California and the Oriental Labor

In this section:

(1) Character of Oriental labor.

(a) Chinese.

(b) Hindu.

(c) Japanese.

(2) Do Orientals work for whites as laborers?

(3) Working and living conditions of Orientals compared with American standards. Americans will never adopt the Oriental standards and should not. Housing conditions, Japanese and Hindu, in various parts of California as described by inspectors and sanitary engineer of California Immigration and Housing Commission.

(4) Effect of Oriental land occupation upon the American small farmer. American farmers cannot compete with Orientals, especially the Japanese, with their standards.

(5) Percentage of Japanese in various agricultural pursuits.

(6) Sudden removal of Japanese not wise.

(7) Percentage that the Japanese produced of the whole total of various crops produced in the state.

(8) Japanese labor and agricultural activities thoroughly organized.

(9) By-laws of Japanese Association of America.

(10) Treaty of commerce and navigation.

(11) Orientals are increasing their commercial activities.

(12) The farm labor problem of California can be satisfactorily handled without the use of Orientals. Letters from organizations and individuals who have solved the problem with white labor are given.

While it has been generally considered that the presence in California of Oriental laborers has its most detrimental effect upon the laboring classes here, it has recently been thoroughly demonstrated that this is not a fact. Oriental labor does not enter very seriously into competition with the American laboring classes.

The most serious injury done by Oriental laborers is to the American small farmer. Most of the Oriental laborers coming to California, especially from Japan , are from the agricultural classes and upon arrival enter as quickly as circumstances will permit into agricultural pursuits. It is the usual practice of the Orientals, especially the Japanese, to serve a short apprenticeship as a farm laborer, this service usually being for farmers of his own nationality but as soon as opportunity affords he becomes a tenant farmer, either under lease or some form of crop contract.


The Hindu, in the opinion of the Commissioner of the State Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the most undesirable immigrant in the state. His lack of personal cleanliness, his low morals and his blind adherence to theories and teachings, so entirely repugnant to American principles, make him unfit for association with American people. These references apply to the low caste Hindu or Sikhs. Reports from official authorities concerning these people on file in the office in the State Board of Control are unfit for publication.

In keeping with the above estimate of the low caste Hindu, it is significant to note that although he is a subject of the British Crown, he, nevertheless, has been and is now excluded from practically all of the British provinces, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In fact, it would appear that the presence in California of the Hindu is largely traceable to one large boat load from British Columbia, out of which country they were forcibly driven.

On a following page is given a copy of a letter from Attorney M. P. Shaughnessy of the firm of Shaughnessy and Atherton, attorneys at law, Stockton, California, Mr. Shaughnessy being the legal adviser for a large part of the Hindus in the State of California. This letter is dated February 16, 19 20, and indicates that there are about 2600 Hindus, commonly so-called, in the state, of which 2000 are Sikhs, 500 Mohammedans and 100 Hindus. Mr. Shaughnessy makes the following statement: "You are familiar, of course, with the fact that none of them are now permitted to enter the United States."


By Edward A. Brown, Chief Sanitary Engineer, State Commission

of Immigration and Housing.

Hindus in California are generally employed in agricultural pursuits. They do not take to commercial life, consequently the housing problem, when we deal with Hindus, is a rural and not an urban condition. Our experience in labor camp inspection shows that Hindus are rapidly leaving the employed list and are becoming employers. Particularly, this is true in the rice growing section of California, in Yolo, Colusa, Glenn, Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties, also in the cotton district in Imperial County. In the delta section of Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, numbers of Hindus are employed at what is commonly called “squat labor.” In Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties, we find Hindus employed in some of the orchards and vineyards; also in the sugar beet section in Yolo County and the Salinas Valley. The number is rapidly growing less, for the change from employed to employer or lessee is rapidly placing the Hindu in the position of “little land lord.” The Hindu will not farm poor land. He wants the best and will pay for it. Consequently, the American owner who can get a big rental for his land desires the Hindu. He will pay.

The Hindu standard of living is so vastly different from ours that it is difficult to present it properly. Their methods of preparing food and serving is very primitive. Dishes, pots and pans are unnecessary in the life of a Hindu. Sanitary conveniences are unknown. The open ground is their dump for what little garbage they have, unscreened kitchens are the rule, open toilets and filthy camp grounds. Their sleeping quarters are, generally, very crowded, except where some religious rule provides privacy. (Note this report is dealing with what is commonly called Hindus, not Mohammedans, Afghans and the other sects.) Any kind of a shack will serve as living quarters for Hindus. When the camp inspectors compel Hindu operators to furnish living quarters fit for human habitation, they cannot or do not want to understand. They believe the Hindu standard of living is good enough for their American employees. During the 1919 season we were compelled to prosecute eight Hindu camp operators for violation of the Camp Sanitation Act.

We have had but one case on record where Hindus complained against housing conditions, while our records show numerous complaints by Americans employed by Hindus against the unsanitary camp conditions.

The housing conditions where Hindus operate labor camps or where they live when employed by operators of other nationalities are the same as any other labor camp. The law makes no exceptions and the inspectors demand that the legal requirements be met.


By Four District Representatives of State Commission of Immigration

and Housing.

Antone Scar- Camp Inspector.

Regarding Mr. Lubin's request concerning housing conditions, Japanese and Hindus, the only information I could give would be on conditions I found in Sacramento Valley in rice fields. In Glenn, Butte and Colusa Counties there are a large number of Hindus and Japs. Most of these live-in camps all year round. Hindus' houses are rather filthy. Japs are much cleaner, but their houses are generally overcrowded, and poorly ventilated. There are no Hindus nor Japs in this vicinity (Fort Bragg).

Elmer J. Walther- Sacramento Representative.

The Hindu housing situation in Sacramento is practically negligible. There are a few Hindus here. I think about a hundred or so would cover it. There are only two or three rooming houses in town and at the present season most of the occupants of these places are out on the farms or working in section gangs on the railroads.

In Stockton there are more Hindus and their quarters are crowded. My experience has been that in cities the Hindus usually patronize Japanese rooming houses and restaurants.

On the farms, especially in the rice districts, the Hindu tenant picks out the best quarters for himself and his own race and the white help and others take what is left. They, as well as the Japanese, are very particular about their baths and there is usually a Hindu style bath house provided.

Mrs. A. S. Calhoun- Los Angeles Representative.

Answering your telegram of the twenty-fourth instant regarding housing conditions of Japanese and Hindus in cities and rural districts, I do not know any Hindus here in the city and the city housing department informs me that there is no colony of these people here. I know that there are some in the agricultural sections, however, and Mr. Brown will write you about then.

Arthur L. Johnson- Director Fresno Office.

In reply to your telegram of this morning will state that no investigation of Hindu or Japanese housing conditions has been made from either the Fresno or Bakersfield offices since I took charge on November 1. The only Hindu camps I inspected are the camps of Mr. Keiser near Sanger and of Mr. Pratt (Mr. Foster, Superintendent) near Clovis. See San Francisco records for reports and complaints on these camps.

Interviewed Thomas Dupes, city housing inspector, and Dr. J. P. Cuneo, city health officer at Bakersfield, today and they both state that the Japanese and Hindus have caused little trouble in Bakersfield as far as housing and health are concerned. Dr. Cuneo states that there are no more than eight or ten families in Bakersfield and that they live in fairly respectable houses. As to Hindus he states that there are none here except those who may pass through on their way to another town. Bakersfield being a strong labor union town does not attract this class of laborers, both Dr. Cuneo and Mr. Dupes assert.

I am sorry that this is all of the information I am able to furnish you at present.


Report of H.F. Barton, Special Census Enumerator.

Imperial, California, April 13, 19 20.

To the Hon. Stanly Brown,

El Centro, Calif.

My dear Mr. Brown: I will have to beg your pardon for the long delay in writing you, as I have been sick and had to have the doctor, hence the delay. However, I am feeling quite myself again.

While taking the Asiatic census, I discovered several features of conditions of which I was unaware, and which I think may be of some value to you in work on the Jap question.

Fist I find the Japs and Hindus are mostly proprietors controlling far more land than they themselves can work, they hire the white man to plow and disc their land; then they hire Mexicans to work for them in their crops, thereby the Jap is proprietor and boss and not the real laborer.

The foregoing notations are what I have gathered from my conversations with the Japs, whites and Hindus. I often had to submit to quiet and interrogation myself and answer a number of questions and make explanations before Mr. Jap would answer my questions.

If I may be so bold, I would like to offer a few suggestions. First, I would say the boycott will never amount to anything more than anti-Jap propaganda.

The state should prohibit aliens from acting as guardians, trustees or agents of minors born in this country of alien parents. The state should prohibit any alien from becoming (or one who is at present time, remaining) a member or stockholder or in any other way being connected with any association, stock company or corporation, incorporated, chartered or licensed to do business in the state.

The State of California in connection with the other Pacific Coast states should produce evidence (of which there is plenty) sufficient to bring pressure to bear on the United States government to wake up to the alien menace existing here at the present time. When I say alien, I mean it in a universal way.

My dear Brown, here it is; use it as you see fit- privately, publicly, or chuck it in the waste basket name and all.

Respectfully submitted.

H. F. Barton,

Special Census Enumerator, State Board of Control.


The low caste Hindus, although subjects of the British Crown, are denied citizenship by practically all the British colonies; in fact, they have been forced to leave Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (Special Report of State Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 6, 19 19.)


“The Hindu has no morals.” (Quoted from Special Report of State Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 6, 19 19.) Court records and the files in the offices of district attorney and probation officer in Imperial County show an unusually high record of vicious crimes by Hindus or Sikhs in that county. (Report of State Council of Defense, Imperial County Division, December 4, 19 18.)

The low caste Hindus and Sikhs are not eligible to citizenship in the United States , but in a very few cases natives of India of high caste have proven to the satisfaction of the courts their Caucasian blood and have been admitted to citizenship.

According to W. P. Shaughnessy of Shaughnessy and Atherton, attorneys, counsel for the Hindus in California, “Hindus are no longer admitted into the United States nor are those who are here permitted to bring in their wives or children.”

One investigator for the State Board of Control states that Hindus, although ineligible citizenship and therefore not entitled to legal ownership of land under the California alien land act, nevertheless own many parcels of land in California and are purchasing more land.

(Source: “California and the Oriental.” State Board of Control of California. Pages: 113, 115-116, 123-126, 197)


Ted. Sibia
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