Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: State Land Settlement, Delhi, California,
Collection Number: BANC PIC 1966.033--fALB
Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936
4 albums (270 photographic prints), and ca. 5 boxes of glass negatives ; various sizes
270 digital objects
The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley.
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Information for Researchers
Photograph albums are available for use. Glass negatives are unarranged and not available for use.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted
in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library
as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must
also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted
to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item]
State Land Settlement, Delhi, California, 1920-1922, BANC PIC 1966.033--fALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Digital Representations Available
Title: Elwood Mead Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-B 1041
Title: State Land Settlement, Durham, California, 1918-1919 / Elwood Mead,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1966.034--fALB
The Delhi photographs were transferred from the Elwood Mead papers (BANC MSS C-B 1041).
The State Land Settlements at Delhi and Durham were begun in 1919 and 1918, respectively. The Delhi settlement was located
in Merced County, California, about 6 miles south of Turlock, between the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe railroads. The
settlements were based on a 1917 land settlement program initiated by the state of California to encourage and improve land
development methods. Delhi settlement had about 230 settlers who owned the segments of land on which they worked. Previously,
agriculture in California had been in the hands of individuals whose efforts were not always good for the land. The program
was a means by which to educate large groups of people on better farming techniques. The settlement, in which settlers shared
land, supplies, and workflow, was intended to demonstrate desirable land settlement methods in a communal setting and encourage
cooperation and social organization. Settlers were chosen by the California State Land Settlement Board (chaired by Dr. Elwood
Mead) based on their capital, experience, and attitude towards cooperative effort. Each prospective settler had to appear
before the Board for questioning, and was watched carefully even after being accepted into the program. Two basic aims of
the program were to improve the living conditions of the settlers and to increase the number of people on the farms.
The 8,000 acres of Delhi settlement were divided into about 66 laborers' land allotments, averaging about 28 acres in size.
The settlement was furnished with a somewhat complex irrigation system, which was one of the most expensive elements of the
program. Areas of poor soil were made into poultry farms, allowing people with less money to be able to buy into the Delhi
settlement. The settlement, actually a townsite, included residential districts, with playgrounds, schools, and a civic center.
The Board furnished the townsite with buildings and even a layout for each allotment's gardens, orchards, and farm fields,
so settlers started out with a functional tract of land.
The Board's criteria for the selection of settlers at Delhi vanished as they realized that there were not enough applicants
to fill the existing land allotments. However, the townsite still managed to attract a good number of people with some farming
experience. Veterans made up a large segment of the Delhi settlers.
At first, the settlers were enthusiastic about the program. Early attempts at cooperation included group purchasing of dairy
cows and a group milk-selling association. However, disputes soon made these ventures unsuccessful, and even community social
activities began to disappear. The Board's need to keep land under contract often harmed the ideals of the settlement, in
that settlers who put little or no effort into farming were allowed to remain on the land. For those who did work, the allotments
proved to be too small for some crops. The Delhi settlement was plagued with poor harvests and bad weather, and the need to
reinvest initial profits from the first few years of harvests was unattractive to most settlers. After the first five years
the Delhi settlement was almost a complete failure, and the state gave up much of its investment. In retrospect, the causes
of failure of the settlement as a whole were seen to be crop failures, expensive but poor land, higher-than-anticipated expenses
in general, and economic conditions at the time which were unfavorable to this type of land development.
(Source: Smith, Roy James.
The California State Land Settlements at Durham and Delhi. Berkeley: University of California, 1943.)
Scope and Content
The collection contains three albums and an accopress binder of photographs documenting the development of the State Land
Settlement Project at Delhi, California, from 1920-1922. Included are views of the city, farm houses, temporary shelters,
fairs, agricultural exhibits of crops and livestock, portraits of the State Land Settlement Board members, and photos of irrigation
pipes and agricultural machinery. Some of the photographs were made by McCurry Foto Co. The three albums include captions
printed on photographs or typewritten captions pasted below photographs, and the accopress binder has handwritten captions
below each photograph - all captions are reprinted in the container listing.
The collection also contains five boxes of glass negatives which are unarranged and not available for use.