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 Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Kristina (
Date:   03-13-05 13:17

Just wondering what are the earliest events in the 19th century were we see asian americans involved in westward expansion.

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Dana Parker (
Date:   03-13-05 14:06

You might start by researching the building of the first transcontinental railroad (Central Pacific R.R. and Union Pacific R.R.).

The Central Pacific, which was building east from San Francisco, had a hard time finding track laborers because everyone had "gold fever" and wanted to spend their time prospecting, hoping to strike it rich, rather than swinging a spike maul all day long for a working man's wages.

Charles Crocker, one of the owners of the Central Pacific, solved this problem by encouraging Chinese people to come here. They came by the thousands to work on the railroad.

Your library will have books on this massive undertaking, and Internet searches will also yield good results for you. Good luck on your project.

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Michael Montagne (
Date:   03-13-05 19:20

>>Charles Crocker, one of the owners of the Central Pacific, solved this problem by encouraging Chinese people to come here. They came by the thousands to work on the railroad.<<
Some accounts that I have read have at least implied that the Chinese laborers were largely involuntary, brought here against their will and forced to work. They couldn't get out of it because they were in a strange country and did not speak the language so they had nowhere to run. Their only hope of being permitted to return home was to do the job they were given. Now, I know enough about the political attitudes of modern historians to realize that that could be a highly exaggerated verion of events. Do you have any actual details about how the Chinese were recruited?
Michael Montagne

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Dana Parker (
Date:   03-13-05 20:23

Dear Michael,

Maybe so, but in a quick scan of the web site at (which is very informative, by the way), I don't see anything indicating that their work here was involuntary.

To the contrary, the web site indicates that many of them went back to China during the winters (the snow in the Sierras brought construction to a halt) then came back here in the spring.

It also states that some of the Chinese tracklayers were given the honor of laying the last rail at Promontory Point, Utah at the completion ceremonies there. Apparently, Mr. Crocker took a good deal of pride in the work that his Chinese gangs did here. They certainly worked under adverse conditions (They hung in baskets lowered by ropes over the sides of cliffs to set dynamite charges. The dynamite occasionally went off prematurely, with tragic results).

There are lots of cool photographs and references to other works on early Chinese contributions that might be of interest on this web site.


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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Michael Montagne (
Date:   03-14-05 12:22

OK, thanks a lot, I will check out that web site. I have always had my suspicions about the "forced labor" version of events.
Michael Montagne

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Rodrigo (
Date:   03-15-05 18:24

Deadwood, South Dakota also had a decent sized Chinese population in the late 1800's during their brief gold rush. Many Chinese went there to pursue gold and work after the California gold mines were tapped out. There is an article on them in this months issue of the Smithsonian Magazine. Archaeologists are unearthing structures their that belonged to members of the Chinese community and are putting together their history there that seems to have been lost to time.

One of the more prominent Chinese merchants there was a guy named Fee Long Wong who owned several businesses there and was a 'go between' the Chinese and white populations.

If you're looking for early Chinese history in the US you might look for historical societies in Idaho, as late as 1870 the Chinese made up nearly 30% of the total Idaho Territory population.


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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Michael Montagne (
Date:   03-15-05 22:21

>>If you're looking for early Chinese history in the US you might look for historical societies in Idaho, as late as 1870 the Chinese made up nearly 30% of the total Idaho Territory population.<<
No kidding? Do you know how they were treated? Were they able to own property, vote, serve on juries, etc, or were they second class citizens like southern blacks?
Michael Montagne

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: ???? (
Date:   03-16-05 15:09


The first recorded Asians in America arrived on ships that were part of the Manila Galleon trade, which was Spanish trade between Manila, Philippines and Acapulco, Mexico. During a stop-over on the Louisiana coast, some Filipino crew members jumped ship and fled into the bayous.

These "Manila Men" founded a village named Saint Malo that consisted of about a dozen small huts raised above the swamps.

Known as Tagalas, they spoke Spanish and a Malay dialect.

The Filipinos built platforms for drying shrimp in an area southeast of New Orleans in the early 1800s and started the shrimp drying industry in Louisiana and the United States.

The Saint Malo settlement was destroyed by a strong hurricane in 1915 and the Manila Village was washed away by Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Eight generations later, some of their descendants can be found living in Louisiana today.

Chinese were immigrating to California as early as 1820 and by 1870 over 49,000 Chinese lived in the state. That number increased to over 75,000 by 1880, amounting to nearly 10 percent of California's population. Of this Chinese community, 40 percent, or about 30,000 people, lived in the San Francisco Bay area.

The first anti-Chinese law passed was the Foreign Miner's License Tax of 1853, which placed a special burden on Chinese miners. The pace of these discriminatory laws increased in the 1870s, leading to the banning of Chinese from certain occupations and the adoption of anti-Chinese provisions in the new state constitution of 1877.

Because of the many restrictions on them, Chinese tended to concentrate in particular businesses; they constituted 97 percent of all persons working in cigar-making in the San Francisco area, 84 percent of the boot and shoemakers, 88 percent of the garment manufacturers and 89 percent of the laundry workers.


The California Gold Rush

Gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill, California. Chinese in the Canton area were lured by pamphlets distributed by opportunistic ship owners who hoped to fill their passenger vessels. Chinese eager to escape overpopulation, famine, and poverty that resulted from the Taiping rebellion came to California to make their fortunes in California's "Gam Saan" - Gold Mountain.


In 1852, over 20,000 Chinese--Gam Saan Haak (Travelers to Gold Mountain)--immigrated to California, looking for gold and work. That same year, the California Assembly denounced "the concentration within our state limits of vast numbers of the Asiatic races."

In May 1852, the legislature passed a second Foreign Miners' License Tax--this time aimed at Chinese immigrants. The law required a monthly payment from every miner who was not a citizen. By 1870, California had collected $5 million from Chinese miners--amounting to between 25 and 50 per cent of all State revenues.

Many of them came from the Pearl River Delta in the province of Kwangtung in South China, near Canton.

To finance their trip, most emigrants obtained credit-tickets, financed by merchants, who demanded reimbursement from relatives.

Others obtained passage from future employers. In return for the price of a ticket, the new arrivals worked until the debt was paid.

These immigrants thus became indentured servants, toiling like slaves for the merchants, companies, or individuals whose main concern was a return on the investment.

Chinese participated in the festivities celebrating California’s admission into the Union and in the Fourth of July Parade.

The first performance of Cantonese opera was held in San Francisco and the first Chinese theatre building completed. Two Chinese-language newspapers began publishing.


Yung Wing graduated from Yale, becoming the first Chinese to graduate from a United States college or university. Yung later returned to China and organized the Chinese Educational Mission, which brought over 100 Chinese boys to New England for schooling in the 1870s and 1880s.


The Transcontinental Railroad

By 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad Company had hired over 3,000 Chinese workers to build the western portion of the transcontinental railroad. Many were former miners, and were actively recruited because of their low cost. At its peak, the project hired over 10,000 Chinese workers. They provided the bulk of the labor for dangerous tasks such as chiseling and dynamiting tunnels through solid granite.

Chinese workers who dug tunnels in the high Sierra worked six days a week for $30 a month. Paid less than their Euro-American counterparts, subjected to whippings, and forbidden from quitting their jobs, 2,000 of them went on strike. They demanded $40 a month, an 8-hour workday for those working inside the tunnels, a 10-hour work day for those working outdoors, an end to corporal punishment, and the right to quit the job whenever they wanted.

The Central Pacific Railroad responded by cutting off their rations. The strike lasted one week until their food ran out, and they were forced back to work.


The Burlingame-Seward Treaty

In an effort to meet the urgent need for Chinese labor for the transcontinental railroad, the United States and the Ta-Tsing Empire of China signed a treaty granting citizens of both countries the right of free immigration with reciprocal privileges of residence, school and travel.


The Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony
California registered historical landmark No. 815

Thirty Japanese immigrants are smuggled out of Japan by a German merchant named John Henry Schnell.

They establish the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony at the Granger Ranch in Gold Hill, El Dorado County, California.

Although their initial agricultural efforts failed, they brought to the region mulberry trees, silk cocoons, tea plants, bamboo roots, and other products. According to the U.S. Census of 1870, 55 Japanese were living in the United States, and 22 of them lived at Gold Hill.

According to the 1870 census, Idaho had the largest percentage of Chinese residents in the nation - 28.5 percent - but in Boise Basin, the Chinese population was 49.3 percent.

By 1890, only 410 Chinese remained, and by 1930, only four old-timers were counted in Boise County.


Fukuin Kai - The Gospel Society

In San Francisco, the Gospel Society became the first Japanese American community organization on record. They provided services for the immigrant community, including English lessons, meeting rooms, and a boarding house. The Japanese Christian churches that were established in the 1890s grew out of this organization.


Sit Moon

Sit Moon was a Chinese immigrant who converted to Christianity and worked for 15 years in the Presbyterian Mission of San Francisco. He was hired by the YMCA in 1875 to evangelize the Chinese laborers in Hawaii. Two years later, he founded "the Chinese YMCA", You Hawk Jihu Taw Hui (the Beginning Evangelical Society of Learners).


Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886)

Lee Yick, a Chinese immigrant, had been operating a laundry in San Francisco for many years. At the time, it was against a city ordinance to operate a laundry in a wooden building without a permit. However, the Board of Supervisors had granted permits to all non-Chinese applicants except one, and none to 200 Chinese applicants.

After Lee Yick was arrested and convicted for violating the ordinance, his appeal reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where his conviction was overturned. According to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Matthews, the ordinance was applied in a discriminatory fashion.

The decision was the first time a law's application, rather than the law itself, was determined to be discriminatory. This precedent was used in the 1960s in cases seeking to strike down statutes which discriminated against African Americans.


U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)

Wong Kim Ark was born in the United States to parents of Chinese descent. In 1894, he travelled back to China to visit his parents, who had returned to their homeland. Ark was barred from re-entering the U.S. because he was not an American citizen.

Ark petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing that because he was born in the United States, he was a citizen. The Court agreed based on the 14th amendment of the Constitution, which stated:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

This landmark case reaffirmed the legal right of citizenship by birth for all Americans.


The North American Buddhist Mission

Two Amida Buddhist missionaries arrived in San Francisco to serve Japanese immigrants who had originally come from the southwestern prefectures of Japan. They were incorporated under California law as the North American Buddhist Mission, setting up Young Men's Buddhist Association (YMBA) offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fresno.

They held services in both Japanese and English, and grew to become the Buddhist Churches of America.

There were numerous anti Chinese riots and many examples of citizens protecting Chinese from rioters.

One notable example is an entire anti Chinese mop being disbursed by the bravery of one man.

His Imperial Majesty Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico is reputed to have disbursed an anti Chinese mob by positioning himself between the mob and their intended victims and praying until the mob skulked off.

The ACLU is considering filing suit on behalf of the mob.

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: jack bridges (
Date:   04-11-05 13:30

Do you know of any source that might shed light on the immigration status of Baron Makato Hagiwara who built the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park during the 1890s?

The versions easily found on the Net indicate that he was a well-to-do landscape architect who one day decided to do all this for San Francisco at his own expense. This seems quite a stretch.

His grandaughter was born in the Park in 1898. She told me a much more romantic version. She said he had been shanghaied from the Palace grounds and forced to work on a ship that docked in SF. There he identified himself to city officials. They treated him well. The Park was new. In gratitude for his good treatment at a time when Orientals in SF were treated more like outcasts, he volunteered to go back to japan and to return with the makings of the Garden. He came back to SF after two years of preparations.

She also said that McLaren and the Army promised to take care of the house. It contained a great many antiques, which McLaren offered to store in the basement of the De Young Museum. The Army gave them a two day extension. An employee of the Museum tipped off McLaren's intent to steal the antiques, some of which were then saved by a friend who took a truckload to Mill Valley. The house was bulldozed the day after the family was shipped out to a camp.

The truth of this version might be established if there is an immigration record, or other evidence that Hagiwara did not enter California before 1890.

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 Re: Asian Americans in the 19th cent

Author: Rhonda Richoux Fox (
Date:   08-08-05 03:37

You're up on your history, aren't you, anonymous? Thanks for the information. My grandfathers worked in the villages of St. Malo, Camp Dewey, and Manila village in Louisiana from about 1860 through the 1930's, when large, industrial factories took over the shrimp drying and seafood export trade. St. Malo was reduced to stumps first, and Manila Village followed in 1965. My Filipino ancestors should be given the same credit as my Cajun ancestors for the tremendous success of the seafood industry in 19th century Louisiana, and for making dried shrimp a marketable resource. (I can't pass a packet of dried shrimp in the store without thinking of my ancestors!) There names were Philip Madriaga (also called Madrigal), Baltic Borabod, and Benito Martinez, and they and their wives, children and grandchildren lived and worked in those forgotten villages. My mother, Lillian Burtanog Faxon, remembers visiting Manila Village and Camp Dewey as a child to visit relatives who were still making a living there. Thank you for mentioning this piece of Asian American history in your piece.

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