San Francisco Chinatown’s First Demonstration, 1968.
Adopting the tactics of the civil rights movement, 200 demonstrators marched through Chinatown to a rally at Portsmouth Square. They criticized the Chinatown establishment for promoting tourism instead of resolving social problems in the community, and they called for reforms in the areas of education, employment, health, housing, youth, senior citizens, and immigration. (Photographs by Harry Jew; courtesy of CHSA collection.)
Miss Lucy Tom, chief operator, looks on as telephone operators man their boards in the Chinatown Telephone Exchange which handles all of Chinatown’s incoming and outgoing calls. June 19, 1946.
For more than 50 years, the only Chinese telephone exchange outside of China itself was in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was manned by Chinese men and women who knew by heart the names, addresses and phone numbers of every one of the 2500 Chinatown subscribers. The operators, whose switchboards were flanked by two golden dragons, were fluent in English and several Chinese dialects and were even supposed to know their customers’ favorite hangouts in case they weren’t home when an urgent call came in.
Chinatown leaders under subpoena take a break during a grand jury session in a corridor of the Post Office Building. One of them sits on records of his family association, which also were under subpoena. Mar. 1, 1956. Photo courtesy of San Francisco History Center.
1955: Everett Drumwright, US consul in Hong Kong, makes an unsubstantiated claim in his Foreign Service report that virtually all Chinese in America — all the way back to the days of the California gold rush — were/are illegal aliens capable of all manner of criminal activity such as narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting currency, illegally collecting Social Security and veteran’s benefits, issuing fake passports, and spying for China. He further reported that a network of Chinese sleepers who had infiltrated the US, were waiting on orders to sabotage and destroy America.
1956: Following Everett Drumwright’s report of the previous year, the US Attorney Lloyd Burke subpoenas 40 major Chinese American associations demanding a full accounting of income, membership and photographs within 24 hours. Chinatowns on both coasts are raided frequently and business are disrupted at a loss of $100,000 a week. A federal judge eventually rules in favor of the Chinese, calling the subpoena attack a “mass inquisition.”
Deadwood Chinese Fire Department, 1888. (Photographed by John H.C. Grabill.)
Many Chinese immigrants who came to America to work on the railroads later settled in South Dakota’s Black Hills. The Chinese, early Deadwood’s largest ethnic minority, mined, opened shops and laundries and worked as domestic servants in the white community. They developed a city within a city, electing their own mayor and council and founding independent police and fire departments.
In an era of hand-pulled fire equipment, speed and coordination were essential. Teams around the region competed in annual tournaments that included hub-and-hub races (engines lined up with the hubs of their wheels above the starting line) between the fastest hose teams. Though Deadwood’s Chinese were often treated as second-class citizens, on this day they stood proudly in first place.
Wanted Bulletin for Sai Ying Lee, the sole remaining unarrested suspect in the Golden Dragon case. He has never been caught, but the arrest warrant charging him with being the getaway driver is still in effect. (Photo from SFPD.)
The Golden Dragon massacre took place in San Francisco, California, on September 4, 1977, inside the Golden Dragon Restaurant. At 2:40 AM a longstanding feud between two rival Chinese gangs, the Joe Boys and Wah Ching came to head when a botched assassination attempt by the Joe Boys at the Golden Dragon Restaurant led to the death of five people, including two tourists, and injury to 11 people, none of whom were gang members. The assassination attempt was a result of the death of another Joe Boy Felix Huey, who had died in a shootout with Wah Ching members at the Ping Yuen projects earlier that year. The Golden Dragon Massacre led to the establishment of the San Francisco Police Department’s Asian Gang Task Force.