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1870. He worked as a farm laborer, bought a small piece of land, raised berries, and grew prosperous, if not wealthy. For years he and his family were the first among the Neapolitans, many of whom followed him here on his recommendation. The Tells are well-to-do. Besides owning a farm and an ice factory, the sons are engaged in various commercial pursuits in the village. The Neapolitans formerly considered themselves superior to the Sicilians, who, they say, are not real Italians at all. The two elements live in different parts of the town, but at present there seems to be no bitterness and no particular prejudice. The "Napes," as they are called, are larger of physique, more powerful, and somewhat less dark than the Sicilians, who are termed "little black men."
In the Immigration Commission's inquiry detailed schedules were secured from 50 South Italian families. The birth place of the heads of 47 of these families were reported and these are as follows: Sicily 31, Naples 15, Calabria 1. Probably the proportions shown do not hold good for the community as a whole, but it is true that the Neapolitans are much less numerous than the Sicilians, while the number of Calabrians is comparatively small.
The immediate localities from which these 47 families migrated to Hammonton were reported as follows:
After about 1875 the growth of the Italian settlement was almost wholly due to outside causes. In the first place, friends already here made it a point to induce friends and relatives to come to south Jersey direct from Italy, or from other parts of the United States where they had for the most part engaged in industrial pursuits. Often a young man comes and works a few years as a farm hand until he accumulates $200 or $300. With this he buys a small farm, sends to Italy for his wife or sweetheart, and begins a home. Frequently a father has come, worked until he could pay passage money for his wife and children, then sent for them to begin a new life. Within the two months, May and June, 1909, 19 new immigrants, relatives of former residents, came to Hammonton.
Perhaps the greatest additions to the settlement have been made. through the influence of settlers, some of whom have sent encouraging letters and passage money to kindred abroad, and, with a few exceptions, these newcomers have done very well. Sometimes they began as laborers in the shoe factories, brickyards, or knitting mills; sometimes they hired out as farm hands, or found employment picking berries; sometimes they immediately bought small tracts of woodland and began to clear it at odd times
in the intervals of day labor. Many came to join the father or brother who had come out previously and had already settled on a tract of land. In more recent days, since 1890, a good many have bought farms cleared and put in cultivation years before by non-Italians. The hard times, due to the low price of berries and the failure of the standard variety of blackberry in the late nineties, forced many of the former berry growers out of business. These farmers sold out at fair prices to Italians, who in general have been successful on these improved but higher-priced lands. A visit to some of these farms formerly owned by non-Italians convinces one of the ability of the better class of Italians to settle on valuable land and carry out an agricultural venture very profitably. The records of land transfers show that a great many of the farms of Americans, whose owners have died, retired, or moved away, have been transferred to Italians at good prices. Some fine old places have been sold and divided and now are owned by several Italian farmers. Observers of this movement for a number of years past are inclined to the opinion that if the movement toward Italian ownership goes on at an accelerating rate as it has been doing for the past ten years there are excellent prospects of an agricultural population in Hammonton Township of purely Italian origin within a very few years.
The other method of recruiting the Italian population has been in active progress since the late seventies. The growing of small fruit in quantity requires the employment of a large number of seasonal laborers to pick the fruit. The first strawberry pickers were the Germans from the near-by towns-Folsom, Blue Anchor, Egg Harbor, and other points. Some natives came from the vicinity to gather berries and a few were imported from Philadelphia. The local supply of Germans soon ran out, however, for it was not long before they thriftily began to raise berries for themselves and to reap the large profits incidental thereto. Very few Italians were employed in this capacity previous to 1878, when the shortage of German pickers began to be felt. It was then that the Hammonton growers turned to the Italian padrones of Philadelphia, who from that day to this have brought in carloads, often train loads, of Italian pickers every year. The greatest number of these pickers came during the period 1883 to 1895, which may be called the flush times of the Hammonton berry grower. Frequently as many as 2,000 came during the berry season on special trains from Philadelphia accompanied by padrones. During the late nineties the numbers fell off somewhat, owing to the decreasing price of berries and berry acreage, but recently the number has increased. In 1909 the number of pickers imported was not far short of 2,100 for the berry growing district included in Hammonton, Winslow, and Waterford townships.
All in all, a considerable number of these pickers, pleased with the location and attracted by the cheap lands and easy profits in berry growing, bought small tracts in the Italian settlement and became permanent residents. The largest additions were made to the settlement during the years when the berry industry was at its height. Of the 50 families studied, three-fifths settled in Hammonton between the years 1885 and 1895. The remainder came in about equal numbers before and after those dates.
The accompanying table is interesting as showing the condition of the settlers immediately after coming to this region. There were no
nants. The newcomers either came with parents and worked with hem, or came alone or with families and found employment as rage-earners, or they purchased land immediately on arrival. In a roup of 50 representative heads of farm families, 36, or 72 per cent, vere wage-earners for periods ranging from one to twenty-five years. Of these, 17 worked for wages three to five years, 8 six to ten years, and 5 one or two years, before buying any land. Four of the 50 heads worked some years on their fathers' farms; 10 heads, or 20 per cent of the group, bought land on arrival; of the wage-earners more than one-half were employed as farm laborers, and most of the others were unskilled day laborers.
TABLE 19.-Condition in locality of heads of families before lease or purchase.
The three principal occupations of the newcomer were (and are) farm labor, including general farm work for the summer season and berry picking for six, or at most eight, weeks in the year, work on the railroad as section hands, and labor in the brickyards at Winslow Junction, 3 miles northwest of Hammonton. Some worked at odd jobs, classified as miscellaneous, where unskilled day labor was required. Farm wages varied from as low as 50 to 75 cents a day, without board, to as high as $1.50 a day, depending of course on the demand for farm hands. The earnings varied greatly, and since they could not be ascertained accurately for any number of families no classification of earnings was attempted. It is of interest to note, however, that in some instances $300 or even $400 was saved from the proceeds of day labor and laid aside for the purchase of a piece of land, a house, and the capital necessary to equip a small farm.
Berry growing, especially at first, was a very simple form of agriculture, requiring little capital or equipment, and no particular skill. It was admirably adapted to hand and hoe labor, and occupied a comparatively short period of the year. It was quite possible for the Italian to use his farm as a supplement to his fall and winter occupation on the railroad or in the brickyard, and to spend only a few months of the year engaged in farming operations. That this, indeed, was the rule appears from the following table, which shows that 82 per cent of those investigated had some supplementary employment extending over periods ranging from one to ten years until a living could be made from the land. Farm labor, railroad labor, and miscellaneous labor include the various occupations most usually followed.
TABLE 20.-Method of supplementing farm income of South Italians from time of purchase until living could be made from land.
Though it does not appear on the table, one of the most usual avocations was berry picking. The whole family engaged in this work, either picking for neighbors in the intervals between maturing crops of their own or gathering huckleberries and cranberries. There was no lack of opportunities for employment in unskilled occupations, and living cheaply, as he did, there was no real hardship undergone in the early years of Italian pioneer life, while the farm was being put in cultivation.
Up to 1895 it was quite possible to buy unimproved land at some distance from the village for $10 to $20 an acre on very favorable terms. Long time and small cash payments were the rule. As a matter of fact, the price paid for land per acre by most of these immigrants was $30 or more. Thirty of the 50 farms included in the Commission's inquiry were of totally uncleared land when purchased by Italians. These 30 farms averaged 17 acres each and the purchase price paid was $691 per farm or approximately $40 per acre. The average cash payments on these particular farms was $249. The other extreme is found in the case of five farms also containing an average of 17 acres each. These farms were three-fourths or more cultivated at the time of purchase and the average price paid per farm was $1,838, while the average cash payment was $225. It is significant that from the beginning these farmers were able to buy land on as favorable terms as any other class of people. By reason of this leniency there were very few who failed to make their payments promptly or who were obliged to forfeit their claims to the land.
A large proportion of the Hammonton people came from the agricultural districts or small towns of Sicily and southern Italy. The farms in Sicily are small, the land rough and mountainous. The villages frequently have small plots of ground on which by hard exertion the owners are able to make a poor living. Vines, olives, corn, rye, beans, and vegetables are the principal products, and the land occupied by a family is usually less than 2 acres. Of course few machines or power implements are used, most of the labor being done with hand and hoe, the women working in the fields along with the men. Hard work, coarse food and clothing, necessary frugality, and unrelieved poverty are elements in the life histories of most of the
Italians. Twenty-six of 50 heads of families included in the Commission's inquiry were farm owners or worked on their fathers' farms in southern Italy. That is to say, 52 per cent of the heads of families investigated were independent proprietors of farms or worked on their fathers' farms abroad, and many of them became farm owners here immediately on arrival. Of the others, 3 were engaged in independent occupations, 7 were farm laborers in Italy, 3 were unskilled laborers, 3 belonged to the skilled labor classes, and 8 were children at home, probably on their fathers' farms.
It is significant that 36 of these newcomers, or 72 per cent of the total investigated, engaged in no gainful occupation in the United States previous to coming to Hammonton. The remaining 28 per cent were employed as farm hands or unskilled laborers or engaged in small trades in the cities.
The change in conditions of life from farm ownership in Italy to day labor in the United States is to be noticed, although the material comforts were probably greater here than abroad. The 5 farmers noted who passed through this economic experience, are typical of a much larger number of the South Italian families of Hammonton. Many of them have not yet wholly emerged from the dependent's position. Some are laboring for wages by day and farming on little patches before and after working hours. A good many have only the hope of owning a little farm some time in the future.
PROGRESS OF COLONY.
A full account of the progress of the Hammonton settlement can not be given in a paragraph or a page. The advance, materially, socially, and politically, which has been made since the first comers settled on the South Jersey sands has fully kept pace with the advancing prosperity of the American farmers, their neighbors. Fields have been cleared, pitch pine and scrub oak woods have given way to tilled lands; neat houses have been built; hundreds of acres have been planted to bush fruits, orchards, and vineyards. Sandy roads have been graded and graveled, schoolhouses have been built, and great progress has been made in the intelligent use of political privileges. There has been a wonderful appreciation in land values, and a consequent necessary improvement in methods and implements of intensive culture and increased facilities for handling and marketing the gathered produce. Too little account has been taken of new and improved varieties of fruits and methods of dealing with destructive pests and diseases of various sorts. Too much reliance is placed on manual labor and too little in intelligent intensive methods of culture, but great advance has been made, and the younger generation stands ready to continue the work.
Of the 370 owners of land in Hammonton, 48 began with an aggregate of 819 acres of land, having a market value of $48,000, or $1,000 per farm. The average acreage was 17 acres, and 60 per cent of the land was not cleared or in condition to till. Less than one-third of this land was paid for in cash, although it was valued, with improvements, at $59 an acre. These farms have increased to an aggregate acreage of 1,466, of which 1,064 acres are cultivated, with a present estimated value of $145,000 including land and permanent improve48296°- -VOL 21-11—8