Home | Bookstore | School Visit | Book Tour | Ordering Info | Contact Us | Inquiry | eCatalog | Request Catalog | Submission Guidelines | Memoriam
Page 09~10


Many Chinese entered into the laundry business. And, most people came to associate Chinese people with "laundry." One of the reasons many Chinese chose laundry as their business was because it took little capital to operate - one only needed soap, a scrub board, an iron and an ironing board. The price for laundering shirts dropped to ten cents each versus the fifteen cents charged by other Americans. Most Chinese laundrymen worked at least 12 hours a day and often roomed in the store where they worked.

In 1872, the Los Angeles City Council passed a $5 license tax ordinance on hand laundry businesses. Most of the 15 Chinese laundries refused to pay. Their proprietors were arrested and taken to court, where some paid the taxes, others served five-day jail terms instead of paying. Despite regulations, the number of Chinese-owned and operated laundries reached a peak of 52 in the city in 1890, with an estimated employment of more than 500 people. By 1896, the Wong and Lew families were running a chain of 35 laundries that employed many local Chinatown residents. Chinese became closely associated with the laundry business. It was one of their predominant occupations for well over half a century.
Page 13~14


By 1870, the Chinese population in Los Angeles County had increased to 234 with 172 in the area close to the Plaza concentrated along the Negro Alley, which was 50 feet wide and one block long and located between the old Plaza and old Arcadia Street. It was an area surrounded by slaughterhouses, railroad yards and the Plaza.

As the Chinese began to compete with white workers, the anti-Chinese sentiment became widespread and grew in intensity. On October 24, 1871, the infamous Chinese Massacre took place. Two disputing Chinese accidentally killed Robert Thompson. That evening, a mob of about 500 whites killed 19 Chinese and looted Negro Alley. Every Chinese-occupied building on the block was ransacked and almost every resident was robbed. The man who actually shot Thompson escaped punishment, and only a few of the guilty members of the mob were imprisoned at San Quentin for a short period. The massacre caused substantial losses to the Chinese.

Los Angeles, at that time, was still a little-known "backwater town," and when news of the massacre and subsequent lawlessness spread to the East Coast, it became front-page headlines, even bigger news than the 1871 Chicago fire.
Page 23~24


In 1882, the first Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, suspending most immigration for ten years. It was the first time in U.S. history that restricted a certain class of immigrants from entering the country. The Act forced the Chinese who were not working and living on farms and ranches, to isolate themselves in Chinatown, where they became involved in occupations geared toward serving their own ethnic community. This helped them avoid competition with whites. At the same time, it was difficult for Chinese to live outside Chinatown unless they lived inside laundries or as live-in servants. In 1884, the Chinese Exclusion Act was clarified to ensure that the wives of Chinese laborers would also be denied entrance to the United States. As a result, a life of bachelorhood was formed for male Chinese laborers remaining in the country. When the law was renewed in 1892, a proviso called the Geary Law was added, requiring Chinese residents to register or face deportation.

It was a dark time in the history of human relations between whites and Chinese. The Chinese were made scapegoats for perceived economic problems. A dramatic example of such anti-Chinese activity was the expulsion of Chinese residents from Pasadena in 1885. It was caused by a downtown fire which was wrongfully blamed on a Chinese. Many Chinese families were forced to leave downtown Pasadena within 24 hours. As a result, some moved to the area now known as Los Angeles Chinatown.

Copyright © East West Discovery Press. All rights reserved.