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Guide to the California. Dept. of Industrial Relations. Division of Immigration and Housing records, 1912-1939
BANC MSS C-A 194  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content
  • Glossary

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: California. Dept. of Industrial Relations. Division of Immigration and Housing records,
    Date (inclusive): 1912-1939
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-A 194
    Creator: California. Dept. of Industrial Relations
    Extent: Number of containers: 93 cartons, 6 oversize boxes, 8 volumes Linear feet: 130.0
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Includes correspondence, reports, county files, inspection reports (including labor camps) and Americanization applications.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. 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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], California. Dept. of Industrial Relations. Division of Immigration and Housing records, BANC MSS C-A 194, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: Harry Everett Drobish Papers, 1917-1954,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-B 529
    Title: Simon Julius Lubin Papers, 1912-1936,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-B 1059
    Title: John Francis Neylan Papers, 1911-1960,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-B 881
    Title: Paul Scharrenberg Papers, 1893-1960,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-B 906
    Title: Paul Schuster Taylor papers, 1895-1984,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 84/38 c

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Division of Immigration and Housing Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Carey McWilliams in December 1938 or January 1939.


    Funding for processing provided in part by a Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA), Title III: Networking, Preservation and Statewide Resource-sharing grant, 1994-1996.

    Organizational History

    The California State Legislature created the Commission of Immigration and Housing by the enactment of Chapter 318 on June 12, 1913. California was following the lead of New York and other eastern states regarding state and federal involvement in the domestic immigration policy movement. The second state agency of its kind in the United States, the governor-appointed commission was responsible for regulating housing conditions and performing immigrant protective functions. The state of New York had established the Bureau of Industries and Immigration in 1912, but within two years, the California commission would take the national lead in promoting the philosophy of adult education and focus attention on the special needs of women immigrants.
    In 1912, Simon J. Lubin approached Governor Hiram W. Johnson with the idea for an immigrant protective agency. Lubin suggested that a commission would be important because the opening of the Panama Canal would make California a destination for an increasing number of immigrants. The governor appointed a temporary commission to draw up a bill outlining the responsibilities of the future commission. This bill became the Act of 1913, and empowered the governor to appoint a five-person, unsalaried commission to serve at his discretion. The commissioners and their staff were to research the condition, welfare, and industrial opportunities of all immigrants arriving and living in the state. The agency was granted the right to gather information on agricultural productivity in order to help immigrants secure employment. To protect immigrants, the commission was given the authority to investigate employment agencies, private banking, labor camps, housing, transportation, and the real estate industry. They were also responsible for the education of adult and school age immigrants, and were required to cooperate with the State Board of Education to "provide immigrants with the best opportunities for acquiring education and citizenship."
    Four departments were at the core of the Commission's activities: Immigrant Aid, Housing, Labor Camp, and Education programs. Immigrant Aid, originally called the Bureau of Complaints, was responsible for protecting immigrants from exploitation and providing them with advice. If the state was asked to arbitrate between two parties or help to negotiate a suit, a complaint was filed. If immigrants were looking for information, the case was classified as an application. The Housing Program was responsible for inspecting the state's urban housing and reporting violations to local authorities for prosecution. They also worked with local officials and volunteers to build low-income housing for laborers.
    The Labor Camp inspection program had the power to prescribe and enforce sanitary regulations for the living and working conditions of persons employed in all migrant labor camps of more than five employees. They also helped to educate employers and employees on public health measures. Most of the agency's work in education involved preparing pamphlets with teaching suggestions, teacher training, and demonstration programs. The commission pioneered a home teacher program and a foreign language agent program. Due to legislative decision, the commission gave up their responsibility in this area in 1920, and the program became part of the California Department of Education.
    In addition to these major programs, the Division established the Auto Camp program in 1929 to assist with the growing needs of a transient population, and expanded to include trailer camps in 1937. The commission was responsible for enforcing the terms of the Health and Safety Code and inspecting auto and trailer camps, and prosecuted any violations in superior court.
    The Commission of Immigration and Housing began as an independent agency, reporting only to the Board of Commissioners and the governor. This practice continued from the inception of the Commission in 1912 until 1921. From 1921 to 1927, the Commission was managed by the Division of Housing and Sanitation, and from 1927 to 1945 was renamed the Division of Immigration and Housing, operating within the Department of Industrial Relations. The headquarters was in San Francisco, with branch offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield. During the early years of the program, the commission also utilized volunteer agents located in private offices in San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo; this volunteer program was discontinued in February 1915.
    The United States' participation in World War II changed the focus of the Division and the state mandated the agency to be responsible for the transport of Japanese Americans to relocation centers. Public interest in immigration and migrant labor was replaced by the war effort, and as American defense production demands increased, migrant laborers moved out of the fields and into defense work. Changes in leadership led to a restructuring of the Division, and in 1944 their immigrant protection powers were abolished. The Division was dissolved in October 1945.

    Scope and Content

    The records of the California Division of Immigration and Housing, 1912-1939, give a detailed account of the programs and activities of the state agency created to protect the rights of immigrants and establish naturalization policy in California during the years 1913 to 1945. The collection includes the correspondence of the founding board of commissioners, including Simon J. Lubin, and provides insight into the creation of the board by Governor Hiram W. Johnson in October 1913. The records end in 1939, six years before the dissolution of the commission, but a selection of later documents can be found in the California State Archives in Sacramento.
    The collection consists of correspondence and office files that illustrate the management of the agency as a whole, as well as the working papers of the four programs that formed the core of the Commissions' activities: Immigrant Aid, Housing, Labor Camp and Education. In addition to these major programs, the Auto and Trailer Camp program, established in 1929, is included. Each program has its' own correspondence and office files, as well as the supporting materials needed to manage each program. Filing systems and subject headings created by the division were preserved whenever possible.
    The records include a variety of reports for each program, as well as the commission in general. The day to day tasks and travel schedules of the agents and the commissioners are illustrated by memoranda, employee activity sheets, and expense reports. Direct dealings with immigrants are documented by the type of service required, whether that be in the form of an application or a complaint. In the case of a labor camp dispute, an inspection would also be made, with a follow up letter sent in a reasonable amount of time to insure compliance. Following the series descriptions is a glossary that illustrates the types of information tabulated in each of the register types.


    Application Register:
    Arranged numerically and chronologically by application number, office of filing, date of application, applicant name/nationality, nature of application, resolved, date.
    Complaint Register:
    Arranged numerically and chronologically by complaint number, office of filing, date, complainant/nationality, defendant/nationality, nature of the complaint, agent, resolved, date.
    Housing Inspection Register:
    Arranged chronologically by date of inspection, city, county, street address, owner, conditions, violations.
    Labor Camp Inspection Register:
    Arranged chronologically by date of inspection, camp type, name, owner/operator, population, number of inspections.
    Inspection Adjustments Register:
    Arranged chronologically by date of inspection, city, living conditions [ventilation/sanitation].
    Inspection Summary:
    Arranged chronologically by date of inspection, city, number of inspections, compliance, number of buildings under construction. No details on specific inspection sites, only the city in general.
    Nationality Register:
    Arranged alphabetically by nationality; documents the total number of various nationalities represented in labor camp populations, but there is no "key" to identify individual camps.