theamericanparlor:

Portrait of A Chinese Man ca 1853 – Daguerreotype, taken by Isaac Wallace Baker. Until the Xinhai Revolution in 1911 Chinese living abroad were forced to wear a queue, as an expression of their loyalty to the Manchu Qing emperor.

“When people talk about the Gold Rush, they have a certain image in mind of white forty-niners. But in fact, the Gold Rush was a major, international event that drew people from all over the world.” 

— Ming-Yeung Lu
Asian Cultural Program Coordinator

“A lot of the white miners at first willingly sold the Chinese abandoned claims, thinking the Chinese were just simple-minded people, stupid enough to take over these mines they considered worthless,” he added. “But the Chinese worked these mines very thoroughly and it turned out they were hardly worthless, that they could still, in fact, mine a lot of gold from them, at which point the white miners became envious and antagonistic.”

Significant Contributions
By 1870 there were 63,000 Chinese in U.S., 77% of whom were in California. That year, Chinese miners contributed more than $5 million to state’s coffers through the Foreign Miners Tax, almost one quarter of state’s revenue.

In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, the only American law to specifically bar one group from immigrating to the United States.

Photo Source: Oakland Museum of California 

peashooter85:

Gang War of the Old West — The Tong War of Weaverville

The California Gold Rush brought immigrants from all over the world who sought adventure, fame, and riches.  Unfortunately many of these people brought with them seedy characters and old world problems.  Among Chinese immigrants, Chinese gangs called the “tongs” settled in California seeking new opportunities among the west’s criminal classes.  Just like gangs today, the tongs conducted a wide range of criminal activity including drug smuggling (opium), prostitution, gambling, extortion, murder, theft, and sex slavery.  To portray a respectable front, they also tended to serve as rotary clubs, social clubs, and unions for the local Chinese miners.

The mining camp of Weaverville, California was home to over 2,000 Chinese immigrants and headquarters to two tongs called the Young Wo and Ah You.  In 1854, a gambling dispute and conflict over mining rights led to friction between the two rival gangs.  As one probably knows about Old West range wars and vicious gangs, this was not a situation that was going to end peacefully.  The two gangs declared “there ain’t enough room in this town for the both of us” and prepared for war.  

Immediately the two gangs began to raise militias armed with a motley collection of old world and new world weapons.  Blacksmiths were hired to produce swords, spears, shields, and armor for the tongs.  When local law enforcement authorities learned the tongs were arming, they issued fines to the blacksmiths.  Rather than stop, the blacksmiths continued production as the fine was minuscule compared to the profits they were making.  In addition to swords and spears, the tongs also acquired a number of military muskets left over from the Mexican War as well as some Colt revolvers.  To learn how to use their new firearms, which was mostly unknown to the Chinese at the time, the tongs hired white military advisers to train them.  

As word spread of the coming battle, miners from all over the region came to Weaverville to place their bets and view the spectacle.  In July of 1854 the two gangs met prepared to do battle, numbering about 260 men altogether.  At first the sides were reluctant to fight each other, instead posturing in hopes of intimidating the other side into giving up.  However, the onlookers began to incite the gangs in hopes for a bloody battle.  Finally a Dutch miner drew his pistol and fired toward one of the gangs, sparking a frenzied bout of fighting.  In an unusual display of arms, swords and spears clashed as tongs armed with muskets and revolvers also took potshots at each other.  Due to the inexperience of the amateur tong gunfighters, few bullets found their mark.  The battle raged for ten minutes before a posse organized by the local Sheriff and Federal Marshal was able to intervene and break up the fight.   By the end of the battle 8 men lay dead and a dozens were wounded.  Among those killed was the Dutch miner who, in the midst of the battle had been shot in the back of the head by a rival miner.

After the battle both tongs agreed that honor had been satisfied and made a truce.  The two tongs never fought again.

peashooter85:

Gang War of the Old West — The Tong War of Weaverville

The California Gold Rush brought immigrants from all over the world who sought adventure, fame, and riches.  Unfortunately many of these people brought with them seedy characters and old world problems.  Among Chinese immigrants, Chinese gangs called the “tongs” settled in California seeking new opportunities among the west’s criminal classes.  Just like gangs today, the tongs conducted a wide range of criminal activity including drug smuggling (opium), prostitution, gambling, extortion, murder, theft, and sex slavery.  To portray a respectable front, they also tended to serve as rotary clubs, social clubs, and unions for the local Chinese miners.

The mining camp of Weaverville, California was home to over 2,000 Chinese immigrants and headquarters to two tongs called the Young Wo and Ah You.  In 1854, a gambling dispute and conflict over mining rights led to friction between the two rival gangs.  As one probably knows about Old West range wars and vicious gangs, this was not a situation that was going to end peacefully.  The two gangs declared “there ain’t enough room in this town for the both of us” and prepared for war.  

Immediately the two gangs began to raise militias armed with a motley collection of old world and new world weapons.  Blacksmiths were hired to produce swords, spears, shields, and armor for the tongs.  When local law enforcement authorities learned the tongs were arming, they issued fines to the blacksmiths.  Rather than stop, the blacksmiths continued production as the fine was minuscule compared to the profits they were making.  In addition to swords and spears, the tongs also acquired a number of military muskets left over from the Mexican War as well as some Colt revolvers.  To learn how to use their new firearms, which was mostly unknown to the Chinese at the time, the tongs hired white military advisers to train them.  

As word spread of the coming battle, miners from all over the region came to Weaverville to place their bets and view the spectacle.  In July of 1854 the two gangs met prepared to do battle, numbering about 260 men altogether.  At first the sides were reluctant to fight each other, instead posturing in hopes of intimidating the other side into giving up.  However, the onlookers began to incite the gangs in hopes for a bloody battle.  Finally a Dutch miner drew his pistol and fired toward one of the gangs, sparking a frenzied bout of fighting.  In an unusual display of arms, swords and spears clashed as tongs armed with muskets and revolvers also took potshots at each other.  Due to the inexperience of the amateur tong gunfighters, few bullets found their mark.  The battle raged for ten minutes before a posse organized by the local Sheriff and Federal Marshal was able to intervene and break up the fight.   By the end of the battle 8 men lay dead and a dozens were wounded.  Among those killed was the Dutch miner who, in the midst of the battle had been shot in the back of the head by a rival miner.

After the battle both tongs agreed that honor had been satisfied and made a truce.  The two tongs never fought again.