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?

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

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

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

A Tribute to Chinese Laborers from SF

About two month ago, one morning, one of my tennis friends said to me “I saw an article about your coming presentation on the newspaper today.” The next day, he brought me a clipping of the article from SF Chronicle. It was the first time I read the article, but it was only recently that I found it online. Carl Nolte, a renowned writer of a weekly column, Native Son, for SF Chronicle, contacted us in mid-March about the story of Chinese laborers from San Francisco. It was published on March 20th, just a week before our free MESS lecture … Continue reading A Tribute to Chinese Laborers from SF

Chinese History of Alaska’s Canning Industry

Katherine Ringsmuth, a historian and a professor at University of Alaska, first introduced me to Jeff Chen who is a video producer for Alaska Insight, a public affairs show on Alaska Public Media. Jeff was interested in doing a story on the contribution of Asian cannery workers in salmon canning industry, starting with the Chinese workers. Jeff called me about this project, and I suggested a number of people he could talk to. However, due to the time constraint of the video, Jeff had to limit the number of people in the interviews to three, which include Katherine, myself, and … Continue reading Chinese History of Alaska’s Canning Industry

MESS lecture event 3/25/2021

It just happens that we were the speakers at the first MESS lecture series offered by the SF Maritime Research Center Library together with SF Maritime National Park Association. At first, one might not see the connection between SF Maritime Research Center and the cannery story. However, as it is well known in the Bay Area, Balclutha, the windjammer, is the crown jewel of Maritime National Historical Park’s collection of ships. Balclutha, also known as the Star of Alaska, was used as a cannery transport ship from 1902 to 1930. Each spring, it carried hundreds of fishermen and cannery workers … Continue reading MESS lecture event 3/25/2021

The Pioneers of the Salmon Canning Industry

If we want to talk about the history of the salmon canning industry, we have to start with the pioneers of this industry: the Hume brothers (William Hume, George, John and Robert) and their friend Andrew Hapgood. The Hume brothers were also the first ones to hire the Chinese workers in 1870; without them, the Chinese might never get a foothold in the cannery labor market. The Hume brothers played an important role in the founding and establishment of this industry. Before the gold rush, the Hume brothers were living in Maine; and they came from an Irish fishing family … Continue reading The Pioneers of the Salmon Canning Industry