Chinese Contractors

We just released Ah King’s story on our website this month. Under the sub-category of Contractors, you will now find three new independent pages we added recently for Ah King, Chin Gee Hee, and Gong Dip. It happens that they all were successful Chinese merchants and probably knew each other working in Seattle at the turn of the twentith century. These stories of Chinese contractors from the northwest will greatly complement and argument the other stories of Chinese contractors and workers in California that we have compiled. In addition, there is a new page on Chinese Contractors under the tab of Canning … Continue reading Chinese Contractors

Li Gongpu

Li Gongpu (or Gongbu) was an intellectual and writer and became a well-known Chinese social activist and was one of the founders of the Chinese Democratic League and also served in the National Revolutionary Army. After serving, he came to the US to attend Portland’s Reed College in 1927 to study Political Science. During this time, he was still contributing articles to a magazine in Shanghai related to his American experiences and Western democratic systems when he decided to work in an Alaskan salmon cannery in the summer of 1928. He described his experiences at the Union Bay cannery, which … Continue reading Li Gongpu

Lee Mee Gin’s story

After publishing of the book “The Price of Salmon” in the summer of 2022, I received a message from Debbie Jiang who read about the news. In her email, she told me of a Portland Chinese contractor by the name of Lee Mee Gin. Debbie wrote: “I accidentally discovered the cannery middleman when I was researching my cousin’s father-in-law. Have you heard of Mr. Lee Mee Gin?  He owned and operated Kwong Lun Tai, a dry goods store, among other things.  He also was a contractor for Chinese workers heading to the canneries in Alaska. Mr. Lee was Portland’s Chinatown’s mayor and … Continue reading Lee Mee Gin’s story

A Forgotten Chapter of the American Chinese History?

Last month, we were invited by the Chinese American Heritage Foundation to present a talk on the book we edited and published this summer, “The Price of Salmon.” One question that come up consistently in our webinars is “Why is the history of the Chinese Americans in the salmon canning industry so rarely been heard or talked about?” The contribution the Chinese Americans made in the salmon canning industry was significant. The Chinese labor force dominated the industry from 1870 to 1910. At its peak, thousands of Chinese laborers went up to Alaska and worked in the canneries. The Chinese … Continue reading A Forgotten Chapter of the American Chinese History?

Seid Chee

Anacortes on Fidalgo Island in Washington state had a rapidly growing canning industry that started in 1893 and then the last cannery closed there in 1999. Both salmon and cod were processed in the canneries on the island.  At the peak of the industry, there were 11 canneries there. Seid Chee was a Chinese labor contractor and hired laborers to work in the salmon canneries in Anacortes in the early 1900s. He also supervised them as well. There are records that at one point, he did live in Portland, Oregon. It is very interesting to see an actual Chinese labor … Continue reading Seid Chee

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