Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

Iron Chink Bellingham 1905, Asahel Curtis, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

5 months ago, I first got an email from Mark, a reporter, asking me to do an interview for an article on Chinese cannery workers. He had recently visited Alaska and picked up our names there. We talked 2 or 3 times over the phone, and he went away. A few days ago, a friend read his article on South China Morning Post and send me the link.

Besides the history of Chinese cannery workers and our more recent ventures in Alaska, he talked a lot about Iron Chink, which is a fish cleaning machine that eventually replaced the Chinese butchers in the early 20th century. I was surprised to find the complete story behind the “Iron Chink” and the tragic story of its inventor Edmund Smith. I have a vivid memory of this monster machine, as I used to work next to them. As an eggpuller in the 1970s, there is a machine to my left that cuts the head off; then there is the Iron Chink to my right that cleans the fish. I stood between them and pulling eggs out as the fishes flew by at 80 fishes per minute. Each day, I spent 10+ hours in this wet and damp space next to the noisy machine – only I did not know it was called Iron Chink back then…

The article is well written and is very informative and makes interest reading. Here is the title and the beginning of the article:
“Chinese built the US salmon canning industry. ‘Iron Chink’ invention robbed them of their jobs – and insulted their ethnicity to boot”
“James and Philip Chiao needed money for college, but few employers wanted to hire a couple of guys from Taiwan with no experience and funny accents. After weeks spent pounding the Seattle pavement, the twins spotted an advertisement for work at a salmon…”
Read in South China Morning Post:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s