7/22/14

Give Chinese Wisconsin...and...




In the spring of 1918, news was reported that a substantial portion of Chicago's Chinatown will invade Munro and Juno counties for the purpose of farming certain marsh regions, stating "the Chinese will desert the laundries of the Windy City to brave the cold and raw spring of chilly Wisconsin." The objective of the yellow men will be agriculture. They intend to raise humble "Spud," the odoriferous onion, the carrot, the radish, and  other American vegetables before the summer has progressed far.  

Daniel Burkey, a Tomah land dealer closed contracts for several hundred acres of land with Hip Lung, the unofficial "mayor" of Chicago Chinatown. All leases and options are in the name of Hip Lung and the new organization will be incorporated as the "Chinese American Farming Company." They plan to give each farmer 20 acres.  The 1918 crops will be potatoes, onions, celery.  Chinese will be furnished with farm implements, seed, and horses but they will be required to hire their own labor. 

Hip Lung proclaimed, "Give the Chinese Wisconsin for farming purposes and the rest of the country can turn to the business of beating Germany!"  Score one for Chinese enterprise!

7/15/14

Frequency of Ching Chong and Chinaman's Chance in Books

The frequency of occurrence of racially charged terms such as "ching chong" might be a reflection of societal attitudes toward Chinese.  One quick, but very rough, gauge of anti-Chinese sentiment might be historical trends in the occurrence of such terms in books.

Google's Ngram viewer provides such data, but it does not examine the context of the occurrence, only raw frequencies. Nor does it examine newspapers or other media. So,with that warning, here is a chart for occurrences of "ching-chong."  The derisive phrase has shown a consistent pattern rising slowly from the 1930s to mid 1960s and then rising sharply to the present.

For comparison, "Chinaman's chance" is included.  It was not an epithet but rather a metaphor for a variety of 'lost causes' or hopeless situations such as that which Chinese suffered from racism.  Its peak frequency was in the 1930s, perhaps due to the Great Depression, dropped in the 1950s, a period of prosperity. It peaked again in the 70s and then has declined and leveled off as of 2000.

In summary, 'ching chong,' a mocking taunt, has increased over the last 70+ years. How well it can serve as a barometer of anti-Chinese feeling is ambiguous and it needs to be compared with other indicators.  In contrast, the metaphorical 'Chinaman's Chance' has fluctuated perhaps with the hopeful or hopelessness of the era.

Note: These terms were used prior to 1900, but their relative frequencies were too low to show up on the graph in comparison to the more recent years.  In contrast, two other terms, Chinee and Chinaman, were not graphed because their relative frequencies were far greater than ching chong and Chinaman's chance.



At the bottom of an actual Ngram chart (not on this jpeg image), if you click on the years, you can see excerpts from books showing the actual context of the term.

One other note: the high frequency of "Chinee" was largely due to the popularity of Bret Harte's classic  1870 "Heathen Chinee" poem and to a lesser extent, "Jolly Chinee" fairy tale children's stories by E. Veale (1896).


7/12/14

Chinese to the South. 2 But Will The Chinese Come?

In 1869, interest in bringing cheap Chinese labor to many parts of the Deep South was growing rapidly. They were sought as cheap labor for work in cotton fields, farms, rice fields, and construction of railroads and canals.

But how likely would it be that the Chinese would come to a region where there were so few other Chinese?  If they were in California, would they be willing to leave Chinatowns to go to places where they would be among the very few Chinese?

Although the views of a Chinese merchant in New York, Choy Chew, were those of only one individual, he did raise some important factors that might affect the success of recruiting Chinese for the South that made him skeptical.

Charleston Daily News, 6.19.1869
In a more extensive 1869 report in the New York Herald, reprinted in the Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Choy Chew argued that Chinese would be reluctant to go South because "Chinamen like to die at home," alluding to the fact that San Francisco is much closer to their homeland in China. They "want to make all the money they can and then return" and therefore  "do not care to go very far away from San Francisco if they can help it"

Georgia Weekly Telegraph, 1869
Chew did concede that how well the first Chinese that went to the South were treated would be a big determinant of whether "millions will go there."


7/7/14

Chinese To The South I. Recruiting

Chinese immigrants who came in large numbers to California, attracted by the discovery of gold in the Sierras in 1849 initially stayed mainly on the Pacific coast. As opportunities in mining soon declined, thousands of Chinese laborers were recruited to help build the Central Pacific section of the transcontinental railroad. Upon its completion on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah, these Chinese were suddenly without work. Labor contractors recruited many of them to work on other regional railroads as in Texas, possibly, Alabama, and in Mississippi.


While some workers headed back to the Pacific coast, others stayed in the rocky mountain area or quickly edged their way into the midwest, south, and east coast. This relocation of Chinese was facilitated by the search for cheap, but reliable, labor. The transcontinental railroad was completed in May of 1869, and before the summer ended, Southern planters had developed plans at a convention in Memphis to bring Chinese from as far away as China to replace the black slaves in the cotton fields.


Newspapers announced any sightings of Chinese headed toward the South. One planter in 1869 was quoted as saying that arrangements had been made to bring "some Chinamen" to Southern Mississippi due to the "negro exodus" from the South.  Another article noted that an agent from a St. Louis labor contractor was arranging for a supply of Chinese labor yo work in Alabama.


Accurate evidence on the number of Chinese brought to the South is difficult to obtain. For example, the 1880 Census indicated there were 467 Chinese in Louisiana which is somewhat at odds with a 1873 New Orleans newspaper report that 220 Chinese were brought to Louisiana and 55 to Arkansas in 1869. A much larger discrepancy with the 1880 Census count existed with the 2,000 Chinese claimed by Chinese labor contractors.


Not having had direct contact with Chinese immigrant labor, it is not surprising that efforts had to be made to persuade some planters that the Chinese would be a valuable source of cheap and reliable labor. Newspapers published praise of Chinese workers to reassure the skeptical.


The article went on to say that "It remains to be seen how John Chinaman will be received in the South. The experiment is to be made on a scale worthy of the great national question of labor.  Five hundred Chinamen have been landed or will be landed at Memphis in a few days, and then will be scattered through the large and small towns of the South...Ir remains to be seen how the Oriental will stand the stern Anglo Saxon southern test of labor, capacity and availability."

Only 4 years later, in 1873 Chinese laborers from Indianapolis moved to Augusta, Georgia to work on the construction of the Augusta canal.  The Augusta Chronicle on Nov. 5, 1873 confirmed that 25 "Celestials" (as they referred to Chinese then aside from "Chink" and "John Chinaman") had arrived the previous morning via the Georgia Railroad. A labor contractor, Mr. E.L. Rider, himself half Chinese, arranged to bring them from Indianapolis where they had been working to help expand the Augusta Canal.

Curious onlookers gathered as most of them had never seen a Chinaman before. Another 30 were on the way. How many, if any, of these men stayed in Augusta is unknown, but it seems plausible that some of them did. If so, they would have been among the few Chinese in Augusta. where eventually there were several hundred Chinese including women and children, making it the largest Chinese community in the southeast.

One forecast in the Macon, GA. Weekly Telegraph on May 21, 1869 predicted that legal barriers would not be created to stem the "overwhelming floods" of Chinese that were certain to come to the South, immigrants who would not be content to work on plantations.


 An economic depression hit the country in the 1870s and fears that cheap Chinese labor would deprive white Americans of work combined with xenophobic reactions to these foreigners with different customs and language generated growing opposition against Chinese laborers.

In contrast, less vocal advocates of the use of Chinese labor such as a writer for the Augusta Chronicle tried to reassure the public that the size of the threat of a handful of Chinese was minimal.


The 1869 prediction proved both right and wrong. Large numbers of Chinese did come to the U. S., as forecast, but the prediction that no legal bars would be imposed was dead wrong.  The Chinese Exclusion Law passed in 1882, and would last until 1943. drastically curtailing Chinese immigration for decades.




6/9/14

Fong Chun Shee, Procuress of Chinese Sex Slaves, 1887

     The Chinese Exclusion Law of 1882 created an unintended opportunity for unscrupulous exploitation of young Chinese women who were forced into lives of prostitution.  Chinese laborers, unable to bring their wives from China and blocked from marrying white women by anti-miscegenation laws, provided a large demand for the illicit sex trade. There were many accounts of girls in China sold into slavery, kidnapped, or deceived into coming to Gold Mountain where they were forced to become prostitutes.

On November 23, 1887, a Chinese woman named Fong Chun Shee was accused of bringing three young Chinese girls for "immoral purposes." She allegedly bought the young girls, who came from the poorest level of society, from their mothers and supplied the girls with false identities.

Fong Chun Shee, Accused Procuress

Immigration officials found incriminating letters in a tin box containing letters instructing the three girls how to answer the questions that they would receive when they reached San Francisco.  They memorized details of false identities that claimed they were older than they actually were and that they were coming to the U.S. to join their husbands whom they had married back in China.  However, when confronted with the letters, the girls confessed that the personal information they gave was false.  

At the trial on Jan. 10, 1888, One girl, Lee Sing Tsoy, testified her mother sold her for $620 to the defendant,  Another girl, Chung Sing Chin stated she had been sold for $420, and all her expenses were paid by the defendant with the understanding she would become a prostitute in this country.  


 

Fong Chun Shee, despite the strong evidence against her, was not convicted as the jury was not persuaded in two trials, and it appeared unlikely that there would be any further attemtp.  The slave girls who testified against Fong Chun Shee were deported back to China.



6/3/14

Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War: National Park Service Book for Winter 2014-15

The participation of Asians and Pacific Islanders soldiers in the Civil War is not generally known. This winter, the National Park Service will publish a book to recognize these few men who fought in the Civil War on both sides of the conflict.










5/31/14

The Mandarin Cafe of the 1930s in Bakersfield


Gilbert Gia, a local historian of Bakersfield, California, shared nostalgic reflections about the the Mandarin Cafe, a Chinese restaurant and night club owned by Earl and Alice Wong that flourished briefly from the mid to late 1930s as seen through the eyes of Carlye Nelson, a musician who performed in the 4 man band that played for dances nightly at the Mandarin.


"Earl Q. Wong, was born in China, married Alice Mar in 1919, and 
in the early 1920s the family came to Bakersfield. In 1923 the Wongs 
bought a residential lot near today’s downtown  Bakersfield in the 
Hudnut tract near 27th and O Streets."

"Earl Wong’s son Delbert (who would go on to be the first Chinese American
to graduate from Stanford Law School, and the first Chinese American to be 
appointed to the bench in the continental United States and later serve on the 
Superior Court) recalled that by 1926 his father was “just getting started in
his Lincoln Market.”  Explaining why or how his father got into the cafe business, 
Delbert noted that "I have a vague recollection that the reason my father went into
the night club business was that he had extended credit to the previous owner, who 
was a customer of the Lincoln Market, and my father had to take over the 
Mandarin when the customer was unable to pay."

"In 1934 Earl Wong bought the Lido Café from Joseph Cinelli and 
Angelo and Julia Pierucci, changed the name to the Mandarin Café,  and 
with his wife went into the nightclub business in 1935. 

“We played seven nights a week from 9 PM 'til two, plus a Friday 
afternoon show rehearsal. Our four-piece orchestra consisted of a 
trumpet (Laurie), piano (Mike Richmond), drums (Gifford), and me on the 
sax, and I doubled on the violin. Word of what to expect in music at 
the local clubs circulated among show performers, and we had an 
excellent reputation. We were also popular with the local dancing 
customers, and although the dance floor was small, it saw a lot of 
action. The floor was painted in a spider web motif, and in the center 
of it was a glass lens that had a spotlight under it.

“The mistress of ceremonies was a more-or-less permanent girl who 
had a taste for alcohol and who could sing as well as “M.C”. Besides 
her salary, the club gave her a discount on the drinks she consumed. 

“The mandarin was a good place to work. The bartenders and cooks 
were Chinese. The cooks--who lived in the basement--were pleasant but 
would tolerate no outsiders in their kitchen. At first Mrs. Wong would 
get coffee for us, but later they put the coffee urn where we could 
reach it ourselves without bothering the cooks. If we wanted to eat at 
the club, we could get it for half price. 

The Mandarin Café and Night Club closed in 1938 but reopened in 
1939 under new ownership as Club Cathay. In later years it was the 
Nanking Café. Today a parking structure stands where dancers once spun 
under a "cobweb" ceiling. Also gone today is a word that was at one 
time commonly understood.


5/14/14

Chinese To The Deep South

       It is no surprise that the early Chinese immigrants in the middle 19th century arrived and mostly settled on the west coast and that some moved toward the Rocky mountains when Chinese were recruited to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad in the mid 1860s. What is not so easy for many to comprehend is why and how small numbers of Chinese gravitated to the Deep South, especially Mississippi and Georgia, by the 1870s.
 Southern solution for  Chinese :problem'
       One key factor was the end of slavery in 1865, which posed a serious threat to the availability of cheap labor for the South.  Many freed slaves became part of the Great Migration to the large cities of the North such as Chicago.  At the Memphis Convention of cotton plantation owners from several states in July, 1869, a proposal was made to recruit Chinese workers, especially because with the recent completion of the transcontinental railroad in May, 1869, many Chinese were no longer needed in railroad work although some did find work on smaller regional rail lines.  Chinese workers were viewed as a source of cheap labor to replace blacks in the cotton and rice fields of the South. In Augusta, Georgia, Chinese in the north were recruited to fill the need for cheap labor to help build the Augusta Canal to supply hydroelectric power for their textile mills.
New York Times, Aug. 17, 1869
           Other parts of the South also showed interest in recruiting Chinese labor.  Savannah was receiving 14 Chinese to work on rice plantations across the Savannah river in South Carolina.
May 21, 1869




1874. Chinese coming to Savannah.
      In addition, there were some objections among townspeople about bringing Chinese.  Fears that hordes of Chinese would overrun communities arose such that Augusta recruiters tried to reassure residents that there were "not more than thirty Chinamen there."
Augusta Chronicle, 1886
     Blacks, who were likely to be displaced by Chinese, showed both curiosity and hostility toward these foreigners when they first arrived in their Chinese attire, queues, and strange sounding language. An editorial in a Vicksburg, Mississippi paper reflecting on the expulsion of Chinese from California in the 1880s. observed that if negroes are duped to make an exodus to the frozen North, the South will have the Chinese to replace them.


        However, once Chinese came to the South, they did not take well to plantation work in the fields, and generally preferred to open their own businesses, mostly grocery general stores and hand laundries. However, they were not well accepted and were sometimes victimized by assaults and robberies. In 1900 whites in Rosedale, Mississippi, ordered Chinese merchants to leave the country within five days, leading the Chinese to seek a meeting with the state governor who promised to protect their rights.

Rosedale, MS. crisis with Chinese merchants. Aug. 16, 1900  
Atlanta, 1913

Augusta, Georgia Sept. 17, 1910