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This phrase book was published in 1875 and distributed at Wells Fargo bank offices throughout the West, in cities and towns where Chinese immigrants lived and worked. Modeled on the traditional Chinese method of memorizing and reciting “sets” of information, the excerpts below reflect the challenges that Chinese immigrants faced in a…

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Item Type: Pamphlet/Petition
Date: 1875

Going to the theater was a popular form of entertainment for Chinese immigrants. By the 1880s there were several different theater companies operating in Chinatown, including this theater, located on Jackson Street. Theaters could seat several hundred people; there was usually a separate gallery for women. Performances lasted several hours, even…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: Circa 1880

In this activity, students watch short clips of the PBS/A Bill Moyers Special production of Becoming American: The Chinese Experience (2003). The documentary clips and accompanying materials cover the arrival of Chinese in California, their work on the transcontinental railroad, the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Angel Island…

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2011

Immigrants from China were among the thousands who streamed into California after the discovery of gold there in 1848. In 1852 alone, 20,000 migrants came from China seeking “Gold Mountain.” Many Chinese immigrants found some success at mining by taking over claims abandoned by other miners and methodically finding gold dust in the…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: 1852

These cards are used in the game "Let's Make an Immigration Deal."
Since their arrival in the United States in the 1850s, Chinese immigrants confronted social, political, and economic discrimination. Many Americans believed that the Chinese posed a threat to white workers and should not be eligible for citizenship. This hostility eventually led to the passage of the Chinese-Exclusion Act in 1882, which severely…

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Item Type: Newspaper/Magazine
Date: 1903

The first Chinese restaurants in America sprang up in 1850s California and catered to Cantonese miners and railroad laborers. Known as "chow chows" (Chinese slang for anything edible), they were identified by yellow triangle signs. By the 1880s San Francisco's Chinatown community supported several high-class Chinese dining establishments. Reviews…

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Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Date: 1889

During the 1870s and 1880s, San Francisco's Chinatown included as many as four theater companies that regularly performed Chinese operas and other entertainment. Tickets to evening performances usually cost 20-25 cents for Chinese (50 cents for non-Chinese); shows sometimes lasted until four the next morning. The actors were usually all men, but…

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Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Date: 1888

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of San Francisco (commonly known as "the Six Companies") was an organization of regional- and family-based self-help societies in Chinatown. They helped to get new immigrants housing, food, and jobs. In 1876, its leaders petitioned President Ulysses S. Grant and challenged the growing political…

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Item Type: Pamphlet/Petition
Date: 1898

San Francisco's first public school for Chinese immigrants, known first as the Chinese School and then as the Oriental School, began operating in 1859. The school was designed to segregate (separate) Chinese children from white children in the city's public schools. In 1924, after years of protest by Chinese residents who found the name "Oriental…

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Item Type: Oral History
Date: 1993