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The Work That Went Into the Work by Emma Pallarino

As is the case with any profit-minded corporation, Seabrook Farms' main goal was to sell a product. Different forms of work were required to move the product through the supply chain to the customer. Because of the unique company town organization at Seabrook, people had to perform auxiliary work that allowed the main work to be accomplished. While these individuals all worked and lived under the Seabrook umbrella, their impacts on the community were different. Factory and farm workers contributed to the making the product that the company sold, whereas auxiliary workers contributed to the community and living experiences that allowed community members to live and work all at Seabrook.

Most companies do not offer their employees housing, as it creates more costs and responsibility on the part of the employer. However, Seabrook decided to create a company town because the benefits reaped in further control over Seabrook employees outweighed the added liability. Seabrook also drew rent from the workers who lived in the housing it owned as tenants. C.F. Seabrook and the company's management regulated the extracurricular activities available; he stopped unionization before it even occurred, and he set prices and rates for food, rent, utilities, and other services. Given this arrangement, he was in a position to contract with the US government to employ and house Japanese after their internment, since he could accommodate them in all of these capacities.

To create the company town, workers not only built the Seabrook factories, but then built the housing units for themselves and future occupants. Initially, residents lived in poor conditions - sometimes in open-air camps - but housing improved as the community expanded. These buildings required maintenance and upkeep throughout their lifetime. Plumbers, electricians, and basic handy men were required to preserve the buildings.

The community also required basic municipal services. This included a postal system, milk delivery, sewage and infrastructure maintenance, and seasonal tasks such as snow removal. Encouraging families to live in the compound inevitably created the need for other family services. Community members needed healthcare, childcare, and education. Their basic needs also required grocery store workers, barbers, drugstore and pharmacy workers, and paperboys, all of whom catered to the company's workforce.

The creation of a town necessitates forethought, planning, and funding. If C.F. Seabrook only wanted workers for his farms and factories, he would not have to concern himself with the basic requirements of everyday life. However, by concentrating his workers and their families in his sprawling compound, he controlled the costs and profits of the town, and could exert control over workers in ways that went beyond his oversight of the labor they performed. While these services cost him money, Seabrook essentially had two sources of income - the profits from the products he sold and the rent his laborers paid him.

In order to offer a company town to his employees, Seabrook needed to construct that town. Building housing for workers required its own labor force, capital investment, and management, to ensure that the project was done efficiently. Initially, the company's housing was very poor quality, but as the company and the labor force grew, housing improved as well.
Credit: "Houses being built in West Village for Seabrook Farm employees," 952, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
As in any municipality, certain civil services were provided to residents: garbage removal and other sanitation services, infrastructure maintenance, fire and police services, and postal service, as shown in this image. This was another labor force that operated under the Seabrook umbrella. In this way, Seabrook Farms was much more than simply an agribusiness.
Credit: "Mail Delivery," c. 1950-1959, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
Members of the Seabrook community required healthcare. In this image, a female resident receives an eye exam.
Credit: "Eye examination at Seabrook Farms," 1950, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.