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Library of Congress Primary Sources

Subject: Manners and Customs: Chinese Life: Dupont Street

This picture of "Chinese life" shows Chinese men gambling around a table, while two women stand subserviently in the doorway. The picture is drawn with a mocking edge,  and reflects the disrespect with which many Californians viewed Chinese immigrants.

Subject: Manners and Customs: Street Corner in Chinatown, San Francisco.

This drawing of a streetcorner in Chinatown respectfully depicts the vibrant culture of the Chinese living in America. Contrary to the prejudiced caricatures of the previous editorial, this rendering presents Chinese daily life as cultured and artful.

Names: California. Chinese Population: To the Honorable the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California

This is a petition, signed by 1300 Chinese, for the inclusion of Chinese American children into the California public school system. This is significant as it demonstrates that the prejudice against the Chinese was legalized, preventing Chinese children from attending schools that their parents' tax money supported.

Names: Harper Magazine Co.: The Chinaman's New-Year

This newspaper article describes the practices of the Chinese Americans as they, the "heathen Chinese," celebrate Chinese New Year. This article exhibits the widespread prejudice in America, California especially, towards and ignorance of the Chinese and their customs.

Title: The Labor Agitators, or, The Battle for Bread: From Miscellaneous Selections: Anti-Chinese Movement & Chinese Exclusion

This book details the History of the Workingmen's Party of California, but also includes quotes from anti-Chinese movement leader Dennis Kearney. Kearney was jailed as a result of his anti-Chinese activities, and is quoted in this book as saying "The Chinese must go...Let these hell-bound villains dare to undertake to suppress the working people because they say they will not undertake to compete with cheap labor slaves."

Title: Opium Den Underground by Flash-light

This picture shows two Chinese immigrants clandestinely smoking opium.  The Chinese therefore brought a "darker side", so to speak, of their culture to the United States with them.

Group: Great China Theatre Programs

As a contrast to the pictures of the Chinese opium dens, this link shows finely printed programs from the Great China Theatre, complete with pictures of the performers and filled with Chinese characters. These theatre programs depict the beneficial cultural and artistic contributions of the Chinese to the San Francisco area.

Group: Protecting White Labor: From Harper's Weekly, Vol. 23

This picture editorial depicts the opposing sides of the debate regarding the necessity of the protection of white labor. Dennis Kearney, key anti-Chinese activist, is quoted as saying that "in the interest of peace and good government, the President must sign the Anti-Chinese bill." The opposition, exemplified by the anonymous "Intelligent Workman," counters that business and workingment have always been able to compete in the labor market, and no large military force is necessary to ensure their well-being. The fearful anti-Chinese rhetoric and less-xenophobic logic embody the prevalent debate of the time.

Theme: Address of the Committee of Fifty to the People

Anti-Chinese rhetoric evolved into legal crusades for the exclusion of the Chinese from California schools, labor markets, and even from living in California towns. The Committee of Fifty, comprised of fifty men from the 9th through the 13th Districts, renounced Capital officials for disapproving "reasonable and rightful measures for ridding us of the peaceful invasion of the subjects of the Mongolian Empire." The "President by fraud" refers to President James A. Garfield, who was nominated at the Republican National Convention for Presidential candidate, as a means of resolving a deadlock, even though he attended to support John Sherman. "President by accident" refers to President Chester. A. Arthur, who became President upon Garfield's assassination.

Theme: Indenture of Ahine, Chinaman

This legal document, dated August 3, 1849, officially recognizes "Ahine, Chinaman" as an indentured servant, who will come from Hong Kong to San Francisco to work as a "coolie." This artifact is significant, as the indentured servitude of the Chinese that came to America began with the Sino-American Treaty of Wangxia, following the Opium War of 1839-1942.

Created by Jessica Hannah. Revised 2-16-2009.