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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Newcomers 1880-1920 > Working
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Working : Factories and Farms


Francis and Mary Allen of Deerfield, Massachusetts, were out for a ride when they saw "some Polish women gathering onions." The two sisters, early experts in artistic photography, decided to photograph the women and a child. One man spoke enough English to understand what the sisters wanted to do. The Allens managed to get their photograph, although Mary wrote later in her diary that the two women worked so rapidly that she had to "shift the camera to follow, with varying success."

The scene the Allen sisters captured on that fall day in 1912 recorded the presence in the Connecticut River Valley of a group of newcomers destined to alter permanently the cultural and economic identity of the region. Between 1880 and 1920, over 20 million immigrants entered the United States. These newcomers comprised an amazing 15% of the total population. Many immigrants stayed in the port cities where they had debarked. Still others, however, went to other cities and regions.

Thousands of Eastern European immigrants, mainly Poles, settled in the Connecticut River Valley at the turn of the century. Many of them got jobs in factories in Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke. Others, however, found work as agricultural laborers. Many Poles did not remain hired laborers long. Their hard work and thrifty habits won them ownership of land that longtime residents dismissed as worn out and useless. Those same acres yielded handsome profits to their new owners. The author of "The Pole in the Land of the Puritan" grudgingly applauded the Polish work ethic and frugality while condemning their language, Catholic religion, and culture. Descendents of old families reacted with amazement and often, consternation, as thousands of newcomers flooded their small communities. A novel published in 1913 focused on the immigrant experience of one community in the Connecticut River Valley. Its title captured the ambivalence and/or hostility with which "natives" of the region viewed the most recent immigrants: The Invaders.


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"Onion Harvest"

photographer   Frances and Mary Allen
date   1913
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
item type   Photograph/Photograph
accession #   #1996.14.1322.01-.02

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See Also...

Onion Pickers

Weeding Onions

Tobacco and Onion Fields, Connecticut Valley

Onion Shovel


"Onion Harvest"

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