the construction of the L.A. Aqueduct and advocated the use of this water partly for the expansion of fruit and vegetable farms. Not exclusively committed to the growth of industry, the LACC pushed an agenda that balanced manufacturing with agriculture on a regional level. Beginning in 1888 and extending throughout the 1920s, the LACC published the booklet Los Angeles: The City and County in which author Harry Ellington Book outlined the various economic opportunities available to newcomers throughout the Southland. In his section on San Gabriel Valley, Book referred to the citrus belt as the "The Ideal Country Life" and appealed to a "back to the land" sentiment popular among Americans at the turn of the century. According to Book, "in no other section can an acre of land be made to yield products of so great value." Highlighting its unique blend of rural and urban characteristics he added, "here may be found beautiful rural homes, whose owners are within touch of social life, and enjoy the best features of the city and country combined."22
By 1918, the agency maintained a department entirely devoted to agriculture and allied industries. Headed by the indefatigable George Pigeon Clements, the department quickly grew into one of the most influential government agencies in California and the West, influencing farm operations from Fresno to the Mexican border. Clements believed that the prosperity of a great city or metropolis depended on its ability not only to feed itself, but also to dominate regional, and if possible, national markets. Southern California possessed an environment unusually endowed with rich agricultural land that allowed it to achieve these two objectives. In a 1924 article for the Los Angeles Examiner, Clements boasted that Los Angeles had become "the perishable fruit and vegetable garden of the United States" through the combination of water reclamation and a total use of "the most valuable acreage on the Western Hemisphere." "Los Angeles must depend upon the husbandman for her food," he wrote, "and every acre of ground must be made to bear its full burden to this end." Given the extensive agricultural development accomplished during the first two decades of the twentieth century, Clements assured readers that "there is no longer any back country; the city's sphere of influence has brought the so-called back country to constitute a part of itself."23 During the 1920s and 1930s, Clements downplayed suburban/urban distinctions and made farming in Southern California the business of the LACC and the city. He took particular interest in the citrus industry, frequently speaking at local grower association conferences, coordinating meetings between ranchers, and representing their interests in Congress and the California State Assembly.
Government agencies interested in improving citrus yields and increasing profits also contributed to the success and importance of citrus in the first three decades of the twentieth century. The State Commission of Horticulture and the University of California invested in the industry by supporting scientific studies of geography and fruit. From the fruit-growing "boom" of the 1880s to the turn of the century, farmers used a costly process of trial and error to determine the most appropriate places to cultivate citrus. By 1910, geographers' surveys of the land eliminated much of the risk and helped the industry realize its full potential in the coastal portions of Southern California, particularly the Los Angeles basin. Studies conducted at the University of California's Citrus Experiment Station established in Riverside in 1913 revealed that the proximity of farms to mountains and foothills determined the type and quality of citrus. In Los Angeles County, the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains provided a necessary watershed and windbreak, as well as the right combination of soil and climate. Since most water runoff occurred below ground level in detrital cones, farmers planted citrus crops in the porous alluvial soils beneath the towering Sierra Madre range of the inland valley and along the slopes of the coastal mountains.
Climate was the principal environmental factor that made Southern California an ideal location for the commercial production of citrus fruits. Low-lying fog and cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean chilled the coastal plains and made frost a constant concern for farmers. Off the valley floor, foothills rose above the onshore flow of heavy, moist air providing warmer conditions more favorable to citrus. Higher up the mountain soil became too rocky for agriculture and the threat of frost increased during the chilly winter months. Consequently, farmers planted citrus fruits in thermal "belts" extending sixty to one hundred miles east from Los Angeles.24 Researchers discovered that the hardiness of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits varied according to climate and soil types as one ascended from the valley floors. Ranchers planted oranges and grapefruits at lower levels because of their greater tolerance for cold weather, while frost-sensitive lemons grew at slightly higher elevations where mostly warmer air resided.
Among oranges, Valencias and Washington navels occupied different places in the citrus belt. Since Valencias possessed seeds and were used primarily for juice, farmers cared more about their quantity than quality. Consequently, ranchers grew Valencias near coastal ranges and further down the inland valleys. In the interior, a combination of dry desert breezes, low atmospheric moisture, and the threat of high-elevation frost produced oranges of higher sugar content with a deep reddish-orange hue. Farmers took advantage of such conditions by planting the seedless navel in these districts. Regarded as the sweetest eating-orange and the "autocrat of the price list," the navel thrived in a narrow belt that extended along the San Gabriel Valley's inner-mountain foothills from Pasadena to San Bernardino and Redlands.
Zones of agricultural production produced not only profits, but also an aesthetic quality to the landscape unparalleled by any other farming region in the United States. The variety of crops generated a diversity of textures and colors that impressed visitors and attracted investors and newcomers. Appreciating the "visible tokens of invisible soil and climatic variations," Carey McWilliams described a typical view of the San Gabriel Valley prior to World War II: "Alfalfa, grain, sugar beets, and other crops not injured by frost, are planted in the lowlands; farther up the slopes appear the belts of grapes and fruit crops, still higher, and usually in the form of a dark-green horseshoe curve around the rim of the valleys, is the orange belt; and, still higher on the slopes, are the zones of lemons and avocados."25
The physical landscape contributed substantially to the social organization of the citrus belt. In the coastal regions of Orange and Los Angeles Counties, Valencia groves predominated. Since the Valencia typically grew on large commercial farms that contributed to lower population density and fewer townships, a "rural coloration" characterized development in these areas. In the inland district of the Washington navels, however, growers engaged in more intensive farming. Ranchers raised navels in clusters since these oranges tended to be more sensitive to soil and climatic variations. Initially, the high-yielding ten-acre farm referred to by various promotional writers predominated in these areas, producing greater numbers of residents and more townships, including Pasadena, Monrovia, Duarte, Azusa, Glendora, Covina, San Dimas, Pomona, Claremont, Upland, and Ontario. Often, groves came right to the doorsteps of growers' homes.26
Since residential districts preceded or simultaneously developed with the groves, these communities exhibited an eclectic mix of urban and rural characteristics. Often, these "colonies" coalesced around the cultural and/or religious backgrounds of settlers. For example, in 1873, D. M. Berry of Indianapolis organized fifty families from his home state into the Indiana Colony of California. This group constituted the original members of the San Gabriel Orange Grove Association that founded Pasadena. Further east, members of the Church of the Brethren founded the town of Lordsburg (renamed La Verne), and Mormon missionaries organized the colony that became San Bernardino. Even "secular" colonies prided themselves on their high degree of homogeneity. Congregationalists in the town of Claremont tended to dictate the morals of that community, while city officials throughout the citrus belt enforced strict temperance laws. These culturally homogeneous communities eased the transition into a new environment for many migrants, and perpetuated the illusion that the small town of the Midwest and East could be recreated in Southern California.27
Investors found that by organizing into blocks, they could more easily control resources. Land purchases by groups rather than individuals allowed migrants to place more acreage under citrus cultivation, thereby transforming the environment more rapidly and radically. Strength in numbers also permitted them to form irrigation districts or companies that controlled local water resources. George Chaffey, for example, established the town of Ontario in 1882 by purchasing land, founding a colony, and organizing the San Antonio Water Company. Chaffey harnessed water flowing out of the San Antonio Canyon and built delivery systems that made the valley below blossom into one of the richest citrus- and grape-growing regions in California. His experiments in hydroelectric power provided Ontario all the amenities of a big city, including well-lit streets and eventually an electric car that carried residents from the citrus heights to downtown. In 1903, the U.S. government honored Ontario by selecting it as the standard of American Irrigation Colonies. Federal engineers constructed a miniaturized version of the "model colony" for exhibition at the St. Louis World's Fair held the following year.28
Ontario epitomized the social and spatial organization of most citrus belt towns. Distinguished by a strict adherence to a set of ideals determined by its founders, colonies reflected the combined influence of agrarian social theory and scientific management. In planning his colony, Chaffey followed four fundamental principles: "1) [equal] distribution of water to each [share]holder . . . irrespective of his distance from the source; 2) construct a main thoroughfare from one end of the settlement to the other and lay it out in such a way that it will be a thing of beauty forever; 3) provide a college for the agricultural education of the people of the colony and for the general education of their children; and 4) secure the best possible class of settlers by a reversionary clause in the deeds to each allotment forbidding absolutely the sale of intoxicating liquor."29 Seeking to set a new standard for agricultural communities, Chaffey subdivided the best land of his 2,500-acre tract into 10-acre lots, each one possessing a street or avenue frontage. Streets led directly to a town site comprised of 640 acres, one-half of which was deeded to trustees as a free endowment for the Chaffey Agricultural College.30
Chaffey's plan to place an imaginary grid upon the land and map out a complete vision of society reflected the Jeffersonian philosophy of settlement. Chaffey believed that through careful planning, he could promote republican and Christian values, educate citizens about advancements in agriculture, and elevate the general level of society. For Chaffey, success depended on access to government and education and the fair and equitable distribution of natural resources. The settlement of families on small, ten-acre farms ensured a manageable population density, while well-planned roads made downtown available to everyone. Last, the linearity of the community conformed to Victorian standards of beauty and attracted more investors to the town. Reyner Banham admired Ontario for initiating a pattern of "urban" development for greater Los Angeles. He wrote: "the general impression is that the citizens of Ontario built a 'garden city' and left out the 'city' part, urban homesteaders imposing their ideal of suburbs without urbs on the pattern of Greater Los Angeles almost before it had begun to take shape, a portent of the way the whole metropolis would grow."31
As David Roediger demonstrates in his book Wages of Whiteness, this "settler ideology" depended on racialized notions of land use that rationalized the dispossession of natural resources from Native Americans. During the early days of the republic, white imaginations of improvident Indians represented the polar opposite of Anglo-Saxon industriousness. As Anglo settlers moved into the West during the nineteenth century, Mexican, or "Iberian/Spanish" settlers also served as a counterpoint to "hardworking whites." The settler ideology held that "lazy" Native Americans and Mexicans had failed to 'husband' or 'subdue' the resources God had provided and thus should forfeit these resources. Spanish missionization and Anglo campaigns to eradicate and marginalize California Indians reduced the size and strength of Native American opposition to settlement schemes. Rather than seeing native peoples as a threat to his vision, Chaffey perpetuated an American tradition dating back to the American Revolution by drawing upon the mythical/historical Native American male as a symbol of the new colonies' "independence." Chaffey christened his first colony Etiwanda as homage to an Indian Chief his uncle Benjamin knew in Canada, and named Ontario after his former Canadian home, a name derived from the Indian nation that inhabited the land prior to European settlement. These names served as a magnet for Canadian and eastern white settlers, but also displaced the history of Southern California Gabrieleno Indians with references to idealized and romantic visions of "noble savages" from the Northeast.32
More often "colonists" like Chaffey confronted mestizo and Californio (elite, landholding Mexican) families that still occupied, if not owned, the land. White migrants to California celebrated their "Iberian" predecessors for engaging in agriculture and livestock raising, but faulted them for the modest scale of their enterprises. Newcomers judged Californios' dependence on cattle raising as a failure to realize the potential value of California land and a critical reason for their financial demise during the second half of the nineteenth century. Cattle raising symbolized "fixed wealth," while land ownership and development represented regenerative wealth that would escalate property values. Contrary to the "pastoral" economies of the Spanish and Mexican era, Chaffey envisioned a fully irrigated California, producing commercial fruits and vegetables that would integrate the state into a national and global economy.33
Native Americans and Californios, therefore, served as a foil to Chaffey's foresight and ingenuity in the popular accounts and contemporary opinions of Ontario history. As Chaffey biographer J. Alexander writes, upon Chaffey's first visit to the "García Ranch" situated on the "Cucamonga Plain," he saw "lying at his feet a colony settled by prosperous people setting a standard of comfort formerly deemed unattainable by ordinary people, extracting a generous living from a soil thought by generations of Spanish proprietors to be incapable of settlement". In contradistinction to native and Mexican settlers who had inhabited the region for hundreds of years prior to white settlement, Chaffey himself reflected: "from the plateau at the foot of the mountain I obtained a bird's-eye view of the whole area I proposed to acquire, and while I was standing there looking at it, I saw what Ontario was to and did become." In an account that includes a trip down "El Camino Realthe Spanish King's Highway of the Mission Era," Alexander reports that Chaffey "clinched on the spot" a deal to buy 1,000 acres with water rights from the "easy-going" Portuguese seaman, Captain García.34 According to Alexander, García had "dabbled in irrigation in a small way," but relied primarily on sheep ranching as his main source of income, a business commonly pursued by Californios, Portuguese, and Basque immigrants prior to the settlement of citrus farmers. To whites, these practices constituted a more wasteful use of land than cattle raising since most saw goats and sheep as small, "scrubby" animals that possessed even less market value than steer and cows.35 Chaffey's land acquisition and subdivision plans, therefore, represented the dawning of a new era in Southern California in which the random, "pre-capitalists" practices of Native Americans, Californios, and non-Anglo predecessors would be replaced by orderly, commercial agriculture.
The family run, ten-acre farm also served as a response to populism of the 1880s and 1890s. The inter-racial alliances and tenant class solidarity that characterized pre-1890s populism contrasted with Chaffey's vision of "whiteness" and agrarian democracy, and constituted a real, if distant, alternative to the "model colony." Chaffey's emphasis on the development of small, owner-operated, high-yielding farms eliminated the practice of tenant farming, and more importantly, sharecroppers themselves. By basing the colony on the equal distribution of land among financially independent, white property owners, poor whites and African Americans would not find a place in the community.36
Chaffey reflected the values prevalent among Americans as they approached the turn of the century. Unlike Jefferson, Chaffey saw his scheme as a money-making venture. Settlers received property not by rights of citizenship, but rather through investment. Second, Chaffey's love of engineering fueled his interest in the development of cities. Not merely an irrigationist, Chaffey sought ways of converting hydraulic energy into electricity on a massive scale. His success in providing electrical power to Ontario attracted the attention of federal, state, and local planners, and launched his career as an ingenious and revolutionary mercenary city planner. In 1882, Los Angeles officials hired Chaffey to organize the Los Angeles Electric Company, the electrical parent to the gigantic Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation. He made Los Angeles the first city in the United States, if not in the world, to be lighted exclusively by electricity. In 1885, the Victorian Irrigation Company wooed Chaffey away from Southern California to establish the town of Mildura in Australia.37
Uniting agriculture with technology to build better communities constituted an important organizing principal for city planners and investors in Southern California at the turn of the century. By World War I, communities throughout the citrus beltfrom Pasadena, to Ontario, to Riverside and Redlandsenjoyed a higher standard of living than most Americans. Yet, citrus belt residents measured success not merely by the size of their bank accounts, but also by the predominance of luxuries and benefits not typically afforded to farming communities. Following the tenets of the City Beautiful Movement, investors and city planners believed that the construction of luxury hotels, banks, theaters, mansions, churches, and colleges served as a testament to the affluence of citriculture and the intelligence of the citrus grower. A. J. Cook expressed the belief held by many citrus growers when he wrote: "We all love and are ennobled by our environment where loveliness is dominant; and so it follows that citrus fruit growers will be generally marked by refinement and culture."38
Throughout the citrus belt, city elites "beautified" their cities with tree-lined streets and neighborhood parks. George Chaffey set the standard with his carefully designed Euclid Avenue, a double-drive, two-hundred-foot-wide boulevard marked out by four rows of eucalyptus, pepper, and palm trees with a strip in the center for trolley tracks. To advertise Ontario's irrigation system, Chaffey built a large fountain at the intersection of Euclid and the Pacific Electric and Southern Pacific railways that spouted water every time a passenger train passed through downtown. Similarly, Pasadena growers flaunted their wealth by constructing elaborate rococo-style mansions along Orange Grove Avenue near the heart of town. In Riverside, as early as 1895, residents boasted the highest per capita income in the United States.39 To exhibit the community's affluence, city planners enforced zoning laws and implemented architectural design standards based on Mission Revival and Victorian styles. Between 1890 and 1930, citrus money transformed Riverside into one of the most ornate and lush built-environments in Southern California: the "English garden" meets the "desert oasis." The twin references of "Spanish" California and Victorian England, common among architecture throughout the region, served as "a visual sampling of power, of displaced wealth and command" unifying a narrative of conquest, past and present. Citrus belt residents celebrated the Spanish for subduing nature and native populations and saw themselves as the new Anglo-Saxon "conquistadores," remaking the Southern California environment into a productive and congenial landscape.40
The conditions of the "citriscape" stood in stark contrast to the state of agriculture across the rest of the United States. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, government officials, reformers, and commentators lamented the decline of the family farm in North America. Multi-acre, bonanza farms on cheap Western grasslands relied on machinery and inexpensive transportation to out-produce and out-price small farmers. Many filed for bankruptcy. Those who attempted to hold on found labor excruciatingly painful as competition increased the rate of production. Not surprisingly, children of these families grew up disliking rural life and committed themselves to the pursuit of nonagricultural work. Progressive reformers known as "Country-Lifers" organized a movement to address the needs of agrarian communities and attempted to forestall the flow of small farming families to overcrowded cities. President Theodore Roosevelt supported their efforts by organizing the Country Life Commission, but the appeal of rural life continued to wane.41
The displacement of families from agricultural lands also concerned a growing American eugenics movement that debated the effects of migration on the U.S. "racial stock." Most European and American eugenicists believed that humans inherited intelligence and talents, and that acquired characteristics could not be passed on to future generations through hereditary lines. Charles Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, an English statistician, defined the dream of the movement when he wrote: "If a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create."42 Experimentation in botany and biology for the purpose of improving dairy and produce yields generated intense interest in the eugenics movement among American scientists. In 1906, the American Breeder's Association formed a Committee on Eugenics to study the heredity of the human race and to identify those blood lines that they believed would improve the American stock.
Composed of an eclectic group of scholars, including biologists, geneticists, geologists, and sociologists, this body of scientists deviated from Galton's vision in important ways. Luther Burbank, a California botanist who genetically engineered numerous "hybrid" plants, fruits, and vegetables, disputed the notion that acquired characteristics could not be passed to future generations. In his own treatise on the subject, The Training of the Human Plant, Burbank explained his understanding of the connection between environment and heredity as follows: "Environment is the architect of heredity; . . . acquired characters are transmitted . . . all characters which are transmitted have been acquired, not necessarily at once in a dynamic or visible form, but as an increasing latent force ready to appear as a tangible character when by long-continued natural or artificial repetition any specific tendency has become inherent, inbred, or 'fixed,' as we call it."43 Burbank, therefore, advocated the Lamarckian theory that genetic traits, little by little, could be enhanced through good nurturance and constant attention to quality. At the other end of the spectrum, the most dominant American eugenicist, Charles Davenport, granted only token importance to the role of environment in determining a person's makeup, and expressed the belief that single genes determine such characteristics as laziness, musical ability, and creativity.44 This diversity of opinion concerning the influence of environment on human evolution inspired private and public debates that transcended the narrow focus on "blood" and genes. In America, such debates peaked around World War I, argues Richard Hofstadter, when "[eugenics] had reached the dimensions of a fad."45 The dramatic movement of people to and within the United States during this period influenced eugenicists to consider the impact of rural to urban migration on the future of America.
Excerpted from A World of its Own by Matt Garcia. Copyright © 2002 by The University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
What People are Saying About This
An elaborate and sophisticated study. . . . Adds impressively to the expanding historiography on the Mexican-American experience. . . . A valuable work that goes beyond the usual study of immigrant communities through their creation of churches, media, mutual aid societies, and other institutions.Journal of American Ethnic History
With a keen eye for factors like gender and space, this ethnographically rich study not only exposes the machinations of the region's power elite, but it consistently, respectfully foregrounds 'everyday' people. . . . Garcia's meticulously researched, carefully worded book will not only become a welcome addition to undergraduate courses in California and Chicano history, but will enliven academic debates over power relations and inter-cultural contact in the Golden State.Southern California Quarterly
A very interesting, complex, and worthy contribution to the study of the evolution of 'intercultural relations,' particularly Mexican American-Euroamerican interactions. The study illuminates significant cultural activities that fill gaps in our understanding of southern California and its ethnically diverse population. . . . [Garcia] has established himself as an important voice in the discourse on the social, cultural, and political dynamics of southern California.Labor History
In A World of Its Own, Matt Garcia deftly delineates the origins and evolution of Los Angeles's 'citrus suburbs.' Like an archaeologist exposing layer upon layer of previous human experience hidden beneath surface appearances, Garcia presents a carefully researched and compelling case for the cumulative effects of past decisions about space, race, and labor in shaping the contours of social life in the modern metropolis. A World of Its Own is a wonderful contribution to urban history, ethnic studies, and cultural studies.George Lipsitz, University of California, San Diego
A must-read for every student of Mexican American history.Aztlan
Complements the growing body of work on regional history and Chicano cultural formations in Southern California.Ethnic and Racial Studies