History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: San Francisco Chinatown
The first center of Chinese Immigration to America was located in San Francisco's Chinatown and was the first port of call for early Chinese immigrants from the Guangdong province of southern China from the 1850s. After the California Gold Rush shops, restaurants and hand laundries were established in Chinatown whilst other workers looked to rural areas for employment. On October 24, 1871 San Francisco's Chinatown was the site of bloody violence known as the "Chinese Massacre of 1871."
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Farm workers
The number of Chinese immigrants increased dramatically to over 20,000 in 1852 as southern China was hit by terrible floods and a serious crop failure. American farmers hired laborers at $1 per day to drain the Sacramento marshlands or work as field hands or in the vineyards or orchards of California. By the 1870s, 75% of farm workers in California were Chinese.
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Transcontinental Railroad
Chinese Immigration to America saw new opportunities for the employment of unskilled laborers with the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Transcontinental Railroad was originally known as the "Pacific Railroad" and construction started in 1863. Construction was disrupted by a labor shortage due to the 1865 Nevada silver rush. In January 1865 railroad owner Charles Crocker responded by hiring cheap Chinese immigrants and by the end of construction on May 10, 1869 over 11,000 railroad workers on the Transcontinental Railroad were Chinese. Work on the Transcontinental Railroad was hard, poorly paid and dangerous. In 1867 Chinese railroad laborers went on strike for better hours and wages but their protests failed and they returned to work within a week. During the Immigration timeline between 1850 and 1882 about 322,000 Chinese came to America.
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: Prejudice and Discrimination
The increasing numbers of migrants led prejudice, discrimination and protests against Chinese Immigration to America. The United States was hit by a long period of economic depression. The Panic of 1873 led to riots, strikes and civil unrest and high levels of unemployment. Immigrants were blamed which led to violent clashes and there were calls for the exclusion of Chinese immigrants. By 1870, Chinese migrants constituted 25% of the labor force in California. In 1877 anti-Chinese riots occurred in San Francisco and in then Congress passed a law to ban Chinese immigration. It was called the Chinese Exclusion Act.
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Burlingame Treaty
Chinese Immigration to America was initially encouraged by the 1868 Burlingame Treaty of friendship with China which guaranteed the right of Chinese immigration, but did not grant the right of naturalization. The Burlingame Treaty was subsequently revised in 1880 suspending the entry of Chinese labor, but not to ban immigration completely. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed on May 6, 1882 suspending immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years.
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Chinese Exclusion Act
Chinese Immigration to America by unskilled workers was 'temporarily' halted by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The law allowed "exempt" classes to enter the United States such as merchants, diplomats, teachers and students. The Chinese Exclusion Act was only intended to cover a period of 10 years later but additional laws were passed extending the period of exclusion. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act expired in 1892 but it was extended it for 10 years through the Geary Act on Immigration. The extensions continued and were eventually made permanent when the immigration law of 1924 excluded all classes of Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act was eventually repealed with the 1943 Magnuson Act that set an annual immigration quota and extended citizenship privileges to Chinese.
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Boxer Rebellion
Chinese Immigration to America had been virtually banned by the Chinese Exclusion Act. Further hostility to migrants from China was fuelled by the Boxer Rebellion (Autumn 1899 - 7 September 1901) that was aimed at ousting foreign interlopers from China. The United States, allied with other European countries, sent 2,500 troops to China to protect American interests in Peking. The Boxer Rebellion was put down but it led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Chinese Republic (1912 - 1949).
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1900's: "Paper Sons"
The city of San Francisco was rocked by a violent earthquake in 1906. Terrible fires followed the earthquake. The City Hall and the County Courthouse were destroyed with all records of the population and details of immigration records. A son or daughter of an American citizen was granted entry into the United States regardless of nationality. If a Chinese immigrant was related to a citizen in America, he or she would be allowed entrance into the country. This exemption resulted in many people falsifying documents claiming their parents were in America referred to as "paper sons" and "paper daughters".
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1900's: Angel Island
The Angel Island Immigration Center (1910 - 1940), was located in San Francisco Bay, California and served as a detention center for immigrants from China. Chinese Immigration to America was regulated by the medical examinations and the long, drawn-out legal inspections. Over 56,000 Chinese immigrants were 'processed' at Angel Island. The Board of Enquiry were particularly strict in their treatment of immigrants from China and the Immigration vetting procedure could take up to one year (in Ellis Island it usually took less than one day). It is estimated that between 11% - 30% were ultimately deported (the deportation rate from Ellis Island was only 2%).
History of Chinese Immigration to America in the 1900's: The Dillingham Commission Report
The Dillingham Commission (1907-1911) was established to report on the effects of the increased levels of immigration on the United States. The 1911 Dillingham Commission Immigration Report had a damning effect on Chinese Immigration to America concluding that migrants from China, Asia and southern Europe were inferior, uneducated and unskilled and had failed to integrate with Americans. The Dillingham Commission Immigration Report had a damning effect on Chinese Immigration to America concluding that the "New Immigrants" posed a serious threat to American society and culture and that the number of such migrants should therefore be greatly reduced.
Chinese Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Important facts about the history of Chinese Immigration to America and US laws that effected the migrants from China are contained in the following Chinese emigration facts sheet and history timeline for kids.
Facts Sheet: Chinese Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for Kids