5/16/16

A Clever Chinese Tunnel Break-in of a Portland Bank Vault

    
  

        In 1890, Ah Jung, a clever Chinese crook hatched a scheme of tunneling beneath the First National Bank of Portland to drill into the bank vault to steal its treasures. Ah Jung recruited the aid of   Chuey Gum who ran a laundry across from the bank with promises of gold for him and the laborers in Chuey Gum's laundry. Using the old laundry as the center of operations Ah Jung patiently worked for a year to dig a deep ditch under the boardwalk to arrive directly beneath the bank vault. He removed the section of the brick casing and laid bare of the steel of the vault.
Then he waited patiently until after banking hours on Saturday, September 12, for the final task. He cut his way with tools, and possibly with acids, and created an opening in the bottom of the vault
A stream of  gold poured out yielding $9500 and $20 gold pieces before a  Bill Book slid down to block the opening in the safe preventing the theft of over $6000 in gold as well as currency, silver, and papers more valuable than what he did steal.
The  robbery was not discovered until Monday morning when the bank opened.   None of the authorities  thought there was any remote connection with the Chinese in Portland.
Two weeks later Chuey Gum took a trunk to The Dalles Express office and prepaid to send it to San Francisco by train. Nervously waiting for the train to arrive in several hours, he made frequent trips to the office during the rest of the morning to check on the trunk. The station  agent became suspicious  and summoned the sheriff.  They opened the trunk and found a portion of the loot wrapped in an old pair of Chinese pantaloons.
Frightened, Chuey Gum broke down and told the whole story. Ah Jung had paid him $2000 for silence  from him and the workmen in his laundry. Ah Jung, had  timed the crime to the last detail.   By the time the robbery was made public, he was already in San Francisco and before Chuey Gum had been arrested, Ah Jung  was far out to sea on a China bound steamer.
 Chuey Gum was convicted and sent to the state penitentiary.  After his release he went back to China but returned to the U. S.  in 1910 bringing  a boy of  18 who he swore was his son, Chuey Sim.
Ah Jung took his gold to Macau where he lost it in an illicit enterprise. Chuey Gum became a member of an opium trading concern and later returned to China where he became engaged in banking.



         As for Chuey Gum's alleged son, Chuey Sim, his fate was worse than his father's.  He would later become the President of the Suey Sing tong in Portland. However, in 1921, after more than 30 years after his father's involvement in the 1890 First National Bank theft, Chuey Sim was serving four years on McNeill Island in the penitentiary for narcotic gang activities and was facing deportation upon completion of his sentence.
          The story is stranger than fiction and could make an entertaining movie plot with crime, trickery, punishment, and poetic justice.

3/14/16

Why Students Should Learn History





Some believe that knowledge about history has little practical value or is mainly of intellectual interest.  In contrast, others hold that without knowing the past, the future will not benefit from lessons from the past. As philosopher George Santayana famously noted, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."




About a decade ago, a student at a leading university conducted an informal survey for his class project asking a few students to see what they knew about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. 

Whether this video was edited to show only some of the respondents is not known, so the scientific merit of the study is unclear. Nonetheless, the video suggests there is an appalling lack of knowledge about a significant part of American history by many of the survey respondents, irrespective of their own ethnicity.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.html
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.html
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.html
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.html
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.html
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.html
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_santayana.htm


A similar lack of knowledge about another major part of American history, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, was also found as the video below demonstrates.



How can these glaring gaps in knowledge among students at a leading university be prevented? Can introduction of this information earlier during elementary school be effective in correcting this ignorance?  One interesting example of such an effort is shown in the video below for a 4th grade class in a school in California.

In 2015,  Lindi Li, a parent of a fourth grader, informed me about the adaptation of the popular hip hop song, Uptown Funk, for a lesson on Chinese American history at the Thousand Oaks, California, Elementary APA Heritage Month Assembly by Andra' Kavuma's 4th graders. Linda wrote the lyrics for their rendition, AsAm Funk, ably sung by her uncle, Steven Dorado, with choreography adapted from Michelle Obama's Let's Move for Uptown Funk.  

Whether this engaging and imaginative approach of blending pop music with historical information to capture student attention will prove to have long lasting beneficial effects on student knowledge of history requires a followup a few years from now.  It is worth a try! 








3/1/16

An "Unknown Chinese" Being Interrogated At Angel Island


This iconic photograph portrays the ordeal that Chinese immigrants faced during the years of the Chinese Exclusion Acts (1882-1943).  This young Chinese is being interrogated by an Immigration Examiner in the presence of what appears to be a security officer and another man who might be an assistant taking notes on the testimony. Or, possibly he might be an interpreter (although he is not Chinese).  There is no one present who might be an interpreter so it seems likely that the Chinese is fluent in English.  It is not likely that he is a lawyer for the Chinese, given that he is seated next to the Examiner.  The boy, or young man, appears to have his right index finger extended and resting on an object, possibly getting finger printed.

I have not been able to identify the name of the Chinese in this photograph that appears in countless articles about Chinese immigration experiences at detention centers such as Angel Island.  I think it is a generic image that people insert in their articles about the interrogations to convey the obstacles facing the immigrant, such as three adults against one child.  One source indicates that this Associated Press photo was from the 1920s, but the name of the Chinese boy is not provided.
It seems odd that there would be no other photographs of a Chinese being interrogated.  While dramatic, it is misleading to use this photograph to represent any and all young Chinese immigrant men.

UPDATE:  Less than a week after making this post, I found the announcement below that used this very image to publicize an event on the Angel Island Immigration Station.  Whoever this young Chinese boy is, his image strongly evokes the dire situation faced by Chinese entering at Angel Island.

2/28/16

Is Stupidity Grounds for Denying Admission to the U.S.?

  In 1906  Mark Gou Yung, an American born Chinese was seeking reentry to the U. S. after living in Hong Kong for an extended period of time.  After interrogating Yung, the Examining Inspector denied Yung's petition, adding insult to injury saying, he is either "poorly coached or very stupid."


In the defense, Yung's attorneys conceded that the Inspector might be correct in his conclusion, but they insisted that since Yung was born in the United States he should still be admitted even if he is very stupid.  

As bizarre as the defense strategy might sound, it had legal precedence just a few years earlier when in 1898, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wong Kim Ark in a decision that is now known as  the case that defined birthright citizenship, a contemporary hot topic.


     


1/18/16

Atlanta Martyr Joe Jung, 1917

Joe Jung (no relation), who integrated Atlanta's schools in 1913 by gaining admission for his children to attend white schools, was slain in 1917 during an argument with James MacDonald, a concessions manager on the grounds of the Southeastern Fairground.  Jung was a local businessman who had a concession at the fair.

At the trial MacDonald testified that when he asked Jung to move his location from its site, Jung became angry. Fearful that Jung was going attack him with a three-pronged ice cream cone machine, MacDonald claimed he acted in self-defense.  The newspaper made no mention of what type of weapon was used by MacDonald but it did cause fatal injury to Jung.


At the trial in 1919, MacDonald was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for 20 years but he filed an appeal which the state Supreme Court granted.  A bail of $10,000 was set because it was thought he might flee to Mississippi where he had been a prominent politician and was a friend of Mississippi Governor Bilbo.

The second trial in 1919 resulted in a mistrial.  In 1922 a third trial was held and the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor with a fine of $500, which MacDonald agreed to pay in lieu of working on the chain gang for one year.

So, from a sentence of 20 years in the penitentiary, Joe Jung's slayer received no jail time and only a $500 fine.


Acknowledgement: Thanks to Matthew Kramer, an Atlanta attorney, for providing leads on this story.
Trivia: Kramer noted that one of MacDonald's attorneys, Robert P Jones, was the father of the legendary golfer, Bobby Jones.

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