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In a recent speech Louis H. Bean pointed to the volume of

industrial production and the purchasing power of urban con

sumers as matters of moment to the farmer . The fluctuations in

the ability of the urban inhabitant and of industry to purchase

farm products were characterized as "the other half of the farm
In an additional sense, the trends and character
istics of industrial employment have become the proper concern

of a great proportion of the Nation's farmers.

The average

number of persons "released " from agriculture who turned to the
cities each year during the twenties was almost 2 million .

In the years 1930 to 1936 the number of persons was still over

2§ million annually. A large proportion of these persons were

employable. More, they were mainly persons in urgent need of
employment .

Though data tracing directly the farm-city migrants through
their transition from a potential reserve to an immediately

available supply of labor are scant and though information on
their urban employment experience is limited, it is possible
to delineate their characteristic role and to gain some under
standing of their place in the industrial labor market . There
was a tremendous body of persons annually seeking employment in

industry's labor market. They came into the cities even in
years when there was available a large supply of industrial
unemployed who were seeking jobs. Under what circumstances did

they find the employment they needed? What adjustments were

they able to make? What can be said of their influence on
conditions in the industrial labor market?

The total demand for workers is not limited by the current
volume of employment opportunities. In an industrial economy
the availability of a supply of workers greater than the num

ber actually employed is constantly desirable or necessary.
Such a surplus labor force may be needed to meet seasonal

Louis H. Bean, The Other Half of the Farm Problem (Address atmeeting of the
Illinois Agricultural Association, Springfield, Ill., Jan. 28, 1938 ).




utilized by this industry increased by over 100,000 persons .
In addition,the industry tended to be concentrated in Michigan .
The industry turned , as a matter of policy , to the rural
regions of America for its supply of labor. Many of the com
panies sent out agents or advertised in the rural newspapers of
such distant regions as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and West
Virginia, as well as through broad sections of the Middle West.
Even after a labor force had been thus recruited, advertising
in some regions continued .5
The development of the indus
try thus brought with it a large influx of migrants from the

poorer rural areas of other States as well as from Michigan.
Thornthwaite finds that during the decade 1920-30 over 200,000

native whites of native parentage migrated to Michigan .
Goodrich reports that over 175,000 males and as many females

flocked to Detroit in this same period .? This migration
brought to the cities during the twenties almost half of the
Michigan rural population which had been, in 1920, 10 to 20
years old .8

Although there is no quantitative measure of the degree to
which the southern laborer, so predominant in the rural-urban

migration movement , has gravitated toward this region, he
has undoubtedly played a large part in the building of the

labor supply of the expanding auto industry. According to one
article, the rising demand for laborers during the twenties

brought many of them to the automobile centers. Mountaineers ,
plantation workers , and plow hands were persuaded to come

to Detroit.' The spectacular increase in the Negro population
of Detroit also reflects this influx of southern workers .


a survey conducted by the Mayor's Interracial Committee of

Detroit in the middle twenties, it was found that of 986 Negro

Tracy E. Thompson,Location ofManufactures,1899–1929 (U. S. Dept. com.,Bur.
Census , 1933 ), p. 18.

Census of Manufactures: 1935 (U. S. Dept. Com., Bur. Census, 1938), pp. 1149-54.

5see Hearings Before the Henderson Board in Detroit, Preliminary Report on

Regularization of Employment and Improvement of Labor Conditions in the automobile

Industry" (National Recovery Administration, Research and Planning Division,

Dec. 22, 1934); Robert W. Dunn , Labor and Automobiles (New York: International

Publishers , 1929 ), p. 110 ; Louis F. Budenz , "The Gang system comes to Nash's ,"

Labor Age, Vol. XVIII, No. 4 (Apr. 1929), pp. 6-7; Beulah Amidon, "Toledo: A
the Auto Ran over," The Survey, Vol. LXIII, No. 11 (Mar. 1, 1930), p. 656 ff.



Warren Thornthwaite, Internal Migration in the United States (Philadelphia,


University of Pennsylvania Press, 1934 ), d. 20.

CarterGoodrich and others, Migration and Economic opportunity (Philadelphia, Pa.:

University of Pennsylvania Press, 1936 ), D. 691.

BThornthwaite, op.cit., p. 33.


p. 5 .

Times Hit Detroit Auto workers," Labor Age. Vol. XX, No. 3 (Mar. 1931),



It is notable that although in March 1935, according to this
study, there were in Michigan some 75,000 former automobile
workers unemployed and on relief , the increase in production

that accompanied recovery brought with it a marked increase
in the importation of southern labor. Writing in The Nation

at this time, Louis Adamic reported that for months the com
panies had been sending labor agents into Kentucky, Tennessee,
Louisiana , and Alabama to recruit workers.11

Another example of an industry which has, in its period of

expansion, tended to draw upon surplus agricultural labor
is afforded by the chemical-products enterprises which have

increased in number so markedly since the World War . Here
information on the source of the labor supply is less direct
than in the case of the automobile industry . However , the

areas in which these industries tend to locate are revealing.
With but two exceptions , all the large plants in the country
are located outside the great congested industrial regions. A
great part of them are in the South. Of the 20 representative

chemical industries of Nation-wide scope, the South includes
33.7 percent of the number of establishments, 29.3 percent of
the number of wage workers, and 22.2 percent of the amount
of wages .

These industries produced almost 26 percent of the
value of their production in the South. (This does not include

Louisiana's sugar-refining and ethyl-alcohol enterprises.)12
The rayon industry, which has enjoyed the most marked ex
pansion of all the chemical industries, is largely concentrated

in the southern and mid-Atlantic States, particularly in and
around the States where agricultural conditions have been worst
and farm-city migration greatest .
Most of the American rayon is produced in the Southern

Appalachians , the Allegheny and Cumberland Plateaus
and the Piedmont .


a nd




hillside farms , and came out of their mountain val
leys to work in the rayon mills .

These expanding industries have thus tended to locate in
regions where they have been able to tap readily the supply of
surplus agricultural labor. Around them have grown up the mill
11.The H111-11111es Come to Detroit," The Nation, Vol. CXL, No. 3632 (Feb. 13,

1935 ), D. 177 .


B. Hitchcock, "Chemical Resources and Industries of the South," The Annals

of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 153 (Jan. 1931),

DP. 76-83 .

13Ben F. Lemert, "The Rayon Industry in the United States," The Journal of

Geography, Vol. XXXII, No. 2 (Feb. 1933), pp. 52-3.

CHAPTER IV


Between 1920 and 1936 , the years when 30 million persons
are estimated to have left the land, 21 million went from the
These figures do not , how
ever , refer to different individuals . The same persons often
cities to the farms

(see table il .

moved back and forth several times and each move was presumably
counted in the statistics cited . (For instance , less than

a third as many persons as were estimated to have gone to the
land between 1930 and 1934 were found there at the end of that
period.)1 What does the analysis in the preceding chapter
of the conditions of the migrants in the cities and their role
there tell us of the forces behind this retreat from the i n

dustrial labor market? What can be said of the conditions on
the land to which they went , and what does this mean in terms
of the possibilities of adequate adjustment and of their future
role as a reserve for industry?
The movement to the land received particular attention during
the depression years . The reversal in 1932 of the tendency

of the cities to gain population at the expense of the farm
provoked a variety of hasty comment, including some interpreta
tions which now appear fanciful. Some hailed the change as

a beneficial redress of the balance between farm and city,
a return to a more "normal" society, and the best way for the
unemployed to meet the stresses of urban unemployment problems .
Others objected to loading the city unemployed on land dwellers

and especially feared the long-run troubles which they said
would arise through this stranding of normally urban workers
on poor-land areas . In both groups, as in the public at large,
it was mistakenly assumed that the movement to the land was but

a depression phenomenon rather than a depression-intensified

expression of a relationship between agriculture and industry
that had obtained for a long time .

Two factors tended to lend support to the interpretation

of the to-the-land movement as a depression phenomenon.


Para Population Estimates, January1,1936 (U. S. Dept. Agr.,Bur.Agr.Econ.,

mime o., Oct. 27, 1838), pp. 3 4 .