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OCAW Talk Sept. 2022

Earlier this month, my brother Philip and I gave a talk to a group of people from OCAW (Organization of Chinese American Women) in Silicon Valley. Many of OCAW members are immigrants from Taiwan, and many are about my age. In the book “The Chinese in America”, author Iris Chang talked about the three waves of Chinese emigres: the first wave of over one hundred thousand laborers came to California during the gold rush era, more followed to work in railroad, mining, and farming. The majority of them were laborers, single, and came from one province in China: Guongdong. The … Continue reading OCAW Talk Sept. 2022

The Iron Chink

Here is a photo of the Iron Chink machine on display at Seattle’s Expo in 1909. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was a world fair held in Seattle to publicize the development of the Pacific Northwest. Since salmon canning was a major industry in Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century, it made a lot of sense for the Iron Chink, a fish cleaner, to be displayed in the fair. Edmund Smith invented the machine in 1903, which he named Iron Chink. By 1909, the machine was gaining acceptance by the canners and Smith was becoming wealthy. The participation in … Continue reading The Iron Chink

FINDING THE 1908 WRECKED CANNERY SHIP IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA

Just recently, in May 2022, Alaska Endeavour assembled a team of eight in an expedition to find the wreck of the Star of Bengal. Their goal is to document the forensic evidence, to collect historical documents, to register it as ahistorical site and to work towards building a memorial that would honor these who perished in the disaster. The event was reported by Alaska Endeavour: “The Star of Bengal was a 264-foot schooner that sank off Coronation Island, Alaska, on September 20, 1908. The ship was heading back to San Francisco, full of canned salmon and laborers from the cannery … Continue reading FINDING THE 1908 WRECKED CANNERY SHIP IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA

July 4th Celebration

The July 4th holiday is just around the corner and I couldn’t help but to reflect back to what it was like at the cannery in Alitak. The beginning of the salmon cannery season starts to ramp up by the end of June in Alaska. As more and more fish come in from the bay, the working hours become longer and longer. The cannery workers look forward to this particular day because it is a nice break from the standard routine, at least during lunch time. The kitchen staff and baker at the cannery in Alitak would go all out … Continue reading July 4th Celebration

AAPI Heritage Month

To celebrate AAPI Heritage month in May, Robert Palos of Alaska Bureau of Land Management decided to host a talk on the impact of Asian workers in Alaska salmon canneries. Jeff Chen, multimedia journalist from Alaska Public Media, my brother Philip and I were invited to participate in this virtual event for the employees of Bureau of Land Management. Marnie Graham, a BLM manager, gave the opening remark. She happens to have worked in Alaska canneries when she was attending college. Her experience in the egg-house brought back some fond memories since I also worked in the egg-house and as … Continue reading AAPI Heritage Month

The Price of Salmon

I hope you will judge this book by its cover and content. Jim and l are publishing “The Price of Salmon” this summer. We designed the book cover ourselves. However, our principal roles are editors. We compiled, in digital and book format, a series of newspaper articles that were first published on the San Francisco Daily 100 years ago. The writer was Max Stern, a reporter best known for his exposé of the Alaskan salmon canning industry. The original articles are available online only in facsimiles that are difficult to read and almost impossible to enjoy. The articles are valuable … Continue reading The Price of Salmon

Alaska State Museum Exhibit

While working in the Alaskan salmon cannery, I would always look forward to the several “mug-ups” we had throughout the day. These mug-ups were what we called our coffee breaks. The morning break at 9am served fresh baked pastries and cakes and then again after lunch at 3pm. Then there was one last break at 8 or 9pm which offered leftovers from the meals that day. I remember all those delicious blueberry doughnuts and coffee cake! These breaks were a way for us to recharge for another busy shift and to socialize with our fellow co-workers. Working here showed me … Continue reading Alaska State Museum Exhibit

An Article about Chinese Cannery Workers & Iron Chink

It was May 2021, when Jeff Chen, Alaska Public Media, did a story on the history of Chinese workers in Alaska salmon canneries. His 5 minutes video was shown on Alaska public TV station in May, 2021 as part of the programs to celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Month. Through Jeff Chen, another reporter from South China Post, Mark Magnier, contacted me for an interview on a written story. Mark talked to me, my brother Philip, and others over a period of 3-4 months. Eventually, he put together a pretty comprehensive story on the history of Chinese cannery workers with a … Continue reading An Article about Chinese Cannery Workers & Iron Chink

Butchering Salmon – Interior of a Canning Establishment, Astoria, Oragon

Yellow and faded, stereo view photos of the early 20th century are like old postcards. They are also like calling cards from a forgotten era. The side by side double images confound modern viewers in an unexpected way. The fact they must be viewed with an instrument in order to visualize a three dimensional image must be strange yet familiar. On the left margin of the card it identifies the Keystone View Company as the manufacturer and publisher, copyright 1904 by B. L. Singloy. On the right margin, it calls to our attention that Keystone had offices in Meadville, Pa., … Continue reading Butchering Salmon – Interior of a Canning Establishment, Astoria, Oragon

Boat Races in Lower Puget Sound

The canning industry developed in the Columbia River in the 1870s, and soon spread north to Puget Sound. What was it like working in the first Puget Sound cannery? Boat racing? Can you imagine evening boat races between Chinese and native Americans? You have to read the Mukilteo cannery story and the apparent tradition of boat racing between Chinese and the native American crews: In his report, Herbert Hunt wrote about Mukilteo Cannery and its workers: “Jackson, Myers & Company operated one of these plants at Rainier, on the Oregon side, and when the 1877 season opened, had made preparations … Continue reading Boat Races in Lower Puget Sound