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Social Life at Seabrook Farms by Sabah Abbasi

Life at Seabrook is well documented through images, though it is important to keep in mind how many different perspectives can be gleaned from each of these pictures. All three of these images are group photos, but they each tell very different stories. The subjects of each photo were integral to Seabrook Farms' operations in varying capacities, from workers to businessmen, but within these broad categories there is a clearly visible hierarchy.

The first image illustrates the diversity of the migrant laborers recruited to work at Seabrook. There is no context for the image, but one can imagine that these are Eastern European refugees (possibly Estonians) who lived and work on the farms. Their demeanor suggests that they are workers. It is unclear what the occasion for this picture may have been, although it is clearly a contrived, posed photo that was perhaps an attempt to simply show or record the diversity of types who labored at Seabrook. The second image focuses on C.F. Seabrook speaking to his employees. C.F. Seabrook conveys a very paternalistic figure standing at the table in this picture, while his employees smile and laugh at something that he might have just said. It is not clear whether these men are corporate businessmen or manual laborers - or perhaps a combination of both - but they are gathered at a formal event. All of the subjects of this image are men, which speaks to the "boys club" environment that seems to have existed at every level at Seabrook as much as it did in society in general. While Seabrook did hire female laborers for certain jobs, they are clearly not recognized as part of this community of workers, and segregated visually in the company's archival record of images. While the product of their labor is considered valuable, it does not afford them an equal visibility.

The final picture is the most compelling. It depicts the captain of the Seabrook Farms softball team - a white woman - receiving a trophy from a man, with her team standing in the background and flanked by two other men (presumably coaches or managers of the team). The race and gender dynamics illustrated in this one photo are telling of a much larger context. While Japanese American women are clearly on the team, and in fact seem to make up a majority of the team, the face of the team is still a white woman. Japanese American women's participation in the sport - a very traditionally American sport - makes one question whether the team was created by Seabrook to project an image of inclusion and diversity, or, if its participation was completely voluntary, whether the players genuinely enjoyed playing on the team.

A group photo of workers at Seabrook Farms. Their poses suggest that the picture was taken by management at Seabrook.
Credit: "Group photo from Seabrook Farms," c. 1950, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
Charles F. Seabrook addressing his employees.
Credit: "Seabrook addressing his employees," c. 1950, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
The captain of the Seabrook softball team, Libby Crispin, receiving a trophy.
Credit: "Seabrook softball team," c. 1940-1949, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.