Museum the New Llano Colony

Ralph Field

Birth: He was born in 1881 in Iowa.  

Family Information: Husband of Angeline "Judith" Field and father of Frances Field, though they did not live with him in the colony.  

Description: In 1918 he was described as medium height and build with blue eyes and light brown hair. At that time he was an architect living in Idaho with his wife, Angelina Field.

He was described by Bob Brown in the 1930's as being as tall as Abe Lincoln and as American as Eugene Field, who was, in fact, his father's cousin and chum. His quaint Yankee wisecracks [were] as good as a dose of salts for the spirit."

He smoked colony tobacco rolled in thick brown wrapping paper which made such a bulgy cigarette he had to tie a string around it to keep it together. He lived as frugally as did Lenin, denying himself anything that couldn't be enjoyed by all.

In 1942 he was described as being 5'9", weight 170 pounds, with blue eyes and gray hair.  

Pre-Colony History: In 1900 he was living in Iowa with his parents and sister while he attended school. In 1910 he was living in Harris County, Texas with his parents and sister and working as an architect.

In 1920 he was living in Idaho with his wife, daughter Frances, and mother while he worked as an architect. In 1930 he was living in Oakland, California with his wife and daughter and working as a manager.

On Christmas Eve 1932 he came to the colony from Marysville, California -- he later said, "I was driven here by a troubled conscience, I guess." He had once been part of Colonia Cosme in Paraguay and understood some of the difficulties of co-operative living.

He later told one of the reporters that when he had arrived at the colony he had fifteen cents in his pocket; a year later he "only had a dime of it left."

Home in Colony: He lived in Room 9 at the hotel, so during the winter he would warm up around the communal stove before going to bed, sitting work-tired and silent in faded blue overalls that matched his eyes.

Job in Colony: Just one day after his arrival in the colony, feeling depressed about having no gifts to give, he stood up in the dinner line and called out to the kitchen staff "I've got nothing to give today, but I'll do anybody's work so he can have Christmas off." The pot-washer took his apron right off and handed it to Ralph, who was a little surprised, but he tied the apron on and went around back, working late into the night, but enjoying the thought of that pot-walloper getting a rest.

The "male kitchen mechanic" still wasn't back the next day, so Ralph again hobbled around on an injured leg and did his work, stating, "I never knew there were so many pots, and all of them burned black." He washed pots for two months before graduating to milking cows and tending the lambs out on the farm. After two months of that he was made Industrial Manager of the colony.

In March 1933 he was planning a new road to the Ford Dairy -- one that had a horizontal curve on the steep portion which would cut down the grade and take a lot of terror out of the mud on that road, saving teams and trucks.

By September 1933 he expressed great delight over the way the various departments were functioning like "well-greased machinery."

In December 1934 Nick Lentz remembered a few months prior, when it had been time to clean the colony boilers, how Ralph had allowed him to crawl inside the tiny opening so he could clean and inspect the insides of the boiler. When Nick finally was able to get himself out, thankfully without having to cut the boiler open (though looking "like someone had tried to skin him alive"), Ralph told him, "Nick, don't you ever go in there again."  

Other Info:

He worked at training the colony children about tools, how to handle a shovel by the trial and error method; how to stand it up properly after they'd finished with it; and how to set up a pitchfork or rake so they wouldn't hurt themselves on the sharp tines. "Take a pride in your work," he told them, "and work by plan and order."

In December 1933 he was installed as the temporary chairman of the Workers' Study Club in the absence of Lloyd Potter who was down with a "bum" knee.

Once when Walter Gaulke tried to pin him down for some information which he could put into the Colony Diary section of the "Colonist", Walter was told to wait in the foreman's office and he'd be there in 10 minutes. While he waited, Gaulke watched as Violet Dix attempted to load a 30-pound tub of peanut butter on a wobbly bicycle. Giving up on the bicycle, she started walking, hugging it in her arms. A moment later he looked up again and saw Field going off across the track with the yellow can on his shoulder!

In April 1934 he made a report on industrial conditions to the Psychological Meeting.

In July 1934 he left the colony, going to join the group at Commonwealth College in Arkansas.

Notice inside the shoe repair shop:
If you want your shoes rebuilt, go to Ed Clark.
If you want your shirts mended, go to Ida Ann Bartlett.
If you want your socks washed, go to John Dougherty.
If you want work, go to Ralph Field, don't hang around here.

Post-Colony History: In January 1935 he was presenting lectures and discusssion at Commonwealth College (in Arkansas) on Negro Culture -- music, poetry, etc. In November he helped install a new heating system in the school building there -- it was made from an old wash boiler and the chimney was made from old tire rims gathered from the city dump yard.

In 1940 he was living in California with his wife, daughter and son-in-law and working as a salesman of processed materials. In 1942 he was living in Oakland, California and his next-of-kin was listed as his daughter, Mrs. Frances F. Matthews.  

Death: He died in 1972 at California and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery alongside his wife.  

Sources: US Census: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940; Draft Registration Cards: WWI, WWII; "Llano Colonist": December 31, 1932, March 4, 1933, July 29, 1933, September 2, 1933, October 14, 1933, October 21, 1933, November 4, 1933, November 18, 1933, December 2, 1933, December 23, 1933, January 27, 1934, March 31, 1934, April 7, 1934, April 21, 1934, May 19, 1934, July 7, 1934, December 8, 1934, December 15, 1934, December 29, 1934; "Can We Cooperate?" by Bob Brown; California Death Index  


Pickett's Tribute to Cuno (Clipping from Llano Colonist)
"Ralph Field - From Cosme to Llano, Ralph Field's Record as a Co-operative Colonist is a Romantic Chapter in Co-operation's History. Now Our Industrial Superintendent." (Clipping from "Llano Colonist" dated May 12, 1934)

Contact Us:


Copyright 2018 Museum of the New Llano Colony