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Harvest hands on their way to the wheat fields of the Northwest
Harvest hands on their way to the wheat fields of the Northwest
TitleHarvest hands on their way to the wheat fields of the Northwest
Date of Original1890
CreatorRogers, W. A. (William Allen), 1854-1931
Creator RoleIllustrator
DescriptionMen seated on ground, some sleeping, others playing cards, and one by campfire. Behind them is machinery on railroad cars and grain elevator beyond. Also near men are what appears to be grain binders.
Ordering InformationConsult:
General SubjectAgriculture
Subject (LCTGM)Agricultural laborers
Grain elevators
Railroad cars
Railroad tracks
Harvesting machinery
Subject (Local)Binders (Agricultural machinery)
LocationCasselton (N.D.)
Cass County (N.D.)
North Dakota
United States
Item NumberFolio 102.AgG46.3
Format of OriginalLithographs
Dimensions of Original28 x 41 cm.
Publisher of OriginalHarper's Magazine Co.
Place of PublicationNew York (N.Y.)
Transcription"Harvest Hands on the Way to Wheat Fields. Flowing into Lake Winnipeg and thence to Hudson Bay, the Red River winds northerly between the slopes and intervals of its wide fertile valley. It constitutes the easterly limit of the great wheat-growing region which, extending across North Dakota, embraces the vast farms locally known as the bonanza wheat fields. This wide tract was in early times a favorite winter and summer home of the buffalo, and in more recent years was famous as an exceptionally fine grazing region for cattle. But it has been only within the past fifteen years, beginning with the time when Mr. Oliver Dalrymple, visiting this region, recognized its suitableness for the cultivation of the cereals, and securing, as an experiment, two sections (1280 acres) of land, planted the entire area with wheat, and from it harvested 32, 000 bushels, that the possibilities of North Dakota as a wheat region were fairly estimated. Two years later the business of wheat farming there on an extensive scale had generally begun; and has attained its present great development. In this region the preparation of new land for the sowing of wheat begins in the June of the year previous to its planting. The work of breaking the soil, once regarded as so arduous, can be intrusted by the farmer to a boy or even a girl of fifteen years, who rides over the land in a sulky plough, turning the sod, which is left to rot until the autumn, when a second ploughing reverses or backsets the decomposed furrow, after which the ground is harrowed and left fallow until the next spring. The sowing season begins near the middle of March. The wheat sown is invariably spring wheat, as the winter variety so generally planted in the middle latitudes of the continent is not so desirable for North Dakota, where the favorite species is that fine and peculiar grain known as beardless wheat. The bonanza farms are wonderful in their great extent, their productiveness, and the scale of magnitude of the agricultural operations upon them. Some of these, as in the case of the Dalrymple Farm, includes single fields comprising as many as 13, 000 acres in extent are not uncommon upon these estates. The farm work of all kinds, from ploughing to threshing, on these great estates is, of course, done wholly by machinery. The culminating and critical time in the operation of the year is when, toward the end of the hot midsummer, the heads of wheat hang heavy as they undulate in the sweep of the south wind across the golden seas of ripening grain, indicating that the time of harvest is at hand. Over the field in a long line go the reaping machines, cutting, lifting up, and binding the grain stalks, and leaving behind them at each trip a wide tract of fresh stubble, thickly strewn with the heavy sheaves. the steam threshers, their fires fed by fuel of the straw which they themselves provide, come after the reapers as soon as the wheat is duly seasoned, a result which in the dry clear plains air quickly follows the cutting. In farms so extensive there is naturally a great demand for harvest hands, which the country immediately surrounding them is wholly inadequate to supply; hence, in the season of the ripening of the grain many laborers must be imported for the occasion from localities where labor is less in demand. The vivid and picturesque scene drawn by Mr. W.A. Rogers, which is presented on another page, is from a sketch he made at Castleton, just west of Fargo, of a group of men on their way from more easterly regions, to work as harvest laborers in the bonanza wheat fields. Many of them are lumbermen, employed during the winter in the woods of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada, and they are usually distinguishable among other workmen travelling to the harvest work by their knit jackets, and other characteristic features of their attire. There also drifts westward at this time a large element of floating city population, including not a few who would unmistakably be classed as tramps. Some of the wheat farms are practically owned by the Northern Pacific road, while many other estates make contracts with that corporation to supply them with laborers, in which case the transportation of the workmen is regularly provided for upon that railway. In other cases the men go on their own account to the wheat-growing region to make there the best bargain for their services that they can, depending for transportation upon their success in stealing rides on the trucks of passenger trains, or in the freight cars, for as much of the distance as they can, and for the rest of the distance reluctantly footing their way. The group portrayed by Mr. Rogers has evidently had a weary time of walking, and have resolved to wait at the prairie station in the hope of boarding some train. that they are tired is indicated by the way in which most of them have bestowed themselves for sleep, and lie about amid their characteristic lumbermen's oil-cloth valises, which contain their worldly goods, and serve as receptacles for such supplies as they can forage. Those who have been so lucky during the day as to secure poultry or other eatable materials by purchase or capture, find means to cook them, while those not so fortunate forget their hunger in sleep in any place where they can bestow themselves most comfortably. Upon the platform cars in view against the background of the bare prairie are wagons, reapers, and other farm machinery on the way to the wheat regions and the elevator, a characteristic type at the railway stations of the country" - Accompanying text.
NotesTitle from caption.
Repository InstitutionNorth Dakota State University Libraries, Institute for Regional Studies
Repository CollectionDakota Lithographs and Engravings Collection Folio 102
Collection Finding AidConsult:
Credit LineInstitute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (Folio 102.AgG46.3)
Rights ManagementImage in public domain.
Digital IDrsL00012
Original SourceHarper's Weekly, Dec. 13, 1890. p. 973.
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