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

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

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

Video Interview with Fred Wong

There will be an upcoming video interview with my father Fred Wong about his experiences working at the Alitak salmon cannery where he spent most of his 54 summers as the foreman. He will be discussing how he got started working up there during his summers off from teaching along with the living conditions, the various cannery duties of the workers, and changes that he’s seen in his 54 summers up there. In the meantime, please check out his personal story that’s posted on the website along with my own experiences as one of his daughters working in the same … Continue reading Video Interview with Fred Wong

Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

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 … Continue reading Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

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

Almost 50 years ago…

It was in early June 1970, that we had this photo taken at International Longshoremen and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) Local 37 in Seattle, Washington. From left, we have Michael, Philip, Jim, Allen, and Willie. It was a day of dispatching, and we were there awaiting eagerly for an opportunity to find employment in Alaska canneries. We were all college students and foreign students from Taiwan, in our late teens. My twin brother, Philip, and I, were freshmen from University of Washington. Michael and Allen are also brothers and college students, whom we had known for several years from our days … Continue reading Almost 50 years ago…

Introduction

For the last 35 years, I worked in the high tech industry in Silicon Valley, and spent a lot of time in front of computers. A few years ago, after I retired from my professional work, I started looking into the history of the Alaska canneries. It was quite a surprise to learn that the Chinese laborers were the backbone of the salmon canning industries for close to half a century from 1870s to 1920s, as they worked on the production lines and filled the lower tier of cannery employment. Towards the end of the 19th century, thousands of Chinese … Continue reading Introduction