Seeking a Better Life: Migrant Families Heading West (15 Photos)

During the Great Depression, migrant farm working families traveled from farm to farm seeking work, and they had to take all of their possessions with them.  The results were rag-tag automobiles straight out of a John Steinbeck novel.  The following photos from the 1930's capture the stories of a few families as they made their way west seeking a better life.  

Lordsburg, New Mexico 1937
1937
Lordsburg, New Mexico
LOC

Three related Oklahoma drought refugee families near Lordsburg, New Mexico

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1936
California
LOC

Three carloads of Mexican families headed for the Imperial Valley to harvest peas. Near Bakersfield, California

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1936
California
LOC

Migrant family on U.S. Highway 99 between Bakersfield and Famoso, California. Note: the photographer passed twenty-eight cars of this type while driving thirty-five miles between 9:00 and 9:45 in the morning

 

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1936
California
LOC

Drought refugee's car on U.S. Highway 99 between Bakersfield and Famoso, California. Note: the photographer passed twenty-eight cars of this type (drought refugees) between Bakersfield and Famoso, thirty-five miles, between 9:00 and 9:45 in the morning

Arizona 1937
1937
Arizona
LOC

Family of nine from Fort Smith, Arkansas, trying to repair their car on road between Phoenix and Yuma, Arizona. On their way to try to find work in the California harvests

 

Tracy, California 1937
1937
Tracy, California
LOC

Tracy (vicinity), California. U.S. Highway 99. Missouri family of five, seven months from the drought area.

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1937
California
LOC

Mexican child. She helps tie carrots in the field. Coachella Valley, California

 

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1937
Tracy, California
LOC

Tracy (vicinity), California. Missouri family of five who are seven months from the drought area on U.S. Highway 99. "Broke, baby sick, and car trouble!"

Tracy, California 1937
1937
Tracy, California
LOC

Missouri family of five, seven months from the drought area, on U.S. Highway 99 near Tracy, California

 

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1937
Riverside County, California
LOC

Texan refugees' car. They are seeking work in the carrot fields of the Coachella Valley. California

depression car, great depression car, old car photos
1937
California
LOC

Carrot pullers from Texas. Texas farmer on edge of carrot field. In California for two weeks, migrating after three years of crop failures. Combined earnings, man and wife tying carrots: One dollar and twelve cents a day

 

Tulare, California 1936
1936
Tulare, California
LOC

Drought refugee family from McAlester, Oklahoma. Arrived in California October 1936 to join the cotton harvest. Near Tulare, California