Staff View
David Burgess to Mary Dyckman, President of the Consumers League of New Jersey

Descriptive

OriginInfo
DateCreated (encoding = w3cdtf); (keyDate = yes); (qualifier = exact)
1944-04-06
Extension
DescriptiveEvent
Type
Exhibition
Label
Invisible Restraints: Life and Labor at Seabrook Farms
DateTime (encoding = w3cdtf)
2016
AssociatedObject
Type
Exhibition section
Name
Introduction
Detail
This exhibition explores Seabrook Farms’ layered histories, focusing in particular on the relationship between captive labor and capitalism that defined the company’s employment practices and government-backed hiring strategies during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath.

Famous for its frozen vegetables, by 1950 Seabrook Farms was the largest agribusiness in the United States, employing more than 6,000 seasonal and permanent laborers during peak production periods. Located in rural Upper Deerfield Township, approximately 30 miles south of Philadelphia, recruiting a sufficient supply of laborers had always been a challenge to the company. Military conscription and increased production demands caused by wartime contracts only exacerbated the situation. The war, however, also created opportunities for Seabrook to procure new sources of labor. This included approximately 2,500 American citizens (Nisei) and immigrants of Japanese descent (Issei) incarcerated in internment camps. While federal officials defended internment as a matter of national security, no evidence backed this claim, and no formal charges were ever brought against any of the detained. Internment reflected white Americans’ longstanding belief that Japanese immigrants and their children were racially unassimilable.

At Seabrook, paroled internees worked alongside immigrant guestworkers from the Caribbean, migrant laborers contracted from the American South, and a small contingent of German POWs, groups whose freedom of mobility and job choice were similarly constrained. After the war’s end, Seabrook Farms would add to its ranks of workers Estonian Displaced Persons, whom the company sponsored as refugees. It would accept Japanese Peruvians brought to the United States and imprisoned by the federal government, who in 1946 faced deportation to Japan.

Seabrook was at once a haven for groups with limited options and a site where control, surveillance, and discrimination continued. A company town, Seabrook owned the housing workers lived in, provided social services, operated the local school system, and sponsored sports teams, dances, and scout troops for its labor force and their families. Archival records demonstrate that Japanese Americans and Estonian refugees received a relatively favorable welcome from white residents in Bridgeton, New Jersey, the nearest sizeable town. As these groups’ sponsor, Seabrook Farms promoted paroled internees and refugees as more desirable candidates for integration than black migrant laborers from the British West Indies and the American South, who were subject to hostility from the local white majority, treated as a transient workforce, and paid lower wages by the company.

Curating this exhibit, we have grappled with the contradictions that Seabrook represents as a place of both safety and captivity. We have tried to move beyond a narrative that is narrowly celebratory, which has been the dominant mode of interpreting Seabrook to date. We have juxtaposed archival sources not typically used in presenting Seabrook’s history with images that were commissioned in the 1940s and 1950s by the company’s official Photographic Department. To these ends, we hope that the exhibition provides viewers with a foundation for coming to their own invariably complex and nuanced conclusions.
Relationship
Forms part of
AssociatedObject
Type
Exhibition caption
Relationship
Forms part of
Name
David Burgess to Mary Dyckman, President of the Consumers League of New Jersey
Detail
Seabrook Farms closely controlled access to its workforce. In a 1944 postcard, David Burgess, a farm labor organizer and minister, reports being placed under surveillance by agents hired by Seabrook and Birdseye.

Courtesy of the Consumers League of New Jersey Records, MC 1090, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries
AssociatedObject
Type
Placement in digital exhibition
Relationship
Forms part of
Name
5
Subject
HierarchicalGeographic
Country
UNITED STATES
State
New Jersey
County
Cumberland County
City
Seabrook Farms (Seabrook, N.J.)
Genre (authority = AAT)
postcards
PhysicalDescription
InternetMediaType
image/jpeg
InternetMediaType
application/pdf
Extent
1 image
TypeOfResource
StillImage
Subject (authority = NJCCS)
Temporal
Postwar Years (1945-1970)
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Laborers--New Jersey
Subject (authority = local)
Topic
Surveillance
TitleInfo
Title
David Burgess to Mary Dyckman, President of the Consumers League of New Jersey
Language
LanguageTerm (authority = ISO 639-3:2007); (type = text)
English
Note (type = transcript note)
Dear Miss Dyckman: About a month ago I was talking before the Women [sic] League of Voters of Montclair, and I found that three strange men were taking notes on everything I said. As soon as I closed they went out, walked around the bloc [sic] 3 times before they went to their car which was parked near the place of meeting. One of the ladies took t heir tag number. Thus far I have not heard any definite news. I suspect that they were from Seabrook or from the Birdseye Corp.

How are you coming in your campaign to get a decent new constitution, especially w regard to migrant needs. If I can be of any help in the immediate future please let me know. I graduate on May 18th - & then I don't know where Alice & I will be. Good-bye for now.

Sincerely,
David S. Burgess
99 Claremont Ave N.Y.C.
4-6--1944

Written sideways: File migrants
Name (type = personal)
NamePart (type = family)
Burgess
NamePart (type = given)
David S.
Role
RoleTerm (authority = marcrelator); (type = text)
Correspondent
Name (type = personal)
NamePart (type = family)
Dyckman
NamePart (type = given)
Mary L.
Role
RoleTerm (authority = marcrelator); (type = text)
Correspondent
Affiliation
Consumers League of New Jersey
RelatedItem (type = host)
TitleInfo
Title
Seabrook Farms
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SBFarms
Location
PhysicalLocation (authority = marcorg); (displayLabel = Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center)
NjSaECC
Location
PhysicalLocation (authority = marcorg); (displayLabel = Rutgers University. Libraries)
NjR
Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/T32809P5
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Rights

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This resource may be copyright protected. You may make use of this resource, with proper attribution, for educational and other non-commercial uses only. Contact the contributing organization to obtain permission for reproduction, publication, and commercial use.
Copyright
Status
Copyright protected
Availability
Status
Open
Reason
Permission or license
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Technical

RULTechMD (ID = TECHNICAL1)
ContentModel
Document
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