Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown


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Angry and worried Chinese communities reacted by hiding those that were sick. On March 13, another lab animal, a monkey, died, who was exposed to the plague. All the dead animals tested positive for the plague bacteria. Surgeon General Walter Wyman informed the San Francisco doctors at the end of March that his laboratory confirmed the fact that fleas can carry the plague and transmit it to a new host.

Allied with powerful railroad and city business interests, California governor Henry Gage publicly denied the existence of any pestilent outbreak in the San Francisco, fearing that any word of the bubonic plague 's presence would deeply damage the city's and state's economy.

Gage that he intervene. Secretary Gage agreed, creating a three-man commission of investigators who were respected medical scholars, experienced with identifying and treating the plague in China or India. The commission examined six San Francisco cases and conclusively determined that bubonic plague was present. As with the findings of Kinyoun, the Treasury commission's findings were again immediately denounced by Governor Gage.

In his retaliation, Gage denied the federal commission any use of the University of California's laboratories in Berkeley to further study the outbreak, by threatening the university's state funding. The clash between Gage and federal authorities intensified. Wyman instructed Kinyoun to place Chinatown under a second quarantine, as well as blocking all East Asians from entering state borders. Wyman also instructed Kinyoun to inoculate all persons of Asian heritage in Chinatown, using an experimental vaccine developed by Waldemar Haffkine , one known to have severe side effects.

Spokesmen in Chinatown protested strenuously; they did not give their permission for this kind of mass experimentation.

The legacy of San Francisco's Chinatown

Not quite a class action suit , the arguments included similar wording such as complaints that all residents of Chinatown were being denied "equal protection under the law" , part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US constitution. Federal judge William W. Morrow ruled uncharacteristically in favor of the Chinese, largely because the defense by the State of California was unable to prove that Chinese Americans were more susceptible to plague than Anglo Americans.

The decision set a precedent for greater limits placed on public health authorities seeking to isolate diseased populations. Between and , the plague outbreak continued to worsen. In a address to both houses of the California State Legislature , Gage accused federal authorities, particularly Kinyoun, of injecting plague bacteria into cadavers , falsifying evidence. The bill failed in the California State Legislature , yet laws to gag reports amongst the medical community succeeded in passage and were signed into law by the governor. Despite the secret agreement allowing for Kinyoun's removal, Gage went back on his promise of assisting federal authorities and continued to obstruct their efforts for study and quarantine.

A report issued by the State Board of Health on September 16, , bolstered Gage's claims, denying the plague's outbreak. Widespread racism towards Chinese immigrants was socially accepted during the initial time of the Chinatown plague in the early s. Standard social rights and privileges were oftentimes denied to the Chinese people, as shown in the way American landlords would refuse to maintain their own property when renting to Chinese immigrants. Housing for the majority of Chinatown Chinese immigrants were not fit nor adequate for human living, but with scarce housing options and America landlords unwilling to provide equal and fair housing, Chinese immigrants were left little option other than to live with such housing disparities.

San Francisco's quarantine measures were explicitly discriminatory and segratory, allowing European Americans to leave the affected area, but Chinese and Japanese Americans required a health certificate to leave the city. Residents were initially angered as those with jobs outside of San Francisco were prevented from working. Few Chinese agreed to take the inoculation, specially after press reports on May 22, , that people who did agree were experiencing severe pain from the untested vaccine.

Defendants included Joseph J. Kinyoun and all of the members of the San Francisco Board of Health. The Chinese wanted the courts to issue a provisional injunction to enforce what they argued was their constitutional right to travel outside of San Francisco. Judge William W. Morrow ruled [ when? The ruling required that the same restrictions, if any, be applied to everyone no matter their ethnic group. The defendants did not have enough evidence to prove that the Chinese were transmitting the plague.

Morrow agreed with the argument that if they were, the city would not have permitted them to roam the streets of San Francisco. White Americans that were walking the streets of Chinatown were allowed to leave; everybody else was forced to stay. The Health Board had to approve whether or not any health official crossed into the quarantined area. Kinyoun's lab confirmed the disease was bubonic plague and informed the Health Board right away.

In an attempt to avoid a second controversial quarantine, the Health Board continued with a house-to-house inspection to look for possible plague infested households — disinfecting those that were thought to be at risk of infection. On the contrary, other residents did not support the inspection and that the disinfecting plan was not being done in good faith.

Believing a second quarantine would be soon implemented, worried residents began to flee quietly and hide in friends' houses outside of Chinatown. As days passed, more dead bodies were reported and autopsies revealed the presence of plague bacilli, indicating that a plague epidemic had hit San Francisco's Chinatown, but the health board still was trying to deny it. The health board attempted to keep all the information regarding the outbreak secret by implementing strict regulations of what physicians could write official death certificates.

The official inspection and disinfection of Chinatown finally began, thanks to the monetary contributions of the supervisors of the volunteer physicians, policemen, and inspectors that participated in the actual disinfection campaign. The sanitizing of Chinatown began to show results as the death toll slowly dropped throughout the month of March and the beginning of April. The cause of death of Law An was determined to be bubonic plague.

News travels fast

After that, a few more Chinese residents that died suddenly were determined to be infested with plague bacilli. The controversy of the vaccination program organized by Kinyoun with the help of Surgeon General Wyman spiked. The plan was to inoculate the Chinese residents with Haffkine's vaccine , a prophylactic anti-plague vaccine that was intended to provide some protection against the plague for a 6-month period.

No one spoke about the side effects and that the vaccine was still not approved for humans. At first, representatives of the Chinese community had agreed that inoculating the population with such serum could be a reasonable and safe solution, but soon after agreed with the rest of the Chinese population in that it was not ethical to try the vaccine in humans first. The representatives from the Chinese Six companies demanded the vaccination program to be eliminated as an option, and with much pressure and insistence from the Chinese community the vaccination program was halted.

However, by then hundreds of Chinese, Japanese, other residents had already received the vaccine and were showing signs of horrific side effects from the injection. Joseph J. Kinyoun was feeling the pressure of the public to clear his reputation. He summoned the help of U. Surgeon General Walter Wyman to bring someone from the outside to investigate Kinyoun's procedures. White to manage the investigation surrounding all of the Pacific Coast stations.

White wanted to focus on how food was handled while being imported from China and Japan. Kinyoun tried to hinder these advances because he did not want to publicly admit that there was an outbreak. White made his appearance in January White and Kinyoun attended the autopsy of Chun Way Lung who was said to have suffered from gonorrhea. Wilfred Kellogg and Henry Ryfkogel conducted the autopsy and achieved respect from White by revealing that Lung had died from the bubonic plague.

White concluded that Kinyoun's bacteriological confirmation could no longer be credible. Governor Gage refused to support the diagnoses that were verified by the competent Pasteurians in San Francisco. Kinyoun was starting to express his frustration and suggested that independent outside experts confirm that the plague was present.

White agreed and passed this information to the surgeon general. Kinyoun desired that his reputation be restored and that his findings were valid so that he could continue to investigate plague cases. The three scientists were appointed to an official commission to prove if the plague existed. Gage reacted by sending a telegram to President William McKinley urging that the federal experts work with state health authorities. Gage's request was not granted because the federal government wanted the commission to be allowed to work independently.

They would relay all of their findings to the treasury department and then forwarded to Gage. Flexner, Novy, and Barker scheduled an inspection of the sick and dead on February 6. The federal investigators split up the duties. Novy carried out bacteriological tests, while Barker accompanied by a Chinese interpreter visited the sick. By February 12, the team had studied six cases that all identified the characteristics of bubonic plague.

This was confirmed by pathological and bacteriological data. Flexner, Novy, and Barker completed their investigation on February They met with Governor Gage the same day and informed him of their conclusion. Gage was upset and accused them of being a threat to public health. Over the next few weeks Gage questioned the diagnoses and blocked the publication of the final report. He blamed the commission of being biased and influenced by Kinyoun. Finally the two senators for California proposed that Gage needed to engage in friendly cooperation with federal authorities.

Gage sent representatives to Washington to reach an agreement for federal authorities to suppress their findings concerning the plague in San Francisco. The federal authorities agreed to these demands after Gage's representatives verbally pledged to manage a sanitary campaign in Chinatown. This would be done secretively under the guidance of an expert from the Marine Hospital Service This deal was designed to avoid impairing the state's reputation and economy. Surgeon general Wyman took the majority of the blame. He was accused of violating U.


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Wyman and President McKinley destroyed the credibility of the American public health in the eyes of the nation and abroad. Countering the continued denials made by San Francisco-based newspapers, reports from the Sacramento Bee and the Associated Press describing the plague's spread, publicly announced the outbreak throughout the United States. The state governments of Colorado , Texas and Louisiana imposed quarantines of California — arguing that since the state had refused to admit to a health crisis within its borders, states receiving rail or shipping cargo from California ports had the duty to protect themselves.

As the general elections approached, members of the Southern Pacific board and the "Railroad Republican" faction [61] increasingly saw Gage as an embarrassment to state Republicans. Gage's public denials of the plague outbreak were to protect the state's economy and the business interests of his political allies.

At the state Republican convention that year, the Railroad Republican faction refused Gage's renomination for governorship. In his place, former Mayor of Oakland George Pardee , a German-trained medical physician, received the nomination.

Pardee's nomination was largely a compromise between the Railroad Republican factions. In his final speech, to the California State Legislature, in early January , Gage continued to deny the outbreak. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Early 20th-century epidemic in the USA. Main article: Third plague pandemic. May—June Public Health Reports. Plague, fear, and politics in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Archived from the original PDF on March 31, Retrieved October 6, November American Journal of Public Health. New York: D. July California and Western Medicine. It was advertised in a tourism guide book as a "jovial and informal Chinatown cocktail lounge" where one could find "love, passion, and nighttime". For the Chinese in Chinatown, the war came upon them in September , when Japan attacked the Manchurian city of Mukden, and became unignorable in July , when Japan launched a major offensive southward from their base in Manchuria towards the heart of China.

In response, the Chinese Six Companies convened many community organizations together, from which was founded the Chinese War Relief Association, to raise funds from the Chinatown communities through out the U. In San Francisco's Chinatown, a popular means to raise money for war relief was through the Rice Bowl parades and parties, where the appeal to fill the rice bowls of starving children victimized by the war in China resonated with the Chinatown community.

One hallmark of the Rice Bowl parade was the striking scene of a large number of Chinese-American women in fashionable Chinese dress the cheongsam carrying one huge Chinese flag spanning the width of the street, onto which money was thrown from balconies, windows, and sidewalks. Scott Wong [73] : Once China became an ally to the U. In October , Earl Warren , running for Governor of California, wrote, "Like all native born Californians, I have cherished during my entire life a warm and cordial feeling for the Chinese people.

Roosevelt ; she was the second woman and the first Chinese to address the U. The American public embraced her with respect and kindness, which is in stark contrast to the treatment of most Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans.

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In December , in recognition of the important role of China as an ally in the war, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by the Magnuson Act , which allowed for naturalization but restricted Chinese immigrants to a small annual quota of new entry visas. The repeal of the Exclusion Act and other immigration restriction laws, in conjunction with passage of the War Brides Act in December , allowed Chinese-American veterans to bring their families outside of national quotas and led to a major population boom in the area during the s.


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However, tight quotas on new immigration from China still applied until the Immigration and Nationality Act of was passed. In the landmark case of Shelley v. Kraemer , the U. Supreme Court ruled without dissent that enforcing racially restrictive covenants in property deeds violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus such covenants are unenforceable in court, which lifted the invisible walls around Chinatown, [68] permitting some Chinese Americans to move out of the Gilded Ghetto [76] into other neighborhoods of the City and gain a foothold on the middle class.

Twenty years later, such racially restrictive covenants were outlawed in the Fair Housing Act. San Francisco artist Frank Wong created miniature dioramas that depict Chinatown during the s and s. In the s, the shifting of underutilized national immigration quotas brought in another huge wave of immigrants, mostly from Hong Kong. During the same decade, many stores moved from Grant Avenue to Stockton Street, drawn by lower rents and the better transportation enabled by the Stockton Muni trolleybus line.

There were areas where many Chinese in Northern California living outside of San Francisco Chinatown could maintain small communities or individual businesses. Nonetheless, the historic rights of property owners to deed or sell their property to whomever they pleased was exercised enough to keep the Chinese community from spreading. However, in Shelley v. Kraemer , the Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional for property owners to exclude certain groups when deeding their rights.

This ruling allowed the enlargement of Chinatown and an increase in the Chinese population of the city. At the same time, the declining white population of the city as a result of White Flight combined to change the demographics of the city. Neighborhoods that were once predominately white, such as Richmond District and Sunset District and in other suburbs across the San Francisco Bay Area became centers of new Chinese immigrant communities.

This included new immigrant groups such as Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan who have tended to settle in suburban Millbrae , Cupertino , Milpitas , Mountain View , and even San Jose — avoiding San Francisco as well as Oakland entirely. With these changes came a weakening of the Tongs' traditional grip on Chinese life.

Newer Chinese groups often came from areas outside of the Tongs' control, so the influence of the Tongs and criminal groups associated with them, such as the Triads , grew weaker in Chinatown and the Chinese community.

Guenter B. Risse : 1900 - [2007] (bulk 1900 - 1905)

Five people were killed and eleven wounded, none of whom were gang members. The incident has become infamously known as the Golden Dragon massacre. Five perpetrators, who were members of the Joe Boys gang, were convicted of murder and assault charges and were sentenced to prison.

Other notorious acts of violence have taken place in Chinatown since A year-old boy was arrested for the shooting, which was believed to be gang-related. San Francisco's Chinatown is home to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association known as the Chinese Six Companies , which is the umbrella organization for local Chinese family and regional associations in Chinatown.

It has spawned lodges in other Chinatowns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Chinatown, Los Angeles and Chinatown, Portland. The Center promotes exhibitions about Chinese life in the United States and organizes tours of the area. In the s, [88] : 71—73 during the Korean war, a number of Chinese-American leaders, led by W. Wong, [89] organized the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade , [90] including art shows, street dances, martial arts, music, and a fashion show. The parade was led by Korean war veteran, Joe Wong, and featured the Miss Chinatown festival queen and the dragon.

San Francisco Chinatown's annual Autumn Moon Festival celebrates seasonal change and the opportunity to give thanks to a bountiful summer harvest. The Moon Festival is popularly celebrated throughout China and surrounding countries each year, with local bazaars, entertainment, and mooncakes , a pastry filled with sweet bean paste and egg. The festival is held each year during mid-September, and is free to the public.

Chinatown is frequently the venue of traditional Chinese funeral processions, where a marching band playing Western songs such as Nearer, My God, to Thee takes the street with a motorcycle escort. Chinatown Community Development Center is an organization formed in after the merger of the Chinatown Resource center and the Chinese Community Housing Corporation. Norman Fong on October 1, The organization advocates and provides services to San Francisco's Chinatown. They have also started many groups, Adopt-An-Alleyway Youth Empowerment Project being the most notable, [95] and have been involved with many tenant programs.

San Francisco Chinatown restaurants are considered to be the birthplace of Americanized Chinese cuisine such as food items like Chop Suey while introducing and popularizing Dim Sum to American tastes, as its Dim Sum tea houses are a major tourist attraction. Johnny Kan was the proprietor of one of the first modern style Chinese restaurants, which opened in Chinatown has served as a backdrop for several movies, television shows, plays and documentaries including The Maltese Falcon , What's Up, Doc?

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Noted Chinese American writers grew up there such as Russell Leong. Contrary to popular belief, while the Chinese-American writer Amy Tan was inspired by Chinatown and its culture for the basis of her book The Joy Luck Club and the subsequent movie , she did not grow up in this area; she was born and grew up in Oakland.

San Francisco cable cars have long served areas of Chinatown; the modern system serves the southern along California Street and western along Powell Street sections of the neighborhood. After the tracks were removed, the overhead wires were maintained and buses replaced streetcars along the route. The 30 Stockton and 45 Union-Stockton are among the most heavily ridden lines in the system.

The Broadway Tunnel was completed in and was intended to serve as a connection between the Embarcadero Freeway and the Central Freeway.

These plans did not materialize due to the highway revolts at the time. In the s, Chinatown merchants were opposed to the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, but these objections were overturned after it was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Chinatown, San Francisco disambiguation. For the former neighborhood in Toronto, see First Chinatown, Toronto. Chinatown businesses line Jackson Street , with the Bay Bridge in the background.

All great cities have their slums and localities where filth, disease, crime and misery abound; but in the very best aspect which "Chinatown" can be made to present, it must stand apart, conspicuous and beyond them all in the extreme degree of all these horrible attributes, the rankest outgrowth of human degradation that can be found upon this continent. Here it may truly be said that human beings exist under conditions as regards their mode of life and the air they breathe scarcely one degree above those under which the rats of our water-front and other vermin live, breathe and have their being.

And this order of things seems inseparable from the very nature of the race, and probably must be accepted and borne with—must be endured, if it cannot be cured—restricted and looked after, so far as possible, with unceasing vigilance, so that, whatever of benefit, "of degree," even, that may be derived from such modification of the evil of their presence among us, may at least be attained, not daring to hope that there can be any radical remedy for the great, overshadowing evil which Chinese immigration has inflicted upon this people.

Main article: Ah Toy. Main article: San Francisco plague of — Chinatown, as it is at present, cannot be rendered sanitary except by total obliteration. It should be depopulated, its buildings leveled by fire and its tunnels and cellars laid bare. Its occupants should be colonized on some distant portion of the peninsula, where every building should be constructed under strict municipal regulation and where every violation of the sanitary laws could be at once detected.

The day has passed when a progressive city like San Francisco should feel compelled to tolerate in its midst a foreign community, perpetuated in filth, for the curiosity of tourists, the cupidity of lawyers and the adoration of artists. Looking north along Grant from the intersection of Grant and Pine. The distinctive pagoda-topped roofs of the Sing Fat and Sing Chong buildings are on the left side of each picture.

As Chinese Americans became more visible in the public eye during the period leading to the U. See also: List of streets and alleys in Chinatown, San Francisco. UC Regents. Retrieved November 21, Civic Impulse, LLC. Clement Street: The "Other" Chinatown. USA, Color Plateno. Retrieved San Francisco Chronicle. October 27, Retrieved December 6, Northern California History Weekends. Globe Pequot. Retrieved 27 December The New York Times. Chinatown, roughly defined as the rectangle formed by Kearny, Powell, Broadway and Bush streets Temple University Press: p.

Twenty-nine percent of residents live below the federal poverty line. Chinese immigrants who make money tend to leave the neighborhood, moving to the Richmond District, the Sunset or the suburbs. Chinatown voters also accounted for 44 percent of the total ballots cast in District Three New America Media. Retrieved 2 December Chinatown Community Development Center. Census Bureau. Amerasia Journal. A History of the Chinese in California.

Chinese Historical Society of America. San Francisco's Chinatown.

Plague in San Francisco: 1900, the Year of the Rat

Arcadia Publishing. Appleton-Century Company. California Folklore Quarterly April : 71— Peter Lang. San Francisco: City Lights. Retrieved August 29, Journal of Presbyterian History. Unsubmissive women: Chinese prostitutes in nineteenth-century San Francisco. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Coming out under fire: the history of gay men and women in World War Two. New York: Free Press. Surviving on the gold mountain: a history of Chinese American women and their lives. San Francisco: A.

Retrieved 16 June Chinese immigration: its social, moral, and political effect Report. California State Senate. Retrieved 21 August Pacific Historical Review. Thunder's Mouth Press. Common Ground: Reimagining American History. Princeton University Press. Fascinating Women in California History. Stagecoach Publishing. University of California Press.

San Francisco's Lost Landmarks. Quill Driver Books. Retrieved 6 March Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2 August Los Angeles Herald. California State Legislature. San Francisco Call. Retrieved 16 March November American Journal of Public Health. Chicago: American Public Health Association. Annals of Internal Medicine. American College of Physicians. JHU Press. Random House Digital. Sacramento: New York University Press. Associated Press. Quake and Racism". Los Angeles Times. Journal of Migration History. The New York Times Co. Retrieved February 23, San Francisco: The Metropolis of the West. Sacramento Union.

August 7, The History of San Francisco's Chinatown reprint ed. Retrieved 8 March Forbidden City U. Watson Berkeley: University of California Press, Scott San Francisco Examiner. Reprinted in the Appendix p. ISBN Retrieved 26 August Archived from the original on August 5, Retrieved September 16, Longtime Californ': a documentary study of an American Chinatown. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown
Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown
Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown
Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown
Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown
Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Franciscos Chinatown
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