Short-Handled Hoe, 1950s and 1960s

Migrant farm workers had to use the short-handled hoe or el cortito for thinning and weeding. Because it required them to stoop during long hours in the fields, the hoe became a symbol of the exploitive working conditions. Campaigns by the United Farm Workers and others helped outlaw use of the hoe in 1975.
American agriculture’s dependence on Mexican labor has always been a source of great conflict and great opportunity for field workers and the agriculture industry. In the U.S., agricultural labor was overwhelmingly Mexican and Mexican American. Issues of legal status, workers rights, and use of domestic workers are issues the unions, agricultural producers, and the federal government have been struggling with since the 1920’s.
Physical Description
iron (overall: blade material)
wood (overall: handle material)
iron (overall: handle material)
overall: 12.3 cm x 15.3 cm x 42 cm; 4 13/16 in x 6 in x 16 9/16 in
blade: 9.2 cm x 15.3 cm; 3 5/8 in x 6 in
handle: iron portion: 20.3 cm; 8 in
handle: wooden portion: 21.7 cm; 8 9/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Agriculture
Cultures & Communities
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History