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Finding aid to State Land Settlement, Delhi, California, 1920-1922
BANC PIC 1966.033--fALB  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Background

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: State Land Settlement, Delhi, California
    Date (inclusive): 1920-1922
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 1966.033--fALB
    Creator: Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936
    Extent: 4 albums (270 photographic prints), and ca. 5 boxes of glass negatives ; various sizes 270 digital objects
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: 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.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

    Information for Researchers


    Photograph albums are available for use. Glass negatives are unarranged and not available for use.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], State Land Settlement, Delhi, California, BANC PIC 1966.033--fALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Digital Representations Available

    Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Digital image files were prepared from selected Library originals by the Library Photographic Service. Library originals were copied onto 35mm color transparency film; the film was scanned and transferred to Kodak Photo CD (by Custom Process); and the Photo CD files were color-corrected and saved in JFIF (JPEG) format for use as viewing files.

    Related Collections

    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

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936 Elwood Mead papers.
    California Heritage Project. CU-BANC
    California. State Land Settlement Board (1917-1921)
    Online Archive of California.
    Agricultural colonies -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Agricultural development projects -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Agricultural exhibitions -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Agriculture -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    California. State Land Settlement Board (1917-1921) -- Pictorial works.
    Crops -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Delhi (Merced County, Calif.) -- Pictorial works.
    Farm equipment -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Farmhouses -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Livestock -- California -- Delhi -- Photographs.
    Glass negatives.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Delhi photographs were transferred from the Elwood Mead papers (BANC MSS C-B 1041).

    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.


    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.)