1910 Through 1930 - Sacramento's Chinatown in the Twentieth Century

The general public in this country, unfortunately, does not know or understand the Chinese. This is due partly to the remaining effect of the propaganda against the Chinese during the anti-Chinese agitation here, but primarily to the present prevalence of certain elements in this country, which makes this knowledge and understanding impossible.
J.S. Tow, The Real Chinese in America (1923)

Just as the canneries moved to Sacramento, our attention is redirected to Yee Fow to see the changes that have occurred in since the horrible anti-Chinese movements in the late nineteenth century. The greater population in Sacramento finally accepted the fact that the Chinese had no intentions of leaving the city.

Between 1906 and 1909, with the Chinese driven out of China Slough, there was a concerted effort to fill the slough. The project was finally completed in 1910. All the old Chinese shacks on the north bank were torn down. The joss house had already relocated to 915 Third Street.

By the turn of the century the Chinese settlement has begun to spread a few blocks south to Front Street. Still in many residential sections of Sacramento, apartment lodgings and single-family housing units in the area bounded by Third Street on the west, M Street (Capitol) on the north, P Street to the south, and Seventh street to the east. The I Street area was still the economic and social center and also the domain of the bachelor sojourners who had found permanent shelter among the many basement and second floor quarters in stores, laundries, and restaurants. 1

With the redevelopment of Capitol Mall, the Chinese were displaced once again from Front Street to the I-J Street section of downtown Sacramento. The I Street Chinatown and its immediate vicinity still remained the center for most Chinese activities. Many of the family associations saw fit to build new buildings or give their existing structures facelifts.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen, who reportedly wrote portions of the Chinese constitution in an upstairs room of the Bing Kong Tong headquarters on I Street succeeded in his overthrow of the Ching Dynasty. The 1911 Revolution in China instilled in the local Chinese community a strong interest in China's politics and a sense of having been a part of Dr. Sun's movement. Dr. Sung nationalist party, the Kuo Ming Tong, established their headquarters at 910 Fourth Street. In 1944 the organization celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. 2

The transition from the late 1920s and 1930s brought the effects of the Depression closer to home and the Sacramento Chinese society underwent a severe change politically, economically, and socially. As noted, the first Chinese community was one composed, for the most part, of bachelor sojourners. By the turn of the century there was an increase in the number of families. Dutifully, some of the bachelor sojourners returned to their homeland and fulfilled marriage contracts their parents arranged. The few American-born bachelors were also expected to return to their parent's villages and wed native girls. Both as merchants and/or American-born, found no difficulty bringing their wives back to California.

It has been over a hundred years since the first Chinese settled in Sacramento, it has been slow, it was done on individual basis, yet seemingly collective to an outsider; but, with the quiet dignity and decorum to which they were trained, the Chinese Sacramentans had dismantled many of the social barriers built during the time of their pioneering forefathers.

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1. Interview with Bill Lim, July 21, 1983: Dan Louis, 12, 1983: Ann Jan, July 27, 1983: Frank Fat, September 2, 1983

2. Sacramento Bee, "Chinatown, Sacramento", January 17, 1971.