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3.1.2 Fumigating outfit, spreading tents over orange trees in California

A crew of men, a few on horseback, stand in the orange groves amidst a fumigation scene. Several trees are covered with tents which hang from tall wooden beams. Several children and a baby in a carriage stand in the foreground.
Gelatin Silver Print
Fumigating outfit, spreading tents over orange trees in California, undated; General Subjects Photography Collection, PC-GS-Agriculture-Crops-Oranges-Cultivation; California Historical Society.

Orange trees grow extremely well in the Southern California climate, but they are susceptible to fungus (molds) and insects that are attracted to the trees, which could eat or damage the fruit. One way that orange growers protect their trees is to briefly cover them in tents and spray chemicals inside, which is what we see happening here. What does the activity in this picture tell you about how important oranges were to the families and workers at the groves?

Entire families worked the orange groves, with children helping pick fruit and spread the tents (see the young person sitting on the poles above the trees). Families settling in the Riverside area in the early 1900s had a strong economic incentive — that is, they could hope to earn a good living — by planting and maintaining orange trees that provided them with a popular fruit to sell.