An Immigrant Story - Charles Sing

Three men with hats on sit down and pose for a photograph.
This image was taken by Calumet photograph J.W. Nara, active in Calumet beginning in 1892.  It is possible that Charles Sing is pictured.

Photo Courtesy Michigan Tech Archives

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was one of the most significant restrictions on free immigration in U.S. history: it prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers. Nevertheless, the Copper Country was part of an immigrant story for many Chinese nationals who had immigrated earlier. By 1910, Houghton County had the largest Chinese population in the state of Michigan.

Charlie Sing and his son Charles came to the United States from China in 1882, just before the signing of the Exclusion Act. The younger Mr. Sing came to the Copper Country to try his hand at running one of Calumet's several laundry establishments--one of the few occupations that Chinese people could pursue, given the restrictions of the Exclusion Act. Fifteen different Chinese laundry operations are listed in the 1910 Houghton County Polk Directory. Relatively few Chinese-born women lived in the United States at this time; the Page Law of 1875 was used to exclude almost all Asian women from entering the country, including wives and fiancées, until it too was repealed with other discriminatory laws.
 
A newspaper clip about the wedding of Charles Sing and Sadie Constant.
Charles and Sadie's wedding was reported in The Pioneer Express out of Pembina, North Dakota in 1911.

The Pioneer Express, Pembina, North Dakota, 1911, p. 6.

Sing married the American-born Sadie Constant in Calumet in 1911.Their marriage was unusual enough to be noted in newspapers, but their marriage record reveals that his name and Sadie's age were reported inaccurately in the article.
 
A series of buildings adjacent to the street in a downtown area.
Some Chinese operated stores, like Hand You & Co. on 5th Street in Calumet, a store with Chinese and Japanese fancy goods.

Photo Courtesy Michigan Tech Archives.

We don't know where Charles' immigrant story took him and Sadie next. Census enumerators unfamiliar with the Chinese language, dialects, and customs make it difficult to track Mr. Sing through these common sources, but a newspaper article noted that the last of "a small but prominent band" of Chinese immigrants who had operated laundries in Calumet departed in 1943, the same year the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally repealed.

Last updated: April 4, 2018

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