Paternal Instinct at Work by Philip Ripperger

The story of Seabrook Farms is one that can be told from a multitude of angles. It was a huge hub of production and industrial innovation in the period leading up to World War II, during the conflict itself, and in its aftermath. In order to maintain production, Seabrook employed the captive labor of many impoverished and desperate people, including that of interned Japanese Americans and immigrants, who became available as a labor force after racial fears stoked by the war resulted in their confinement. On one hand, Seabrook Farms served as a laboratory when it came to experimenting with supplying the labor needs of a modern agribusiness. On the other hand, it also acted as a restrictive and reactionary force when it came to the rights of the laborers it employed. This lab existed for one leading reason: C.F. Seabrook.

Seabrook, often pictured wearing his favorite bowtie and his company badge, was a man who represented the values of many industrialists of the day: detail-oriented, controlling, and extremely confident in the necessity of his product. He offers a clean cut presentation; he almost always appears in suits, exhibiting extreme attention to detail in his daily wardrobe. This went so far that Seabrook's higher-level employees began dressing like him. Additionally, Seabrook and his upper-level management began establishing wide-reaching social programs, forming a façade of paternal care. However, these outward displays of affection aside, at the end of the day, as C.F.'s son Jack recalled, laborers were required to do "whatever the employer feels like asking at any minute of the day or night."

According to his son, "The rewards of hard work and opportunity were personified by C.F.," and he certainly went to great lengths to prove this. Company events like "International Day," pictured here, were Seabrook's way of building community. Seabrook was involved in and responsible for many of the organizations that dictated social life in the company town, and was constantly present at events that did not directly involve work. Company sponsored activities included Boy Scout troops, softball teams, and dances held on company grounds and supervised by company employees. International Day was a closely controlled outlet for racialized and international laborers to participate in and performed officially sanctioned features of their culture under the company's supervision. Each of these actions reflects a guarded approach toward multiculturalism in line with Seabrook's general attitude to how his employees were to present themselves publically.

C.F. did not merely wish to impart his moral convictions upon others, as so many have done throughout history. He not only pursued admiration, and he practically demanded it from his employees. There are many pictures of Seabrook winning awards and recognition on company grounds. These were showcases where employees could gather and lionize the man who brought them together. Speeches at such events had no mention of the sub-par wages, at times deplorable living conditions, or Seabrook's overall attitude of expendability toward his workforce. It is clear that Seabrook, although he espoused an ethic of care for his employees, really appreciated the benefits he could reap from paternalism.

Here, C.F. Seabrook is pictured in his regular attire, which was often emulated by his upper-level employees.
Credit: "CEO of Seabrook Farms, Charles F. Seabrook, candid photograph," 1950, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
Belford Seabrook accepts a plaque commemorating and celebrating his father C.F. Seabrook, from George Sakamoto.
Credit: "CF Seabrook appreciation night July 11, 1953," 1953, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
Children playing games at the company-sponsored International Day.
Credit: "International Day," 1950, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.