Gathering: Tule Horseshoe

Relationship: Im/migrant
Recreation of Tule Horseshoe, 2019. Created by Patrick Daniel. Courtesy of Locke Foundation.
Recreation of Tule Horseshoe, 2019. Created by Patrick Daniel. Courtesy of Locke Foundation.

After the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, Sacramento River Delta landowners were able to recruit the veteran Chinese railroad workers for the massive project of draining and controlling the Sacramento River Delta. Thousands of Chinese workers started on the laborious task of taming the delta using just wheelbarrows, shovels, and picks. As horses were brought in to assist with the effort, the soft muck of the delta hampered their movement. In order to resolve the problem, Chinese workers developed the Tule horseshoe. The shoe has an additional iron ring attached to the standard horseshoe, giving it a larger surface area so that the horse can maneuver better on peat soil. As the levees rose and canals drained the water, the Sacramento River Delta became a vast agricultural region that has generated enormous wealth for the state. Some have called the rise of agriculture in California the second Gold Rush.

The levee laborers had subsequently stayed in the Delta and practiced farming. Many of them lived in the legendary towns. One of them was Walnut Grove. When a fire broke out in the town in 1915, a group of Zhongshan people decided to build a town of their own one mile north on the river. The town was called Locke, the name of the landlord who leased the land to them. At the same time, Locke in Chinese rhymes with happy living. The town is a symbol of continuous Chinese presence in the California Delta for 150 years. In 1970, Locke was listed in the National Register of Historic Place by the National Park Service.

The original Tule Horseshoe was discovered in 1942. Based on the archival photo, Locke Foundation has the artifacts crafted by a local Iron work artisan Patrick Daniel. The horseshoe is an object uniquely from the California Delta, and it is uniquely Chinese. The Chinese were key in the creation of this Delta which became and still is one of the richest and most prolific agricultural lands in the world.

This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.

Place(s): Locke, CA
Year: 1942

– Locke Foundation

Relationship:  Im/migrant Im/migrant