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2 Chinese Livelihood in Rural California The Impact of Economic Change, 1860-1880

1. Mary Roberts Coolidge, Chinese Immigration (New York, 1909), shows how the fragile balance in the political strength of the Democratic and Republican parties in the post-Civil War period—in California as well as in the nation—led politicians to appeal to anti-Chinese sentiment to win votes, with lower-class whites participating most actively in anti-Chinese activities. Elmer Clarence Sandmeyer, The Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Urbana, 1939), states that the anti-Chinese movement had multiple causes, but singles out racial antagonism and the fear of economic competition as the most important. Gunther Barth, Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in the United States, 1850-1870 (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), argues that as sojourners the Chinese had only a limited goal in coming to the United States—to earn money—so they were viewed as unassimilable by Americans who considered their presence to be a "threat to the realization of the California vision"—the belief that the most perfect form of American civilization was "destined to culminate on the shore of the Pacific." Stuart Creighton Miller, The Unwelcome Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, 1785-1882 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969), challenges the thesis that the anti-Chinese movement was a peculiarly California phenomenon by demonstrating that Americans in other parts of the country had held negative stereotypes of the Chinese long before any Chinese immigrants set foot on American soil. Robert McClellan, The Heathen Chinee: A Study of American Attitudes Toward China, 1890-1905 (Athens, Ohio, 1971), also discusses the negative images of the Chinese in American literature, showing how Americans based their evaluations of the Chinese on "private needs and not upon the realities of Chinese life." Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971), traces the "ideological baggage'' of the anti-Chinese movement to different strands of thought which shaped the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the labor movement. By emphasizing the white workingmen's sense of displacement and deprivation in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Saxton chronicles how the anti-Chinese movement aided the skilled-crafts component of the labor movement to consolidate its own position, on the one hand, while uniting skilled and unskilled workers in a common anti-Chinese cause, on the other hand. The Chinese were perceived to be tools of monopolists, so hostility against Chinese was in part displaced hostility against those with money and power. [BACK]

2. Delber W. McKee, Chinese Exclusion Versus the Open Door Policy, 1900-1906: Clashes over China Policy in the Roosevelt Era (Detroit, 1977); and Fred W. Riggs, Pressures on Congress: A Study of the Repeal of Chinese Exclusion (New York, 1950). [BACK]

3. Rose Hum Lee, The Chinese in the U.S.A . (Hong Kong, 1960); Stanford M. Lyman, "The Structure of Chinese Society in Nineteenth-Century America" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1961); Stanford M. Lyman, Chinese Americans (New York, 1974); S. W. Kung, Chinese in American Life: Some Aspects of Their History, Status, Problems, and Contributions (Seattle, 1962); Betty Lee Sung, Mountain of Gold: The Story of the Chinese in America (New York, 1967); Francis L. K. Hsu, The Challenge of the American Dream: The Chinese in the United States (Belmont, Calif., 1971); and Jack Chen, The Chinese of America (San Francisco, 1980). [BACK]

4. Among the more respectable nineteenth-century eyewitness accounts of San Francisco's Chinatown are William W. Bode, Lights and Shadows of Chinatown (San Francisco, 1896); Iza Duffis Hardy, Through Cities and Prairie Land: Sketches of an American Tour (Chicago, 1882); William H. Irwin, Pictures of Old Chinatown by Arnold Genthe (New York, 1908); Benjamin E. Lloyd, Lights and Shades in San Francisco (San Francisco, 1876); and Helen H. Jackson, Bits of Travel at Home (Boston, 1878). Later accounts of nineteenth-century Chinese life include Alexander McLeod, Pigtails and Gold Dust: A Panorama of Chinese Life in Early California (Caldwell, 1947); and Charles Morley, "The Chinese in California, as Reported by Henryk Sienkiewicz," California Historical Society Quarterly , XXXIV (1955), 301-316. [BACK]

5. Victor G. and Brett de Bary Nee, Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown (New York, 1972); Chia-ling Kuo, Social and Political Change in New York's Chinatown: The Role of Voluntary Associations (New York, 1977); Peter Kwong, Chinatown, New York: Labor and Politics, 1930-1950 (New York, 1979); and Bernard Wong, Chinatown: Economic Adaptations and Ethnic Identity of the Chinese (New York, 1982). [BACK]

6. James W. Loewen, The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White (Cambridge, Mass., 1971); and Melford S. Weiss, Valley City: A Chinese Community in America (Cambridge, Mass., 1974). [BACK]

7. The word "lived" is used only for convenience. Since the Chinese population in the American West in the nineteenth century was a highly mobile one, given the nature of the work they did, census counts of the Chinese population represent the demographic distribution only at particular points in time. [BACK]

8. Glimpses of the Chinese in rural California may be found in several kinds of travellers' accounts: articles written by reporters sent out by eastern newspapers that appeared in serial form, sections on the Chinese in books written by contemporary observers, and occasional references to the Chinese in unpublished diaries and reminiscences. There is also scattered mention of the Chinese in local histories. [BACK]

9. George F. Seward, Chinese Immigration: Its Social and Economic Aspects (New York, 1881); and Ping Chiu, Chinese Labor in California, 1850-1880: An Economic Study (Madison, 1967). [BACK]

10. In the four scrapbooks of newspaper clippings on the Chinese collected by Hubert Howe Bancroft's assistants, only a dozen or so items out of several thousand are non-judgmental in tone. See Bancroft Scraps , vols. 6-9, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. [BACK]

11. Among the most complete runs of manuscripts in Chinese are the business records of Chung Tai, a general merchandise firm in North San Juan, Nevada County; the business records of Wing On Wo, a firm in Dutch Flat, Placer County; and disinterment lists from the Chinese cemetery at Fiddletown, Amador County. The first two items—and less complete records of other Chinese stores and several gambling houses in rural California—are at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, while the third item is in the Chinese American History Archives, Asian American Studies Library, University of California, Berkeley. [BACK]

12. For a discussion of the value of county archival documents for researching Chinese American economic and social history, see Sucheng Chan, "Using California County Archives for Research in Chinese American History," Annals of the Chinese Historical Society of the Pacific Northwest , I (1983), 49-55. [BACK]

13. Besides, a study of the Chinese in Butte County has already been published: Susan W. Book, The Chinese in Butte County, California, 1860-1920 (San Francisco, 1976). [BACK]

14. The 1860 census counted 34,933 Chinese, of whom 433 were below age fifteen. I am making the assumption that the 34,500 Chinese above age fifteen were gainfully employed. Of these, 24,282 were miners. There were 58,291 non-Chinese miners among 184,692 gainfully employed non-Chinese adults. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States: Population, 1860 (Washington, D.C., 1864), 26 and 35. [BACK]

15. Chiu, Chinese Labor in California , 25-26. [BACK]

16. Based on my tally of miners in Yuba County, the townships with relatively large numbers of Chinese miners were Long Bar Township with 494 Chinese and 250 non-Chinese miners, North-east Township with 161 Chinese and 226 non-Chinese miners, Foster Bar Township with 271 Chinese and 245 non-Chinese miners, and Slate Range Township with 272 Chinese and 538 non-Chinese miners. The townships with few Chinese were Rose Bar Township with 13 Chinese and 568 non-Chinese miners, Parks Bar Township with 27 Chinese and 196 non-Chinese miners, and New York Township with 64 Chinese and 407 non-Chinese miners. U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Eighth Census of the United States: Population, 1860" (Manuscript census for Yuba County, California). [BACK]

17. The figure is based on the maximum size of Chinese miners' households enumerated in the 1860 manuscript population census and on the number of partners listed in a random sample of records of mining claims and leases of mining grounds in California's mining counties. [BACK]

18. Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy , 53. [BACK]

19. Yuba County, California, "Preemptions" (Marysville, 1856-1865), 1:349 and 353. (All citations from county archival records will give the first page of the document only. All Chinese names are spelled as they appear in the county records. No consistent transliteration is used because it is not possible to do so without knowing what the Chinese characters are.) [BACK]

20. Ibid., unnumbered pages. [BACK]

21. Ibid. [BACK]

22. Yuba County, California, "Preemptions" (Marysville, 1865-1881), 2: 198, 204, 217, 224, 231, 236, 307, 329, 352, and 384. [BACK]

23. Ibid., 2: 198, 204, 217, 224, 230, 235, 352, and 383. [BACK]

24. Ibid., 2: 198, 205, 216, 224, 231, 236, 328, 351, and 384. [BACK]

25. Ibid., 2: 199, 204, 217, 225, 232, 237, and 306. [BACK]

26. My tally and computation are from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Eighth Census of the United States: Population, 1860" (Manuscript census for Sacramento, Yuba, and San Joaquin counties, California). It should be noted that my tallies do not always coincide with the figures given in the published census; after discovering numerous computation errors in the published census, I decided to trust my own counts. [BACK]

27. Prostitutes have been included in the "personal service" category because their function is to satisfy the personal, sexual needs of their customers. Others may disagree with my reasoning and choose to list them either as "laborers," since their work provides profits for pimps and brothel owners, or as "professionals"—prostitution being referred to as the "oldest profession.'' [BACK]

28. My tally and computation are from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Eighth Census of the United States: Population, 1860" (Manuscript census for Sacramento, Yuba, and San Joaquin counties, California). [BACK]

29. Varden Fuller, "The Supply of Agricultural Labor as a Factor in the Evolution of Farm Organization in California," in U.S. Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Hearings Pursuant to Senate Resolution 266 , 76 Cong., 3 sess., Part 54, Exhibit A (1940), 19777-19898; and Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (Boston, 1939). [BACK]

30. Accounts of acts of violence against Chinese miners—some resulting in death—as reported in local newspapers were sometimes reprinted in the San Francisco press. For example, the San Francisco Bulletin (Dec. 18, 1856) reprinted an item from the Shasta Republican stating that "hundreds of Chinese" had been "slaughtered in cold blood" during the last five years by "desperados," and that Francis Blair was the first white man ever to be hanged for murdering Chinese. The San Francisco Bulletin (May 19, 1857) reprinted an item from the Auburn Placer Press reporting that Chinese miners at Kelly's Bar had been robbed by men with double-barreled guns; the writer noted that though the Chinese recognized the robbers as men who had previously robbed them at Dutch Ravine, they could not hope for justice since Chinese testimony was not accepted in court. [BACK]

31. Lucie Cheng Hirata, "Free, Indentured, Enslaved: Chinese Prostitutes in Nineteenth-Century America," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society , V (1979), 13, states that the "higher-class" prostitutes served only Chinese customers, while the "lower-class" ones served a mixed clientele of Chinese and whites. Hirata based her assertion on undocumented and somewhat casual remarks in Charles Caldwell Dobie, San Francisco's Chinatown (New York, 1936), 195, 242-243. [BACK]

32. There are problems with figures for the 1870 census. Chinese are listed discretely in U.S. Bureau of the Census, Ninth Census of the United States: Population, 1870 (Washington, D.C., 1872), 722, Table XXX, column 19, but the figures there do not match those tallied by either Ping Chiu or me. Ping Chiu, who cited the same page from the same source, stated that there were 30,330 miners in 1870, of whom 17,363 were Chinese. He probably misread the published figure of 36,339 as 30,330, but there is no indication how he arrived at the figure of 17,363 since the published number was 9,087. (Chiu, Chinese Labor in California , 27.) According to my own count, there were 15,283 Chinese miners in the following counties: Del Norte, Klamath, Siskiyou, Trinity, and Shasta (in the Trinity-Klamath mining region), Plumas, Butte, Sierra, Yuba, Nevada, and Placer (in the northern mining region), El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa (in the southern mining region), and Sacramento. There were doubtless scattered clusters of Chinese miners in other counties which were not investigated; therefore, 16,000 Chinese miners is a reasonable estimate. I have used an estimated total of 43,000 miners because the number of non-Chinese miners of listed nationalities was 25,734 (sum of the nationalities listed in columns 8-18 of Table XXX cited above), the unlisted residue was 1,518, and the number of Chinese miners I counted was about 16,000. This total is about 7,000 more than the published figure of 36,339. [BACK]

33. My computation has been adapted from U.S. Bureau of the Census, Ninth Census of the United States: Population, 1870 , 722, 799. Those who use figures from the 1870 published census should realize that the subtotals given for each economic sector do not coincide with the sum of the individual occupational categories because residual categories—each containing only a small number of individuals—were not included. [BACK]

34. My tally is from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Ninth Census of the United States: Population, 1870" (Manuscript census for Sacramento, Yuba, and San Joaquin counties, California). [BACK]

35. My computation is based on U.S. Bureau of the Census, Ninth Census of the United States: Population, 1870 , 799. [BACK]

36. Ibid. [BACK]

37. The Sacramento Bee (Nov. 11, 1869) noted the presence of a "Chinese colony" whose members were successfully "cultivating the ground on a cooperative plan" on land leased from J. V. Simmons. The reporter stated that there were two white women married to two of the Chinese farmers in this group. U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Ninth Census of the United States: Productions of Agriculture, 1870" (Manuscript census for California) lists fourteen Chinese farmers—three in Franklin Township and nine in Georgiana Township, Sacramento County, and two in Merritt Township, Yolo County. These farmers grew Irish and sweet potatoes as well as vegetables on farms ranging from 25 to 340 acres in size. [BACK]

38. Sacramento County, California, "Leases" (Sacramento, 1853-1923), B: 95. [BACK]

39. The tenure status of farmers was given in U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Tenth Census of the United States: Productions of Agriculture, 1880" (Manuscript census). By matching the names of owner-operators against plat maps of Sacramento County in the California State Archives, it is possible to determine the locations of owner-operated farms—almost all of which were found on the natural levees along the rims of the delta's islands and mainland tracts. [BACK]

40. My tally and computation are from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Ninth Census of the United States: Population, 1870" (Manuscript census for Sacramento County, California). [BACK]

41. Ibid. (Manuscript census for San Joaquin and Yuba counties). [BACK]

42. Ibid. [BACK]

43. As indicated in the manuscript census, Chinese servants and cooks in rural California almost invariably lived either in the households of white families or in their own households. For that reason, I think I am justified in assuming that almost all of them worked for white employers. Kwong, Chinatown, New York , 38, made a statement which is puzzling: "They had little capital, yet wanted work that would avoid dependence on either white employers or workers. Service jobs—as laundrymen, domestic servants, workers in Chinese restaurants—fitted these requirements." In my view, domestic servants cannot be lumped together with laundrymen and restaurant workers because a very large portion of Chinese servants worked for white employers. The situation in San Francisco and New York may have differed from rural California because of a smaller percentage of live-in servants. Not having analyzed the San Francisco and New York manuscript census data, I cannot say if this was in fact the case. If it was, then such urban day-servants would indeed have interacted with their white masters less since they did not live in their employers' households. [BACK]

44. My tally and computation are from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Tenth Census of the United States: Population, 1880" (Manuscript census for Sacramento, Yuba, and San Joaquin counties). [BACK]

45. "Slickens" (sediment) from hydraulic mining in the 1860s through 1880s raised riverbeds and greatly increased the probability of floods, while simultaneously ruining the topsoil of the flooded areas. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an inverted delta which provides the only outlet to the sea for both the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. The peat islands and tracts of the delta were constantly subjected to flooding. When natural or man-made levees broke, the centers of the islands, known as the backswamps, would flood first since they were lower than the surrounding levees, and they sometimes took years to drain. Crop losses during certain years were total. [BACK]

46. This information has been drawn from numerous leases in Yuba, Sutter, and Tehama counties. [BACK]

47. My tally is from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Tenth Census of the United States: Population, 1880" (Manuscript census for Sacramento and San Joaquin counties). [BACK]

48. In the Sutter-Yuba basin, the average size of farms leased by Chinese tenants ranged from 94 acres in 1881 to 842 acres in 1875. The Chinese tenant who operated on a larger scale for a longer period of time than any of his compatriots was Chin Lung, who farmed the San Joaquin Delta from the 1890s until the end of World War I. [BACK]

49. In 1880, 60 percent of the Chinese farm laborers in Sacramento County and 30 percent of those in San Joaquin County lived in the households of Chinese farmers; in 1900, the percentages were 52 and 82, respectively. These percentages are based on my tally and computation from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Tenth Census of the United States: Population, 1880" and "Twelfth Census of the United States: Population, 1900" (Manuscript census for Sacramento and San Joaquin counties). No tally can be done for 1890 since the 1890 manuscript census was destroyed in a fire in the U.S. Department of Commerce building in 1921. [BACK]

50. My tally and computation are from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Tenth Census of the United States: Population, 1880" (Manuscript census for Sacramento, Yuba, and San Joaquin counties). [BACK]

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