Friday, March 27, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston (Part 5--Lowell & Lynn)

Where were these first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written a five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatownand I'm now expanding my coverage to include the rest of Massachusetts. This is a work in progress, and I'll be adding additional cities and towns in the future parts of this new series. The Part 1 dealt with Cambridge and Fitchburg;  Part 2 dealt with Pittsfield and Malden; Part 3 dealt with Springfield, Part 4 dealt with Fall River, and now Part 5 will deal with Lowell.

According to  Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain, by John Jung, "The total number of Chinese in Lowell never exceeded 100, so they were not an economic threat to whites, although in surrounding towns there were some additional Chinese." The book also stated, "The first Chinese restaurant in Lowell opened in 1907 serving Chinese primarily as whites resisted patronizing it. Chinese restaurants adapted their food and décor over the years to attract more non-Chinese customers." However, this book isn't fully accurate as the first Chinese restaurant in Lowell actually appeared in 1900, seven years earlier.

The Lowell Sun, June 29, 1900, published a wordy advertisement from a new Chinese restaurant, stating “Lowell has something new in the shape of a real Chinese restaurant at 196 Middlesex street.” It also stated, “The Chinese are among the best chefs in the world and ‘Chop Sooy’ etc., are much liked by Americans.” The restaurant was set to open on June 30, and would also sell Chinese bracelets and other related merchandise. The ad though didn't provide a name for the restaurant.

Little else was mentioned about this restaurant during the next two years. Then, the Lowell Sun, February 8, 1902, discussed the celebration of Chinese New Year in Lowell. All of the Chinese in the city were going to gather at the Chinese restaurant on Middlesex street and dine on chop suey, duck, raisin nuts, Chinese cakes, rice wine from China, and other delicacies.

A second Chinese restaurant opened. The Lowell Sun, February 13, 1902, provided a brief ad for a new Chinese restaurant, at 308 Middlesex Street, offering "Chop Sooey." Again, the restaurant wasn't provided a name.

Chop Suey serving Chop Suey? Interestingly, the Lowell Sun, February 26, 1902, reported that “In Middlesex street there is a Chinese restaurant whose proprietor’s name is ‘Chop Suey.” It seems highly unlikely that his actual name was "Chop Suey," and it is far more probable that he adopted it as a nickname. The article also provided a description of the dish, “..Chop Suey is a Chinese dish composed of pork, celery, onions, noodles and black beans and sometimes, when ordered, mushrooms. All these are chopped together; the gravy, blood juice, the Chinaman calls it, which goes with the chop suey, is made from the juice of the black beans.”

There was a police raid at one of the Chinese restaurants, owned by Yon Yen (aka John Yen), on Middlesex Street. The Lowell Sun, April 21, 1903, stated that on the prior Sunday morning, the police, after several weeks of surveillance, made a raid on the restaurant. Some policemen went to the second floor of an adjoining building and then went onto the fire escape which ran between the two buildings. On the restaurant building, they removed a window that led into the bathroom, and then they entered the restaurant. Other officers burst through the restaurant's doors.

The police arrested about 17 Chinese, charging most of them with being in the presence of gaming equipment, and each was fined $10. The owner, Yen, was charged with keeping a gaming house and fined $75. As he had recently come from New York, he had difficulty paying his fine and none of the other Chinese helped him pay the fine. The police also arrested a couple they found in one of the bedrooms. Blanche Bell, age 22, of Everett, and Wong Lee (or Wong Loy) were charged with fornication, and fined $20 each. According to the Lowell Sun, April 22, 1903, the raid also led to the revocation of the common victualers license of Yen Nom Lous & Co.

The Lowell Sun, November 14, 1903, noted that a Chinese restaurant planned for 29 Prescott Street was actually not going to open.

Another new restaurant. The Lowell Sun, March 7, 1906, published a brief ad for the Canton Chinese Restaurant, at 9 Hurd Street, which was set to open on March 10.

The Lowell Sun, March 17, 1906, provided a more detailed ad for the Canton Chinese Restaurant, at 9 and 11 Hurd Street. the ad stated the restaurant was for ladies and gentlemen, and offered a large portion of chop suey for 25 cents.

Another new spot. The Lowell Sun, May 6, 1908, posted an ad for a new Chinese restaurant, Chin Lee & Co., at 177 Merrimack Street, and they suggest you try their Chop Suey. It's clear that Chop Suey was one of the most compelling selling points for all of these restaurants.

The Lowell Sun, July 6, 1908, reported on a violent episode at an unnamed Chinese restaurant. One of the employees booted a patron out of the restaurant, but the patron later returned, threatening the employee. The Chinese employee grabbed an iron poker and strike the patron in the head. Apparently, no one was arrested and there wasn't any indication whether the patron was seriously injured or not.

A new restaurant is planned. The Lowell Sun, November 23, 1908, noted that Wong Quon, of John Street, was planning to open a new Chinese restaurant at a building at the corner of Middle and Central Streets. Then, the Lowell Sun, February 20, 1909, published an ad for this new restaurant, Wong & Co. The ad stated, “We make a specialty of French and American Cooking, as well as all the latest Chinese dishes.” This is the first historical ad for a Chinese restaurant that I've found that also offered French cooking. The ad mentions that their cook is Chinese Joe, formerly of New York and Chicago.

Less than two years later, this restaurant was sold. The Lowell Sun, April 26, 1910, mentioned that the Pekin Company had bought out Wong & Co. and would re-open under new management on May 17, serving Chinese and American style cuisine. After a slight delay, the Lowell Sun, June 2, 1910, noted that the new Pekin Company restaurant would open today. The owner, Chin Kee, had a christening party last evening serving lots of Chinese delicacies, including items like Bird’s Nest Soup, Steamed Pigeon with Chinese Condiments, Fresh Fish with Shark’s Fins, Fried Chicken Chinese Style, Crabs Chinese Style, and Lobster Salad.

The Chinese restaurants get larger. The Lowell Sun, August 25, 1913, reported that The Young China restaurant, located at 65 Merrimack Street, said to be the largest in New England, and a branch of a well established Boston firm, would open on August 27. Chin Kee, now said to be the manager of another Chinese restaurant, and not its own, had returned to Lowell and would manage this new restaurant. The building has been leased for 5 years, will have 22 employees and will hold 240 people. There would be a large dining room for men, and another for women, plus 32 private dining rooms.

The Lowell Sun, February 6, 1918, reported there was a hearing on a petition of Chin Lung and Chin Hong of Boston for a common victualler’s license for a restaurant at 121 Central Street. There was opposition to this license, demanding more information about the new owners and their prior businesses successes. The opposition also felt there wasn't a demand for another restaurant on Central Street, plus it was alleged most of the prior Chinese restaurants had been failures, including places on Prescott Street, 308 Middlesex Street, Hurd Street, and another on Middlesex. It was noted though that the Chinese restaurant on Merrimack, owned by Chin Lee, always had a waiting line. The matter was taken under advisement.

As a follow-up, the Lowell Sun, March 5, 1918, reported there had been special meeting of the license commission to discuss about Chinese restaurant license. The opposition's lawyer claimed that the law stated the commissioners couldn’t grant a license until the building was inspected and approved by the chief of police. The commissioners would likely seek a legal opinion, which they did. The Lowell Sun, March 12, 1918, noted that the City solicitor had informed the board that they could grant a license for 90 days and if another permit or extension was granted, they could continue the license.

The Lowell Sun, March 12, 1918, published an editorial, noting the “wholly unnecessary controversy over the proposition to grant a license for a Chinese restaurant.” The editorial claimed that the opposition was lodged in part by competitors and also because they opposed Chinese. The writer stated there were plenty of reasons, which were provided for why the license should be granted. Though I didn't find a subsequent article noting the commissioner's decision, the restaurant was built and opened.

The Lowell Sun, September 25, 1918, mentioned that contractors were working on renovations to the building on Central Street for the upcoming Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was noted as being open in the Lowell Sun, April 17, 1920, though it's likely it was open earlier than that. And according to the Lowell Sun, June 23, 1926, the restaurant, owned by Wong You, was still open.

Information on the first restaurants in Lynn was more difficult to locate in online newspaper archives as many of their local newspapers have not yet been digitized. However, there is some information which can be readily found giving us a glimpse into their early Chinese restaurant history.

The first Chinese restaurant in Lynn appeared to have been established around 1905 and was located on Union Street. Both the Boston Herald, March 6, 1905, and the Boston Daily Globe, April 13, 1905, briefly mentioned this restaurant, though neither provided any details on it, including failing to note its name. The restaurant would again be briefly mention in Boston Globe, February 28, 1906, as the site where a special officer was assaulted.

Louis Brown and James Shattuck, shoemakers, were causing a disturbance at the restaurant and special officer Robert Brennan, in his civilian clothes, tried to eject them. They fought with Brennan, and he sustained some bad bruises on his face. Brown and Shattuck were subsequent arrested.

The Boston Globe, September 22, 1906, reported that Yee Yun Toy, who was born in San Francisco, was now the first Chinese registered to vote in Lynn. Yee owned a laundry at 14 Market Square. In the future, he would become a restaurant owner.

Problems at a Chinese restaurant. The Boston Globe, November 10, 1906, stated that the police were called to Munroe Street, to a Chinese restaurant, because of a report of five shots fired. Several men had been making a “rough house” in the restaurant, including breaking glass. One of the Chinese employees chased them men out of the restaurant, and fire five shots as the men fled. The police discovered two of the alleged perpetrators, Joseph Daley and Frank Mackey, hiding in a nearby alley and arrested them. However, as there was no proof that these men actually broke the glass, they were released.

Liquor violation. The Boston Herald, May 27, 1909, briefly mentioned that Ling Hee was fined $110 for liquor keeping at a Chinese restaurant. The name of the restaurant wasn't identified.

A wedding first! The Boston Globe, September 7, 1913, reported the first marriage in New England of American-born Chinese would soon occur in Lynn. The groom would be Edwin Goonyep, age 26, who was born in San Francisc and worked in management for the Chinese restaurant at 422 Washington Street. He has lived in Lynn for 8 years and also handles the financial business for a number of Chinese concerns. The bride would be Alice Moy Yuen, age 16, and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Moy Yuen of New Bedford, where Moy is a merchant. Alice was born in New Bedford. The two shall be married by Rev. O.J. White, the pastor of the Washington Street Baptist Church.

The Boston Globe, December 25, 1913, described a significant fire in Lynn, which started in the boiler room, gutting the Spinney Block, a 4 story brick building at 10 & 12 Mulberry Street, and the Blake Block, a building at 305 and 311 Union Street. The Chin Lee Co., a Chinese restaurant, occupied the second floor of the Blake Block, and they also occupied the three upper floors of the Spinney Block, as a kitchen and the sleeping quarters for their employees, which numbered at least 17. In the photo above, from the Boston Globe, December 26, 1913, you can see the large Chop Suey signs advertising the restaurant.

Yee Yun Toy, the first Chinese registered to vote in Lynn, wanted to operate a Chinese restaurant, though he encountered some obstacles. The Boston Globe, June 3, 1915, stated that after spending about $12,000 to remodel a building in Central Square for his Chinese restaurant, the License Commissioners refused to issue a common victualer’s license to Yee Yun Toy. The reason was that they did not believe there should be any more Chinese restaurants in Lynn, and that those restaurants shouldn’t be allowed to compete with those of Americans as the Chinese have no interests in the city. Other restaurant owners protested against issuance of the license. This was the first time such a license was denied for a Chinese restaurant.

As a follow-up, the Boston Globe, June 16, 1915, noted that at a hearing of the License Commissioners, they were presented with a petition of 2000 signatures asking them to grant Yee Yun Toy a victualer's license. Yee’s lawyer claimed that some of the members were in the pockets of the other restaurant owners. Curiously, it appears that Yee might have gone forward and opened on Sundays, despite not having a license. The Boston Globe, July 27, 1915, stated the Chief of Police was going to prosecute Yee for opening on Sundays. This was spurred on by complaints from his competitors. I couldn't find a resolution to these matters.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston (Part 4--Fall River)

Where were these first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written a five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatownand I'm now expanding my coverage to include the rest of Massachusetts. This is a work in progress, and I'll be adding additional cities and towns in the future parts of this new series. The Part 1 dealt with Cambridge and Fitchburg;  Part 2 dealt with Pittsfield and Malden; and Part 3 dealt with Springfield. Part Four will now deal with Fall River.


The first Chinese restaurant in Fall River appears to be the Me Nam Low. The Fall River Daily Evening News, November 23, 1898, published an advertisement for this “First Class Chinese Restaurant,” located at 132 Second Street. The Fall River Daily Evening News, February 3, 1899, presented another ad for Me Nam Low, noting that it served Chinese and American dishes, for both lunch and dinner. he

Trouble at Me Nam Low. The Fall River Daily Evening News, January 3, 1901, reported that Michael Cox and a friend ate chop suey and drank tea at Me Nam Low. The two men, who were drunk and obnoxious,  tried to leave without paying their 70 cents bill. The police arrived and told the two men to pay their bill or get arrested, so they decided to pay the 70 cents. However, the two men returned to the restaurant later, demanded $1.50 back, but they were refused. So, Cox hurled a big jackknife and a stone through the glass panels of the restaurant, and he was arrested the next day. As he already have a lengthy criminal records, he we sentenced to 6 months in the house of corrections.

A second Chinese restaurant opened in 1901. The Fall River Daily Evening News, February 18, 1901, printed an ad for Charlie Wong, Chinese Restaurant, located at 170 South Main Street. The ad stated,  “Meals at all hours of the day.”

A year later, Charlie Wong moved the restaurant. The Fall River Daily Evening News, April 10, 1902, published an ad mentioning that Charlie Wong, a “Chinese Order Restaurant,” was now located at 22 North Main Street.

What went on in the private rooms? The Fall River Daily Evening News, April 28, 1902, reported that the police commissioner had recently ordered that the private stalls in the two Chinese restaurants had to be removed. Each restaurant had a number of small rooms or semi-private stalls, and the police alleged they were popular with a "certain class of women." The police also alleged they heard of much carousing in these rooms, patrons smoking and carrying liquor into these rooms. I'll note that these alleged problems had only occurred in a little over a year, and the second restaurant had only been open less than a month. A hearing was granted on this matter, allowing the restaurant owners to respond.

It was later reported that the commissioner won, and those private stalls all had to be removed. This would not be the last time that the police took significant action against the Chinese restaurants in Fall River. For some reason, they felt they needed to take major control of the situation, which seemed likely due more to racism than for legitimate concerns.

The Fall River Daily Evening News, July 5, 1902, noted how the two Chinese restaurant owners helped run a 4th of July celebration. “The nearest to the real thing in the way of a Fourth of July celebration in the center of the city was that furnished by the proprietors of the two Chinese restaurants…” The owner of one restaurant started the celebration at 8pm, and other restaurant waited until later so they didn’t conflict. Part of the celebration included firing off Chinese crackers and other fireworks.

Another new restaurant. The Fall River Daily Evening News, November 24, 1902, published an ad for a new Chinese & American restaurant, located at 44 Pleasant Street, which opened on November 10.

And one more new restaurant. The Fall River Daily Evening News, May 1, 1907, printed an ad for the Oriental Chinese Restaurant, located at 16 South Main Street. It offered a Special Course Dinner for only 15 cents, primarily American dishes.

The Fall River Globe, December 24, 1902, noted that the Chinese restaurant at 44 Pleasant Street, which was owned by Goon Wing Tong and opened last month, had gone out of business and their license was revoked. That was rather quick and no reasons were given as to why it had to close.

People need to pay their checks. The Fall River Daily Evening News, December 29, 1902, reported that five men at the Second Street restaurant were asked to pay an additional 5 cents due for their chop suey dinner. A fight resulted and the five men were arrested and charged with disturbance and assault. They claimed that a single Chinese waiter beat them all up, but the waiter had a black eye and cut scalp. In the end, one of the men was fined $20, two were fined $10, and two were let go.

Women fought at these restaurants too. The Fall River Daily Evening News, April 14, 1905, detailed that Delphine Sirois and Mary Belford were arrested for a disturbance at a Chinese restaurant on Second Street. Allegedly, Belford and a male friend entered the restaurant but he chose to give his attention to Sirois, who was already dining there. Then, Belford announced to everyone in the restaurant that Sirois was a jailbird. The fight became physical, and the two women were eventually fined $15 each.

Wedding bells! The Boston Globe, June 24, 1905, noted that Joe Gong, age 28 and the owner of a Chinese restaurant at 16 Pleasant Street, was going to marry Rose Benoit, age 20 and a white woman of 16 11th Street. Joe applied for a marriage license in Springfield but actually planned to marry Rose in Providence, as they were unable to find a local minister to perform the ceremony. So, the Springfield had to be torn up as they only issue them for marriages taking place in the city.

The Fall River Globe, June 27, 1905, then mentioned that Joe Gong, was married yesterday in Providence, Rhode Island, by Rev. Plummer who has acquired a reputation for "marrying lots of couples irrespective of nationality or color." The new couple planned to settle down at her residence at 67 11th Street. It was legal for mixed race couples to get married in Massachusetts, but apparently few ministers were willing to marry those couples. So, Chinese men marrying white women commonly went down to Providence to be married, often by Rev. Plummer.

More trouble with the police. The Fall River Globe, April 22, 1908, reported on a meeting of the police board, as well as mentioning how the police previously were able to get the two Chinese restaurants to tear out their private stalls. Now, the board has just issued permits to the local Chinese restaurants, with the caveat that the permits would end on May 1, 1909, and at that time, they would no longer be permitted to operate on the second floor. They would have to relocate to the ground level. No actual evidence was submitted to support any rationale for this relocation demand.

A year later, the Fall River Daily Evening News, April 2, 1909, followed up on the legal matter. “Upon issuing licenses to Chinese restaurants one year ago, the board of police stated that at the expiration of said licenses no more would be issued to such restaurants to do business above the ground floor. Practically all the Chinese restaurants are on the second floor,…” There were currently four Chinese restaurants at this time and they were trying to get the police board to rescind the order. It was noted in an April 3 edition, that none of these restaurants had ever served alcohol.

A decision was made. The Fall River Daily Evening News, April 24, 1909, reported that the police board had granted permits for Chinese restaurants on the second floor to Wong Shun, at 22 North Main Street, and Joe Hong, at 184 Second Street. It was then noted that last year, about a month after the original decision, the police started visiting all four of the Chinese restaurants every day, hourly from 9pm till close. They especially wanted to keep track of the number of female patrons, as well as their ages, if possible. They continued this practice for almost a year. Talk about Big Brother watching!

In general, the lawyers representing the restaurants stated that the restaurants had been very good during the past year, though they did lose some business due to the heavy police presence. Noting the good behavior, the police board allowed the restaurants their permits for another year, though the inspections would continue. Why wouldn't they trust the restaurants? There didn't seem to be any evidence to support such continued police presence. And any trouble at these restaurants was most often committed by drunk white patrons.

The Fall River Globe, June 12, 1909, posted a brief notice that Lee S. Foy had bought the restaurant at 43 North Main Street, and that Charlie Jim would be their new cook and Lee Ark would be the new manager.

6 Chinese restaurants. The Fall River Globe, March 22, 1910, mentioned that there were now 6 Chinese restaurants in Fall River, with four located on the 2nd or 3rd floors, and two on the ground or street floors.

Again, there was more antagonism against Chinese restaurants, and it was obviously racially based. The Fall River Daily Evening News, August 4, 1910, published an editorial from a Fall River newspaper. Father Cassidy of Fall River “denounced the Chinese restaurants of Fall River and said they should not be tolerated.” The editorial then stated, “Casual observation leads us to agree with Father Cassidy. We are persuaded that most of the Chinese restaurants in this city are demoralizing resorts. They are located on upper floors, where they cannot be observed from the street, and they are resorted to largely by degraded men and women of the lowest type.” In addition, the article noted, “It is significant that the Chinese restaurants are always located in the upper stories of buildings whereas other restaurant keepers prefer the street floors. This is because the proprietors of the Chinese resorts desire to keep knowledge of conditions from a decent public.”

It is curious that so many Chinese restaurants during this time period chose to be located on the second floor. I haven't yet found anyone who could provide the reasoning behind this choice. I don't believe that it was intended to hide what was going on from people, especially as they wanted to attract people to their restaurants. Was it a cultural issue? I'm continuing to seek answers to this conundrum.

Another new restaurant. The Fall River Daily Evening News, November 5, 1910, noted that the police board granted a common victualler’s license to a Chinese restaurant on the second floor at 32 Second Street. No more details were given.

And the new restaurants kept coming. The Fall River Daily Evening News, November 7, 1910, published an ad for a new Chinese spot, the Kan Hong Low, located at 32 Second Street, which will serve only Chinese dishes.

The Fall River Daily Evening News, January 12, 1912, published an ad for the Royal Chinese Restaurant, located at 87 South Main Street, which will offer “All kinds of Chinese cooking.” The Fall River Daily Evening News, January 31, 1912, also noted the restaurant was located over the Savoy Theater.

The Fall River Daily Evening News, March 12, 1915, noted that Moy Toy had purchased Me Nam Low Co., which had been the first Chinese restaurant in Fall River, from Joe Hong. Then, the Fall River Daily Evening News, May 5, 1915, noted that Joe Sam had bought the Chinese restaurant of Joe Yuen, located at 87 South Main Street. As a follow-up, the Fall River Daily Evening News, June 16, 1915, stated that Joe Sam called his new restaurant, the Royal Café.

The restaurants kept getting larger and fancier. The Fall River Daily Evening News, April 18, 1916: published a large advertisement for another new American-Chinese restaurant, the Eagle Restaurant, located at 8 Bedford Street. It was said to be a high class restaurant, staffed by all Chinese waiters who would offer excellent service.

More details were provided in the Fall River Daily Evening News, April 20, 1916. A special opening banquet was held and it was stated that the food, service and decor were excellent. The man chef was Moy Jung, and the restaurant was able to handle 200 guests. The restaurant was also independent of any other Chinese spot.

And another! The Fall River Globe, January 24, 1920, reported that the Far East Chinese Restaurant Corp. had leased the second floor of the Cherry & Webb building on South Main Street. The corporation operates a chain of restaurants in New England, with places in New Bedford, Providence, and Boston. They wanted to open a restaurant in Fall River too. The Fall River Globe, May 15, 1920, provided more details through an advertisement, noting their restaurant would be known as The Far East, with plans to open on May 20. It would be a high class restaurant, and most beautifully decorated.

The Fall River Globe, August 17, 1920, stated that construction work had started at 1440 Pleasant Street, with plans to open a new Chinese restaurant. The Fall River Globe, September 23, 1920, stated the new restaurant had opened but no details were provided.

The Fall River Daily Evening News, December 8, 1920, presented a new ad (partially provided above) for The Far East, mentioning that they had opened an Oriental Dance Garden, a place for dancing with good music amid “harmonious surroundings.” The restaurant had hired new chefs, and the ad listed some of their American and Chinese dishes.

There was a brief note in the Fall River Daily Evening News, January 3, 1921, which mentioned that Mee King Low had purchased the Chinese restaurant at 1415 South Main Street, which was formerly owned by M.H. King.

The Fall River Globe, September 10, 1921, presented an ad for the Hong Kong, a new American-Chinese restaurant, located at 338 South Main Street. They offered a Special Chicken Dinner for 35 cents.

Another new spot. The Fall River Daily Evening News, September 26, 1921, stated that the Men Yin Company, an American and Chinese restaurant located at 391 South Main Street, was now open from 9am-12am. The Fall River Globe, October 1, 1921, though stated the restaurant's name was Men Yim Low.

The first Tong reference concerning Fall River. The Boston Globe, November 29, 1924, reported that Men Far Low, the owner of a restaurant at 1239 Pleasant Street, was a member of the On Leong Tong. He asked for police protection, claiming that the Hip Sing Tong wanted to murder him. Men claimed that he had received a phone call from Providence, telling him that two Chinese laundry workers were killed in Hartford and that an order for his death had been issued by the Hip Sing.

For the first time, it was learned that the On Leong had a headquarters in Fall River on Corneau Street, though the Hip Sing didn't have an organization there. The police were told that 6-7 members of the Hip Sing had been seen in the city during the past week. The police took the threat seriously and provided protection to Men. Nothing seems to have happened to Men, and the newspapers were curiously silent on any follow-up to this matter.

Chop Suey Price War! The Boston Globe, December 18, 1931, reported that almost all of the Chinese restaurant owners in Fall River had received anonymous, threatening letters to settle their differences with either the plaintiff or defendant in the Superior Court case of Chin Wing Tung against Mark Chung Ming. These two were alleged partners in a South Main Street restaurant, with Chin being an alleged silent partner. He wanted an accounting to get his share of the capital and profits of the restaurant.

Chin also alleged that over his protest, Mark had continued to engage in a chop suey price war with the other restaurant. Mark was selling his chop suey for 25 cents, which was 10 cents cheaper than the other Chinese restaurants. Mark claimed that he had never promised Chin an accounting. This was thought to be the first Chinese litigation in the area, as they usually handled such matters on their own, with their unofficial court system. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the resolution to this lawsuit.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston (Part 3--Springfield)

Where were these first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written a five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatownand I'm now expanding my coverage to include the rest of Massachusetts. This is a work in progress, and I'll be adding additional cities and towns in the future parts of this new series. The first article dealt with Cambridge and Fitchburg, and the second article dealt with Pittsfield and Malden. This third article now address the city of Springfield.


Springfield was one of the first cities in Massachusetts where Chinese arrived in the 1840s, primarily fueled by the desire for education. The story behind all of this began earlier, in 1810, in Hartford, Connecticut. According to A Maker of the New Orient (1902), by William Elliot Griffin, the Reverend Samuel Robbins Brown was born June 16, 1810 in Hartford, Connecticut and in 1818, the family moved to Monson, Massachusetts, a relatively short distance from Springfield. Samuel attended the Monson academy, which prepared students for college, and he was part of the Yale college class of 1832 (Yale wouldn't be referred to as a university until 1887)

Samuel became a missionary, and would later spend time in China and Japan. One of his primary passions became education, and he spent a number of years teaching students in China. In 1847, Samuels returned to the Springfield region, and brought three Chinese boys, 12 to 15 years old, with him, named Wong Shing, Yung Wing, and Wong Fun (also known as Wong Afeen). These were the first Chinese boys allowed to study abroad. These three boys attended the Monson academy, living with Samuel's family. The Springfield Republican, August 12, 1847, noted that all three did well in the school, similar to other student of a similar age.

The Springfield Republican, December 15, 1866, indicated that Wong Shing remained in Massachusetts for another two years, and then moved back to China where he initially worked as editor and translator at the China Mail, and later started working at a school in Shanghai. Wong Fun went to Edinburgh university, in accordance with the wishes of his patron, Mr. Shortrede, a native of Scotland. Wong entered into the medical department, graduated in 1855, and has been working as a physician. Yung Wing attended Yale college, and his connections to the U.S. would continued in the future.

The Boston Investigator, May 19, 1852 mentioned that “At the annual exhibition of the junior class at Yale College last month, the highest prize for English composition was awarded to Yung Wing, a native Chinese.” It was obvious that Yung was doing very well at Yale, especially for someone who wasn't a native English speaker. Then, the Springfield Republican, September 30, 1854, noted that Yung had just graduated from Yale college with the highest honors. He was probably the first Chinese student to graduate from an American college. Yung decided to visit China for a time, being issued a passport from the State department.

Yung returned to Springfield in the summer of 1864. The Lowell Daily Citizen & News, July 21, 1864, reported that Yung, who now had the Chinese rank of Mandarin, had returned to Springfield, living as a guest of Dr. McLean. Yung also had a commission from China to inspect & purchase machinery of various kinds to introduce China to modern Western improvements. Yung may have returned to America bringing his nephew, Yung Sum Tow, as it was mentioned in the  Springfield Republican, December 15, 1866, that Yung Sum Tow was currently enrolled at the Monson academy.

Yung returned to China, but made plans to return to America, this time bringing a number of other Chinese students with him. The Congregationalist, November 16, 1871, reported that China was willing to send 120 students to America for education, and had appropriated about $1,500,000 for the cost of this endeavor. Yung Wing would lead the first group of 30 Chinese students, and 30 more would follow each year for the subsequent three years. The Springfield Republican, April 24, 1872, stated that the first group of 30 students would leave China in the early summer. The next 30 students would then be brought by Wong Shing, one of the three original Chinese students to attend Monson academy.

The first group of students arrived! The Springfield Republican, September 16, 1872, reported that the first 30 Chinese arrived in San Francisco three days before, noting that the average age of the boys was 12. Once they arrived in Massachusetts, they would be scattered to a number of homes in New England, from New Haven Connecticut to Brattleboro, Vermont. It was later noted the students arrived in Springfield on September 22. 

The Congregationalist, August 7, 1873, stated that the second group of 30 Chinese students had recently arrived in Springfield. Some more details were provided about the education program too. After their schooling was complete, the students had to return to China to serve the government. However, they could remain in the U.S., completing their education, for up to 15 years. They were expected to not only attend high school, but also to attend college and possibly even graduate school.

Yung Wing ties to American continued to grow. The Springfield Republican, February 26, 1875, provided the good news that Yung had gotten married to Mary L. Kellogg, a white woman, in Connecticut. Unfortunately, eleven years later, tragedy struck. The Boston Herald, May 30, 1886, reported that Mary, who was only 35 years old, died of consumption at their home in Hartford, Connecticut. They did have two sons, who know Yung had to raise on his own.

Soon after his marriage, Yung had applied to become a citizen of the U.S. The Springfield Republican, April 1, 1875, mentioned that Yung had recently been naturalized, and might have been the first Chinese to become naturalized. A later issue, April 10, though indicated that Choy Awah, of Washington, was actually the first Chinese naturalized as a citizen last November. Yung also became a registered voter in Hartford.

The Springfield Republican, November 29, 1875, reported that the final group of 30 Chinese students should arrive in Springfield tomorrow, and will be met by Yung Wing. A few months later, Yung Wing, and Chin Lan Pin, were made ambassadors to the U.S., Peru and Cuba, and next fall would take up residence in Washington. Twenty years later, the Boston Herald, May 24, 1895, stated that Yung Wing was returning to China, answering a summons from the government.

At some point, Yung returned to American, settling back in Hartford. The Boston Herald, February 28, 1909, mentioned that Yung visited Yale to celebrate the 55th anniversary of his graduating class, of which only 25 people were still alive. A few years later, the Springfield Republican, April 22, 1912, sadly reported that Yung Wing, at age 84, had died at his home in Hartford. What a remarkable man, who led a remarkable life.

By 1886, there were a small number of Chinese, besides students, living in Springfield. The Springfield Republican, March 28, 1886, provided a glimpse into that Chinese community, noting a recent business dispute between two Chinese that was being handled under an "unwritten Chinese code." There had been a prior Chinese lawsuit in Springfield, over a year ago, but it had been handled by an arbitration before a Christian minister. This lawsuit though was being held before an unofficial Chinese court, a legal system used by Chinese in other cities and towns as well.

The suit revolved around Charles & Co., a Chinese laundry owned by Tung Al. Last summer, Gee Jee, one of Tung's employees, had attempted to buy into partnership with Tung, agreeing to pay on the installment plan over the course of three months. However, Gee was six months late in making his payments, though that didn't play a part in this suit. Instead, Gee made a mistake on a customer's order and Tung chastised him for it. This ended up in a physical fight, and afterward, Gee wanted Tung arrested for assault.

In the end, both parties agree to have the matter decided by the Chinese court. Usually, when this option was chosen, you would apply to Moon Fee, a Chinese magistrate in New York, who would then send a deputy to resolve the matter. However, Moon was in China at the moment, so two other judges, with the consent of Tung and Gee (as well as at their expensive), came to Springfield. The judges included Buck Sing of New York and Chin Tan at Southbridge. Though Buck was tending to side with Gee, Chin was more persuasive and the judges finally decided the Tung won the suit.

More interesting details on the Chinese community in Springfield was provided in the Springfield Republican, October 1, 1893. It noted that there were only about 25 Chinese in the city, employed in 12 laundries. The article was very positive about the Chinese, stating “The Chinese as seen in the East are as a class law-abiding and inoffensive. Very seldom is one arrested or complained of for crime, and then it is as likely as not that he is more sinned against than sinning.” A bit tongue in cheek, the article stated the main problem with the Chinese was the inflexibility of the Chinese laundry rule, that without a ticket, you couldn't get your clothes. There was also a mention that the two two best known interpreters in the city were Quong Ung, of 41 Main Street and Bing Gee, located at the corner of Water and Bridge Streets.

A Chinese Sunday School was also started 9 years ago by Mrs. A.S. McClean, which was to help the Chinese learn English and to provide them some religious instruction. The school met every Sunday afternoon at the YMCA, and the average attendance since it opened was 15 people, though last Sunday there were 23 attendees. During the past nine years, the school has taught about 175 Chinese, including some from surrounding communities. Based on the attendance figures, it is apparent that most of the Chinese in Springfield attended the school.

The first Chinese restaurant in Springfield wouldn't appear until around 1901. The Springfield Republican, April 18, 1901, noted that there was a Chinese restaurant at the corner of Main and State streets, though it didn't identify the restaurant by name. Later newspaper sources would indicate that this first spot was the Canton, owned by Woy Ying.

Another Chinese restaurant would open two years later. The Springfield Republican, May 21, 1903, noted that a Chinese restaurant, located at 28 Fort Street, would open in two days. The owner was Jue Lee, noted to be a friend of Jue Fun, the laundryman, both seen as "progressive" Chinese. Interestingly, the menu only contained Chinese dishes, and didn't have any American dishes.

In some unfortunate news, the Springfield Republican, July 30, 1903, reported that two black men, Walter Madison and Edward Grant, were tried in the police court yesterday for assault on Joe Fun and Jue Lee, the owners of the new Chinese restaurant on Fort Street. This is the only article to mention that Jue Lee was an owner, and this appears to be a mistake. While Joe and Jue were walking along Worthington Street, they were attacked by Walter and Edward. The two men were found guilty and fined $10 for the assault.

A third Chinese restaurant? The North Adams Transcript, August 15, 1906 stated that Ong Yon Ben, the owner of a Chinese laundry on Center Street in North Adams, who had been a resident for   15 years, had sold his laundry to Tom How of Springfield. Ong was supposedly going to move to Springfield and start a Chinese restaurant. However, it doesn't appear he ever did start a restaurant, or at least, there was no documentation in the newspapers that he ever did so.

The Springfield Republican, August 21, 1906, reported that Jue Fun, the owner of a Chinese restaurant on Worthington Street was recently arrested for using profane language in the presence of a police officer. I'll note that this article places the restaurant on Worthington rather than Fort Street. Another newspaper during this period states the same thing. These are parallel streets, close together, so the actual address might have been a bit fluid.

In this incident, at about 10:30pm on a Sunday night, Jue was speaking to a woman in an alleyway to the rear of his restaurant when a police advised the woman to go home. Fun told the officer that he was interfering with his personal rights, and his language got heated. The officer then arrested him for and it was noted that his trial would be continued until next Monday. I wasn't able to find the resolution to this matter, though even if found guilty, Jue would have likely received only a small fine.

More trouble for Jue. The Boston Herald, September 5, 1906, reported that Jue Fun had refused to serve food to several black people at his restaurant. Five lawsuits, battling the discrimination, were then brought against him in superior court, the suits aggregating for $2200. Unfortunately, the resolution of these lawsuit was proven elusive.

The Springfield Republican, October 20, 1909, noted that James Moriarty was fined $5 in police court for maliciously breaking glass in the Chinese restaurant on Fort Street.

Another intriguing article, with insufficient details. The Springfield Union, March 14, 1911, mentioned that a year or two ago, the license commissioners of Springfield took action against a Chinese restaurant. They revoked its common victuallers license on grounds that it was a menace to the morals of the community, and this ended up putting them out of business. However, the identity of the restaurant was not provided.

A brief notice in the Springfield Daily News, May 17, 1911, stated that the Building Department granted a permit to George Whitney to construct an addition to the Chinese restaurant building at 103 Worthington Street. Again, the name of the restaurant was not provided.

Then, the Springfield Daily News, October 26, 1911, stated that 2 watches and $32 in cash were stolen from Ying Woy’s Chinese restaurant on Worthington Street. No name for the restaurant was provided, though the owner's name was given. Was this the restaurant that had a recent addition?

An assault on a waiter. The Springfield Daily News, December 28, 1911, reported that a waiter at the Chinese restaurant on State Street was assaulted by a black man, Edward Williams, who was with a friend, Zara Freeman. The waiter was said to still be bedridden as a result of the injuries. Zara had already been to court and fined $5, while the matter for Edward had been continued. The Springfield Daily News, January 4, 1912, provided more details, noting that Williams was fined $15. The victim was Chin Way, who instead of being a waiter was actually the president of the Chinese restaurant on West State Street. In the assault, he had sustained a crippled foot, a cut arm, and multiple bruises.

A Chinese restaurant is gone! The Springfield Daily News, August 24, 1912, stated that a permit had been granted to demolish a wooden building at 103-105 Worthington Street, which is currently used by a Chinese restaurant. The Springfield Republican, August 25, 1912, added that the Bijou amusement company got the permit to raze a building with a Chinese restaurant and bowling alley to make room for an enlarged Bijou theater. The name of the restaurant wasn't provided.

The first time a Chinese restaurant is named! The Springfield Republican, December 29, 1912, ran an article discussing how the 100 or so Chinese living in Springfield would celebrate New Year’s Day. Rather than celebrate the usual Chinese New Year, the Chinese in the city were choosing to celebrate the Western New Year's Day holiday. The article also mentioned that the Chinese were going to soon form a club, a public association for the Chinese community. The lead person pushing for this club was Charles Young, who owns the Shanghai Restaurant at 28 Fort Street. This is the same location as the restaurant that was opened by Jue Lee in 1903. Did Lee sell the restaurant to Young at some point?

Opium raids. The Springfield Union, February 3, 1913, reported that for the second time within the last few months, the police raided a Chinese opium joint. The previous raid, at a place on Liberty Street, had led to the arrest of 11 Chinese. This time, the police raided a Chinese laundry at 44 Sanford Street, arresting 4 Chinese and seizing a large quantity of opium, pipes, lamps, and other items. One of the defendants was Ching Fok, who owns a Chinese restaurant on lower State street, bailed out everyone for $50 each.

Welcome to the new Chinese club. The Springfield Union, March 8, 1913, described the new club which would soon open. The Chinese Republic association’s clubrooms would be opened at 264 Main Street. Charles Young, was elected the president for all his hard work in helping to establish the association. It was then noted that Charles had been born in San Francisco, but when he was 6 months old, his parents returned to China. When he was 14 years old, Charles decided to return to America and first went to New York, living there until 1908, when he came to Springfield. He then  opened a Chinese restaurant on Fort Street. Charles is now 27 years old, so he started the restaurant when he was only 22 years old.

Charles stated the goal of the new association was twofold, first to discourage vice like opium and gambling and second, to enlighten the Chinese about American ideas and institutions. The article also noted that there were about 200 Chinese living in Hampden County and Northern Connecticut, and all of them would be served by the new association. As a follow-up, the Springfield Union, March 17, 1913, mentioned that over 150 Chinese gathered at the new association yesterday at its formal opening. They also elected as Vice President, Woy Ying, the proprietor of a Chinese restaurant on Worthington Street. I really wish these newspapers would give the names of these restaurants.

Briefly, the Springfield Union, August 13, 1913, and mentioned there was a Chinese restaurant at 108 State Street. In the Springfield Republican, August 18, 1913, and Springfield Union, August 18, 1913, a couple more details were provided. Fred Chin is supposed to be the owner of the restaurant at 108 State Street, and he was assaulted at his restaurant by Edward Lawyer. Edward ate at the restaurant and then refused to pay. An argument ensued and Edward then punched Chin in the face. The police later found Edward hiding under a bed in a boarding house, and he admitted to the assault. Chin needed 2 stitches for an injury to his nose.

A couple months later, the Springfield Union, October 11, 1913, stated that Fred Chin had sold his interest in the firm of Wey Yen Low Co. Chinese Restaurant, at 108 State Street, and severed his connections to it. The new manager was noted as being Chin Wey.

The Springfield Daily News, October 21, 1913, stated that the alterations to 218 Worthington Street were nearly complete and that a new Chinese-American restaurant would open there, The Asia. The Springfield Daily News, November 22, 1913, then posted an advertisement for the grand opening of The Asia, a Chinese-American café and restaurant, which is owned by Tom Ming and Tom Monkip.  It also appears that this restaurant is part of a restaurant group located in several different states. A brief review was provided in the Springfield Daily News, November 26, 1913, noting The Asia, which was open from 6am to Midnight, had delicious food, excellent service and moderate prices.

Another opium raid. The Springfield Union, November 28, 1913, reported on what was thought to be maybe the biggest opoim raid in Springfield history.  The police raided 22 and 24 Liberty Street,  arresting 5 Chinese laundrymen, who all pled guilty, and were given a total fine of $220. Chin Joe, the owner of 22 Liberty, was fined $160 for keeping a house where opium was illegally. Charles Wing, Charles Young, Charles Tom. High Hing, George Sam, and Sam Sam were fined $20 each for being present in a place where opium was kept. This was the third time within a year that 22 Liberty had been raided, though only the first raid for 24 Liberty. In total, from these two raids, the police seized about six pounds of drugs and assorted paraphernalia. It's important to note that the Charles Young who was arrested is not the same Charles as the one who own the Shanghai Restaurant.

More details on Charles Young, restaurant owner. The Springfield Daily News, July 2, 1914, mentioned that Charles Young announced his marriage of a month ago to Jessie Cheng, the daughter of a New York Chinese merchant. Their romance spread over the last 10 years, and their marriage had been deferred until Jessie completed her education at the Washington Irving High School in New York City last month. They will live in Springfield. The Springfield Union, July 2, 1914, also mentioned that Charles came to the city 6 years ago, in 1908, and worked at Shanghai for 2 years before then buying the restaurant.

A new Chinese spot! The Springfield Daily News, July 16, 1914, published an ad for The New Shanghai, which opened that day at 156-158 Bridge Street. This restaurant was a branch of the Shanghai restaurant at 28 Fort Street, owned by Charles Young. The new spot offered an American or Chinese plan a la carte as well as a special noonday lunch for 35 cents.

Fire at this new spot! Only 8 days after opening, the Springfield Union, July 24, 1914, reported that a fire started in the restaurant due to an overheated cooking stove in the rear of the restaurant. Fortunately, the fire didn't spread far and the property damage was about $1000.

A gambling raid rather than another opium one. The Springfield Daily News, November 9, 1914, stated that 25 Chinese had been arrested the prior evening in a raid on a gaming establishment conducted by Chin Met at 133 Main Street. They were apparently running a lottery and Chinese from surrounding cities, Connecticut and New York were implicated. All of the defendants were 40+ years old, and they all pled guilty. Chin Met was fined $100 and all of the others were fined $10 each.

The Springfield Daily News, December 26, 1914 printed an ad for The Asia, noting their Special New Year Dinner with Turkey for 50 cents.

Plenty of details about the Chinese community in Springfield were discussed in the Springfield Republican, June 14, 1915. The article noted that the next day, honorary commissioners from China were coming to Springfield to explore the community. It was noted by the writer that “we have a considerable colony of their countrymen among us and that we know surprisingly little of what they are like.” They were seen mainly as cooks and laundrymen, despite being in Springfield for over 30 years. They never congregated in one specific neighborhood, though some of their initial businesses, laundries, were located in the central business district.

Presently, there were over 200 Chinese in Springfield, with about 8 Chinese restaurants, and Charles Young and Ying Moy were the best known restaurant owners. There were Chinese grocery and variety stores here too, including the Chong Kee company at 107 1/2 Main Street and Sun Wah Lung at 26 Liberty Street. These grocery stores were also a kind of social club, and usually the first place a new person visited when they come to the city and were unemployed. Sometimes they could get even room and board there for free until they got a job.

It was also noted that also almost every one of their businesses was a success so it was easy for them to get credit at local bank. They were tireless workers whose only form of recreation was the club life, where they met to chat about matters of mutual interest. There was a local Chinese republican club, with about 30 members.

The terrible tragedy of three murdered Chinese. The Springfield Daily News, September 13, 1915, somberly reported on the murder of three Chinese, two in Springfield and one in Greenfield. The alleged killer was Bow Yeong (pictured above), aka Ng Hok Yeong and aka Ng Hok Leung. Bow was arrested and would be arraigned on the 17th, while a grand jury indictment was sought. Bow told the police that he was angry as the other Chinese did not help him financially in paying the costs of his case before the U.S. court in which he was a defendant on charges of being illegally in the country. Charles Young, the owner of the Shanghai Restaurant, paid the bond for Bow, and informed the deportation commissioner that Bow thought he would be deported, which is part of the reason for the killings.

Bow's first victim was Ong Ten of Greenfield, who was Bow's business partner.  Ong was sleeping at his laundry when it was thought Bow entered the laundry and killed Ong with a knife. However, as there were no witnesses to this murder, it was believed that the case might not go forward. After killing Ong, Bow went to the Peking Restaurant, on Hampden Street, walked into the dining room where Wu Shee Chong (a part owner of the restaurant) was standing, and shot him twice in the chest. Then, Bow left and went to the Canton Restaurant on Worthington Street. and found Ng Hong (the son of the owner of the restaurant, Wing Sing) sitting at the cashier’s desk. Bow shot three times, hitting Ng twice. Afterward, Bow went back outside where he was confronted by a police officer. Bow pointed his gun at him, but never fired and was subsequently arrested.

Bow, who was 34 years old, was a native of China and came to America about 8 years ago on a merchant’s certificate. About a week before, Bow withdrew all of his savings, $1040, and sent it by money order to Quong Woh of San Francisco. And several weeks ago, he purchased a .32 revolver, which he used for two of the murders. Interestingly, the judge in the deportation case was ready to dismiss the charges against Bow.

The Springfield Union, December 11, 1915, published an ad for another new Chinese restaurant, the   Oriental Café, located at 223 Main Street. Another ad in the Springfield Union, January 27, 1916, mentioned that the restaurant served Chinese and American cuisine, had a Special Dinner Daily for 35 cents, and offered takeout.

An assault at the Canton. The Springfield Daily News, April 26, 1916 discussed some trouble at the Canton Restaurant on Worthington St, resulting from a fight on the night of March 25, 1914. Max Adelson brought a civil suit for assault against Woy King, the owner, seeking $3000 for a gash on the back of his head received during fight with 4-5 waiter. Adelson stated that one of the waiters hit him in the head with a catsup bottle. However, the  defendant claimed the plaintiff had been intoxicated and “raising a roughhouse.” He attacked a waiter, and during the fight, Adelson fell upon a table and cut his head on the marble corner. The Springfield Union, April 27, 1916, noted that the jury found for the defendant.

Another gambling raid. The Springfield Republican, October 31, 1916, reported that 25 Chinese had been arrested for violating the gambling law. Charles Young, of 132 Main Street (and not the restaurant owner), was fined $100 for maintaining a gaming house, while 6 others were fined $10 each and 18 more were only fined $5 each.

A backlash against Chinese restaurants. The Springfield Republican, May 30, 1917, reported that there would be a public hearing to be held to all interested in the “stand of the cook’s and waiters’ union against the granting of licenses to proprietors of Chinese restaurants.” The union supporters and the Chinese restaurant keepers would all have an opportunity to speak before the licensing commission. The union wanted to prevent any further Chinese restaurants from opening in Springfield.

In a follow-up, the Springfield Republican, June 2, 1917, noted that Quin Yue of Boston had sought to open a new Chinese restaurant on Bridge Street while Woy Ying, owner of the Canton Restaurant, wanted a license to open another new restaurant on Fort Street. The union supporters stated that “it was virtually impossible for American restaurants to compete successfully with Chinese restaurants because of the low-paid help which the Chinese employ.” They also alleged that every new Chinese restaurant drove an American restaurant out of business. It was also mentioned that Way Ying had filed an application for the first Chinese restaurant in Springfield some 15 years ago. The commission didn’t make a decision at that time.

Ultimately, and fortunately, the efforts to prevent the Chinese from opening new restaurants failed.

The first of the new restaurants opened a few months later. The Springfield Republican, September 2, 1917, published a large advertisement for the new Canton Café, which would open on Thursday, located at located at 16-18 Fort Street. It was owned by Woy Ying, who also owned the Canton Restaurant at  81-83 Worthington Street. Woy Ying gave Springfield its first Chinese restaurant and for past 20 years has built an excellent reputation. The new cafe, serving Chinese and American dishes, would have 2 large dining rooms with a capacity of 170 people. Their Fried Chicken was mentioned as “especially worthy."

The Springfield Republican, April 10, 1918, published an ad for Wey Yen Low, located at 108 State Street, which was under new management. It was an American and Chinese restaurant, which served a regular dinner for 35 cents.

In other restaurant news, the Springfield Republican, November 7, 1918, noted that Woy Ying,  who owned the Canton, had bought a property between Worthington Street and Symonds Avenue, plans to move the Canton restaurant to this location once he built a new building.

The Springfield Daily News, May 26, 1919, announced the opening of the new Canton Restaurant, at 111 Worthington Street, said to be the "finest and largest Chinese restaurant in the city." Woy Ying kept expanding his restaurants.

The Springfield Daily News, May 29, 1919, published an ad for Riverside Park, noting that you could have lunch or dinner at the Park restaurant, which was now under the control of Charles Young (who owned the Shanghai Restaurant), serving American and Chinese food. There would also be dancing in the pavilion and concerts by 104th Regiment Band.

The Milk Police strike! The Springfield Daily News, December 16, 1919, printed that 16 store-keepers, 3 restaurant owners, and 2 meat-packing companies had to go to court on food violations. The 3 restaurants were charged with selling milk that tested below the lawful standard. One of those restaurant owners was Ying Moy, of the Canton Restaurant, and he pled not guilty so the matter was continued for trial.

A Melee breaks out. The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield), June 14, 1920, reported that there was a fight inside the new Canton Chinese restaurant the previous night. Three men allegedly started the fight, though the reasons are currently unknown, and it led to a melee as the 200 guests inside tried to exit the restaurant, while there were about 1000 spectators outside who were trying to get in.

Another new Chinese restaurant. The Springfield Daily News, February 15, 1921, published a large ad for the new Mandarin Restaurant, located at 218 Worthington Street. It was an American and Chinese restaurant, and the ad presented a partial menu too. For example, you could find a Noon Luncheon for 75 cents, an Evening Dinner for $1.50, and a Special Evening Menu for $1.50. Some of the many items included: Blue Point Oysters; Fried Scallops, Roast California Chicken, Filet Mignon, Chicken Chow Mein with Almonds, and Fried Boneless Chicken with Pineapple Sauce;. It was also mentioned that the Mandarin Orchestra would play for dancing every evening from 10pm-Midnight.

And changes at another Chinese restaurant. The Springfield Republican, August 2, 1921, first reported that the Shanghai Restaurant had closed as it owners, Charlie Young, had left Springfield to become an insurance agent in New York. The article also alleged that Young was the first Chinese to own a restaurant in Springfield and the first Chinese to own an automobile as well. However, we already know Woy Ying was the first to open a Chinese restaurant, and that when Young arrived in Springfield, there were at least two Chinese restaurant already operating.

The Springfield Daily News, August 3, 1921, then mentioned that the Shanghai Restaurant hadn't actually closed but was merely under new ownership and management. It was now owned by the Shanghai Restaurant Company, which was recently formed by 15 Chinese from Springfield, Boston, and New York. The new manager was Harry S. Chong, and they had hired several New York Chinese chefs to create new Chinese dishes for the menu.

There was then a new ad for the Shanghai in the Springfield Daily News, September 14, 1921. The Shanghai Restaurant was open from 7am to midnight, and offered a Noonday Luncheon for 35 cents, a Special Chicken Dinner for 35 cents, Supper for 40 cents, and a Sunday dinner for 75 cents.

A drug raid that netted only gamblers. The Springfield Republican, March 6, 1922, reported that 28 Chinese were arrested for gambling in a raid at the cellar of 22 Liberty Street, which was owned by Charles Song. The vice squad was actually seeking drugs, which they didn't find, but found the Chinese gambling. Woy Ying, the restaurant owner, paid the bail of $1800 for all of the defendants.

The milk police strike again. The Springfield Republican, January 12, 1927, noted that Harry Chung of the Shanghai Restaurant and Ung Lang, the owner of the Canton restaurant at 111 Worthington Street, were brought into court for selling milk and cream below the standard quality. They pled guilty and paid fines of $10 each.

The Springfield Republican, January 15, 1929, noted the Gala Opening of the new Asia Restaurant, located at 1800 Main Street, and mentioned there was sufficient room for 1000 guests to dance and dine. The Springfield Republican, August 7, 1929, then noted that James Ling, who came to Springfield in January, was the secretary of The Asia Restaurant corporation, which operated a chain of Chinese restaurants. However, the restaurant only lasted about five years, as the Springfield Republican, September 22, 1934, stated the Asia Restaurant filed for bankruptcy.

Some history of the Chinese community was provided in the Springfield Republican, April 30, 1936. First, the article mentioned that there were two classes of Chinese in the city: the ordinary, working-class Chinese who lived there more or less permanently, and are usually in the laundry or restaurant business; and the students, who were there only temporarily. In Springfield, there were currently about 250 Chinese, most from the Canton province on the southern coast of China. About 50 work of the Chinese worked in the 30 laundries, and another 50 worked in the restaurant business. The rest of the article presented some history of the Chinese community, including information on the Chinese students that came to the area to go to school, most of which I previously discussed in this article.

The Springfield Union, October 17, 1962, provided some history of the Canton Restaurant, located at 111 Worthington Street, and noting that it had been around for 44 years. Woy Ying initially opened the Canton Café at 81 Worthington Street. Then, in 1918, Woy Ying opened the Canton Restaurant at 16-17 Fort Street. In 1919, it became known as the New Canton Restaurant, was sold to other interests and then closed in 1920. However, in 1919, Ying opened another Canton Restaurant, at 111 Worthington Street, and operated it until 1922, when it was sold to the Mong Sang Co. They then operated the restaurant until 1948, when it was purchased by Lam Ung, Wu Hong Kim, and Lee Wing, who renovated the place in 1955.

It was then noted in the Springfield Union, November 20, 1962, that there had been changes in corporate officers and management of the Canton restaurant. The new President was Foo Y. Lee of 109 Worthington Street. The former president, Ung Lam, had plans to open a new Chinese restaurant at 338 Bridge Street. The Canton would last for another thirteen years. The Springfield Union, March 25, 1975, noted that the Canton restaurant had announced that it would close on March 31, 1975. As a follow-up, the Springfield Union, March 26, 1975, noted that the owner alleged that a lack of parking and a drop off in number of people in downtown Springfield, had led to the closure. After over 55 years of operation, the Canton closed.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston (Part 2--Pittsfield & Malden)

Where were these first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written a five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatownand I'm now expanding my coverage to include the rest of Massachusetts. This is a work in progress, and I'll be adding additional cities and towns in the future parts of this new series. The first article dealt with Cambridge and Fitchburg, and now this second article deals with Pittsfield and Malden.


Maybe the first thought to open a Chinese restaurant in Pittsfield was in 1903, though it didn't lead to anything concrete. The Berkshire Eagle, August 27, 1903, reported that two out of town Chinese men had visited the city for several days, considering opening a Chinese restaurant. However, it seemed that many landlords were opposed to the idea and it didn't seem a suitable building could be found for the restaurant.

However, it seems matters changed a year or so later. The Berkshire Eagle, December 6, 1904, stated that construction workers were preparing a Chinese restaurant, on the second floor of a building next to an apartment building at the Burbank block on North Street. It was thought the restaurant would be ready to open in about 2 weeks.

And the December 12, 1904 newspaper reported that the Chinese restaurant, at 41 North Street, above Cooley's grocery store, was now open, every day from 4pm-2am. That same newspaper, maybe an issue later in the day, explained a bit more, noting that the owner was Soy Hong Low, and that the restaurant would server all kinds of Chinese dishes, priced from 10 cents to $1.50.

The restaurant was an apparent success. The Berkshire Eagle, March 28, 1905, mentioned that the restaurant, which has been open for 3 months, has been successful, and noted, “The place is nicely appointed with linoleum covered floors and oak tables and chairs and the walls are decorated with appropriate Chinese pictures. The bill of fare was published in the Eagle recently.” I haven't been able to locate that bill of fare though.

Despite this apparent success, The Berkshire Eagle, September 13, 1907, reported that the restaurant closed after a few months. In addition, that article mentioned that a couple other Chinese men were in town, hoping to soon open a chop suey restaurant on West Street, with plans to place a large electrical sign in front of the restaurant.

Strangely, Hin Gaw, one of the owners of the proposed Chinese restaurant on West Street suddenly fled to China. The Berkshire Eagle, October 25, 1907, mentioned that just a week before, Hin Gaw had married a young Scotch girl. Hin Gaw then sold all of his property, including a laundry, to other Chinese, and returned to China, without his new bride. No one gave an explanation for his actions.

About six months later, The Berkshire Eagle, March 12, 1908, reported that Gaw Tang, Gaw Hing & Co. would take possession of the Chinese & American restaurant at 106 West Street. on March 23.

A new Chinese spot. The Berkshire Eagle, March 31, 1910, noted that Chinese proprietors were renovating a building at 93 Eagle Street to become a Chinese restaurant. Very few details were provided.

The Butter Police? The Berkshire Eagle, February 29, 1912, reported, “Gaw Ten, owner of Chinese restaurant on West St, was fined $10 for the lesser offense of serving oleomargarine to guests without giving the notice required by the state dairy bureau.” Inspector Lombard said that this was a very uncommon fraud, and he must enforce it, despite him believing that city is relatively free of fraud of passing oleo off as butter. That is the law, even though Lombard personally believes that "oleo is practically the same as butter."

And some trouble at the other Chinese restaurant. The Berkshire Eagle, May 27, 1912, reported that the police were called to the Chinese restaurant on Eagle Street on Saturday night at about midnight. Apparently, a drunk man entered the restaurant, carrying several bottles of beer, and one of the waitresses tried to take them away from him. He refused to surrender them and the waitress threw a bottle of ketchup at him, starting a fight. The drunk man, who was over six feet tall, knocked over the waitress and a couple other people, before he left. There was allegedly another earlier incident too where the waitress was again involved in a fight with another woman.

Unfortunately, these incidents were far too common at this place. “The restaurant of late has become a gathering place for people of ill repute and a number of interesting incidents have happened there late at night.” In addition, it was noted, “The Chinamen who frequent the place have not won great popularity from their neighbors. One Chinaman, who has been obnoxious to the public so much that the police have kept a watch on him, was seen coming from the restaurant a few days ago in company with the white waitress and toying with a revolver which he took from his pocket.” There weren't any subsequent newspaper mentions of this restaurant so it possibly may have closed soon after this incident.

A new Chinese restaurant! The Berkshire Eagle, August 21, 1917, discussed a new Chinese-American restaurant, operated by Chung Wah & Co.  Frank Chu, a high school graduate of Manchester, New Hampshire, will be in charge of the restaurant and Tom Lee, a well known local Chinese, will also be involved. The place will have three dining rooms and there will be glass doors leading to the kitchen, so patrons can watch their food being prepared. There will be a cigar stand in the main dining room, and all of the waiters, except for one young lad, will be men.

A complimentary banquet was recently held for city officials, newspapermen, and local business men. The menu included Rice & Chicken Soup, Chicken Chow Mein, Fruit Salad, Sweet Lobster Saute, Fricasseed Boneless Chicken, Marble Ice Cream, Cake, Coffee, Tea, Preserved Chinese Oranges, Ginger Fruit, Cigars, and Cigarettes. “The menu, composed of rich Chinese dishes, perfectly cooked and served was a rare treat to the guests.”

The Berkshire Eagle, August 21, 1917, printed an advertisement for the new Chung Wah & Co. restaurant, located at 21 North Street. Regular dinner was offered for 30 cents, and Dinner for 50 cents. Most of the food in the ad though is American, not Chinese, cuisine.

However, The Berkshire Eagle, August 27, 1917, mentioned that Chung Wah & Co. was forced to temporarily close to make repairs. It would reopen on September 5, after the completion of repairs, which included some plumbing issues.

The Berkshire Eagle, September 12, 1918, presented a new ad for Chung Wah & Co. and it is clear they were trying to attract white women, to come in after shopping or the theater.

Another new Chinese restaurant. The Berkshire Eagle, November 15, 1919, printed an ad for a new "American and Chinese Oriental Restaurant" at 76 West Street. Only 35 cents for their Regular Dinner.

Thanksgiving dinner! The Berkshire Eagle, November 23, 1920, posted an ad for Chung Wah & Co., offering a Thanksgiving, multi-course dinner special for $1.25. There was an entree choice of either Roast Vermont Turkey, with Walnut Dressing and Cranberry Sauce, or Turkey Subgum Chow Mein Nanking Style.

Christmas dinner! The Berkshire Eagle, December 24, 1923, posted an ad for Chung Wah & Co., offering a Christmas, multi-course dinner special for $1.00 or $1.25, dependent on your entree. Entrees included: Roast Vermont Spring Turkey, Fried Spring Chicken, and Turkey Chop Suey.

A brief picture of the Chinese community in Pittsfield was presented in The Berkshire Eagle, February 8, 1932. “In Pittsfield there are approximately 30 Chinese including one woman and five children. The majority of those are engaged in the laundry business while others conduct the Chinese restaurant." Almost all of them come from Canton or Hong Kong. Seid T. Woo, the manager of the Chung Wah & Co. restaurant, is the spokesmen for the local Chinese community.

A sudden disappearance! The Berkshire Eagle, August 11, 1932, reported that the Chung Wah restaurant was mysteriously vacated overnight several weeks ago. No explanation was given. The property was recent purchased at sheriff’s auction and it will become an American & Italian restaurant.

Seven years without a Chinese restaurant. The Berkshire Eagle, May 12, 1939, noted that Pittsfield would soon have a Chinese restaurant again. A group of Chinese restaurant owners from Taunton have been renovating the Waite Building at 342 North Street to create a new Chinese restaurant, which may open on June 1. The restaurant will be named China Clipper.

The Berkshire Eagle, March 26, 1940, posted an ad for The China Clipper, noting its "Chinese Roast Pork Dinner." Note also that the restaurant was only open until 9pm, and not midnight like most other Chinese restaurants. An ad on April 17 mentioned they were now serving "Swift's Premium Tender Juicy Roast Beef." A May 8 ad stated they offered Barbecued Chinese Roast Pork with Duck Sauce for 50 cents. A May 22 ad offered Chicken Chop Suey or Chicken Chow Mein as a luncheon special for 50 cents.

As of June 16, 1949, The China Clipper noted in its advertisement that it still was Pittsfield's only Chinese restaurant.

Still going strong! The Berkshire Eagle, March 7, 1958, had an ad for The China Clipper, noting its special Dinner for Two for $4.95. This is the type of Chinese-American cuisine which is very common now.

Fire! The Berkshire Eagle, June 19, 1978, reported that a fire on April 6 significantly damaged The China Clipper, so the current owner, Yut Ho Jew, hoped to relocate to 1525 West Housatonic Street, previously occupied by the Berkshire Ambulance Service. The relocation occurred and the restaurant would last until the start of 1998, nearly sixty years in business, when the restaurant was sold and replaced by a non-Chinese restaurant.

Currently, there are an abundance of Asian restaurants in Malden, a great variety of different cuisines, often offering excellent food. I've enjoyed dining at many of these restaurants, some which I've previously reviewed here. However, that was obviously not always the case, and the first Chinese restaurant didn't come to Malden until 1912, over objections by some.

The Boston Post, September 18, 1912, and the Boston Globe, September 18, 1912, reported that at an Aldermen meeting the previous night in Malden, there was some discussion over the granting of a permit for the opening of a Chinese restaurant in Malden square. Aldermen William M. Blakeley moved to reconsider the granting of this permit as he claimed it would be unfair to the existing restaurants. However, as he was the only Alderman who desired reconsideration, no action against the permit was taken.

There was a follow-up in the Boston Post, September 19, 1912, noting that “For some time a ‘chop suey trust,’ made up of rich Chinese who control Chinese restaurants in Boston, Salem, Lynn and Haverhill, have been seeking official permission to do business in Malden.” This would be the first Chinese restaurant in Malden. The firm gave a tour of their other restaurants to some of the Aldermen, to see how they conducted business.

The only opposition to the permit was still just Alderman Blakeley, who stated that Malden did not need a Chinese restaurant. He also said,  “..if Malden people wanted Chinese food they could afford to go to Boston, and that if the Canton restaurant was outfitted in its usual lavish manner, the place might be a lure and snare to the girls of the city and endanger the morals of the city’s youth.” Some of the sam racist worries echoed by others during this time period. Fortunately, the other Aldermen didn't agree with his fears and granted the license. In addition, though the other restaurants in Malden had to close at 9pm, the Chinese restaurant would be allowed to stay open until midnight.

Alderman Blakeley apparently tried to organize some other opposition to the Chinese restaurant, The Boston Globe, October 2, 1912, reported that, “At a meeting last night of the Aldermen last evening protests were read by Men’s Club of the Center Methodist Church, the Linden Methodist Men’s Club and the Forestdale A.A. against the granting of a permit for the opening of a Chinese restaurant in Malden sq." Despite this opposition, no action was taken against the granting of the license. The other Alderman though the Chinese restaurant would be good for the city.

The restaurant, the New Canton, would open but three years later would run into trouble, renewed opposition from William Blakeley, who had become the mayor in 1915. The Boston Globe, June 7, 1915 noted that the New Canton had been granted a victuallers license by the Board of Alderman but Mayor Blakeley has not signed it. Without that license, the restaurant couldn't open on Sundays. I'll note that the restaurant was still able to remain open from Monday to Saturday, but they needed a special license to open on Sundays.

As reported in the Boston Globe, July 1, 1915, and Boston Journal, July 1, 1915, the restaurant sued the Mayor for his failure to sign the license, and a writ of mandamus was issued against him. The writ stated that the Mayor has “not lived up to his oath of office and has been negligent in his duties by failing to affix his signature to the license granted by the alderman. Also that the major has discriminated against the restaurant people, his stand being based on prejudices actuated by motives of hatred against the Chinese race.” The restaurant also noted that they had been able to open on Sundays the previous year, under the  term of Mayor Schumaker.

More details were provided in the Boston Herald, July 10, 1915 and Boston Globe, July 10, 1915. The New Canton restaurant, located at 416 Main Street, filed their application for a common victuallers’ license on April 27, 1915 and the Board of Alderman granted the license. It was also alleged that the Mayor's had refused to sign the license unless the restaurant had hired American citizens rather than Chinese that worked there.

Then, the Boston Globe, July 11, 1915, stated the Mayor had to appear before the Massachusetts Supreme Court and state why he shouldn’t be forced to issue the license. The City Solicitor had advised the Mayor to sign the license but he had refused to do. His refusal continued even when he went to court. The Boston Globe, July 13, 1915, said the Mayor had appeared in court, saying he wouldn’t sign the license and would fight it despite the cost.

In follow-up, the Boston Globe, July 16, 1915, reported that Judge De Courcy of the Supreme Court had decided to report the matter to the full bench on a question of law on the writ. During the hearing, defense counsel had alleged there had been no racial discrimination in the decision to refuse to sign the license. The Mayor felt that granting the license “would be detrimental to the public welfare.” Defense counsel also claimed that under Chapter 102 of the Revised Laws related to the granting of licenses to common victuallers, the Mayor had equal powers to the Board of Aldermen in “determining whether such action would injure the morals of a community.” The judge mentioned he was tending on granting the write, but as the defense asked for a full bench hearing, he granted their request.

The matter was finally settled about a week later. The Boston Globe, July 24, 1915, reported that the judge ruled that the New Canton restaurant could open on Sundays for now. The full bench hearing wouldn't take place until the Fall and the judge didn't believe the restaurant should lose money waiting until that hearing occurred. The Boston Post, July 24, 1915, then stated that, on the urging of the judge, the Mayor finally signed the license so the New Canton could open on Sundays. Case settled.

To Be Continued...