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Weaverville Chinese family
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



current topic Early Contacts

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Chinese Americans in California:

Considerable evidence exists to substantiate the early exploration of the west coast of North America by Chinese adventurers, priests, and merchants. [1] In fact, there were early Chinese immigrants to Mexico before those in California, [2] and a number of Chinese in California during Spanish rule. One of those was Ah Nam, the cook who worked for Governor Pablo Vicente de Sola in Monterey in 1815. [3]

The west coast of North America in the nineteenth century was known to Chinese sailors who were employed on American ships, or who fished off the coast of California in Chinese junks. As early as 1848, it was advocated in the United States that Chinese workers be encouraged to come to this country to provide inexpensive farm labor. [4]

Trade Relations with China

Since pre-revolutionary days, trade has been carried on between this country and China. The tea dumped into Boston Harbor at the outset of the American Revolution was from China, and many colonial homes displayed ceramic wares and other objects from China. Even before colonial times, the desire to find a new sea route to China led to the coming of some Europeans to this continent. Under these circumstances, it was natural that California should develop trade relations with China.

Building materials were in great demand in early California because of the sudden increase in population brought about by the Gold Rush. Pre-fabricated buildings and materials were shipped from the East Coast by way of Cape Horn, or were imported from other countries overseas.

One of the best-known examples of prefabricated buildings im ported from China was Parrott's Granite Block building in San Francisco for which pre-cut granite blocks were shipped to the United States. [5] Chinese stonemasons came also, and on June 8, 1852, they went on strike for higher wages. [6] This earliest recorded strike by early Chinese immigrants is of considerable significance since it shows their concern for equal pay for equal work.

Of all buildings prefabricated in China and exported to the United States, the earliest one still standing is the Double Springs Courthouse in Calaveras County. It was constructed in 1850 from pre-cut camphor wood. [7]

NEXT> The 1850s

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