(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved. Contact us for information about using this image.
This photograph of tobacco farmers has been carefully arranged: to the right is the leader of the team of workers grouped to the left. His billed hat and the hat worn by one of the workers is similar to those worn by peasants from Russian lands; probably the overseer and three of the four workers were from Russian or Austrian Poland. The largest number of recent immigrants in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in 1905 were from these Polish-speaking regions. They pose just as the tobacco has been harvested. The woman worker would have been employed stitching the leaves into bundles that were then hung in drying barns for months. The curing process usually continued for as much as a year. Tobacco became a central crop in the Connecticut River Valley in the last decade of the 19th century and first part of the 20th century.
This photograph comes from the Howes Brothers collection of photographs. The Howes Brothers, based in Ashfield, Massachusetts, made more than 20,000 images of New England rural life from 1890 to around 1910, offering a glimpse into the lives of people rarely visible in history.