Friday, April 3, 2020

Origins Of The St. Paul Sandwich: A Missouri Invention?

(This photo of a St. Paul sandwich is courtesy of Mark, aka GastroPublico)

     "The St. Paul Sandwich — comprising an egg foo young patty, slice of tomato, pickle and iceberg lettuce sandwiched between two slices of mayonnaise-laden white bread.."
--Riverfront Times, November 15, 2006

If you've visited some of the Chinese-American restaurants in St. Louis, Missouri, or some other Missouri cities, you might have eaten a St. Paul Sandwich. It's said to be rare to find them available outside of Missouri. The origins of this sandwich are murky, and in an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 24, 1990, they stated, "We've heard of St. Paul sandwiches, but we never understood exactly why they're called that or why they're considered a St. Louis specialty." The article also quoted Real American Food, by Jane & Michael Stern, that, "The mystery is that no Louisian seems to know how St. Paul's got their name. Why aren't they called St. Louises?"

It's certainly interesting that in 1990, a major newspaper in Missouri had no information about the origins of the St. Paul Sandwich. Eventually, a potential origin tale arose, which now seems to be the most commonly shared legend about this intriguing sandwich. It's claimed that the sandwich was invented by Steven Yuen at Park Chop Suey in St. Louis. It's further alleged that Yuen named the sandwich after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. The alleged date of its origin varies, ranging from the 1940s to the 1970s. However, is this legend true, and if so, is there proof?

When and where did the St. Paul sandwich originate? And is it only a regional Missouri dish?

Very soon after I started researching this sandwich, I was surprised to find a mention of a St. Paul sandwich from 1903! None of the background articles I'd read had even suggested the sandwich, by that name, was that old. And if so, Steven Yuen definitely didn't invent or name the sandwich. I was convinced to conduct a deeper delve into the origins of this sandwich, to ascertain what I could learn about its origins.

The first reference I found mentioning the St. Paul sandwich, and not surprisingly, was in The Appeal (St. Paul, MN), October 17, 1903. There was an ad for Mills' Sandwich room, and it was suggested you get "the new and popular St. Paul sandwich." So, it looks like the sandwich was invented around that time period and likely was named after the city. However, the article didn't describe the sandwich. A later issue of The Appeal (MN), April 29, 1905, published an ad for J.S. Mills’ Lunch & Sandwich Room, mentioning that a St. Paul sandwich cost 10 cents.

Who would have suspected the St. Paul sandwich extended back to 1903? However, we still need more information as this initial article didn't describe the nature of this sandwich.

It wouldn't be until 1913 that I found a description of the sandwich. The Evening Herald (KS), December 9, 1913, stated, “Egg sandwiches are ten cents in most places where they have been five although some have charged ten for several months. Ham-and-egg sandwiches bring fifteen pennies from that over-drawn purse. A St. Paul sandwich, made of ham, eggs and sometimes onions, is also drawing down the sum of three nickels.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 4, 1916, also provided a brief recipe for the sandwich, “Scramble eggs in bowl; chop ham fine; add onions and parsley.”

We thus see that this St. Paul sandwich is not the exact same as the one using Egg Foo Young, although as Egg Foo Young is basically an omelet, it's a kind of egg sandwich roughly similar to the original St. Paul sandwich. This original sandwich is a clear ancestor to the Egg Foo Young sandwich, and also makes me strongly suspect that this is the true source of its name, building upon an existing name for the Chinese-American variation. As we can see, the original St. Paul sandwich was known in Missouri at least as far back as 1916.

There were other similar sandwiches to the original St. Paul's Sandwich, some which just were alternative names based on geography, and others which were slight variations on the ingredients. Some of these alternate names include the Denver Sandwich, Western Sandwich, and Manhattan Sandwich.

The first, and brief, mention I found for the Denver Sandwich was in the Sioux City Journal (IA), May 5, 1901. The first references to the Western Sandwich were in the Poultney Journal (VT), April 22, 1904, which had an ad for a new lunch room that sold the Western Sandwich for 10 cents, and the North Adams Transcript (MA), December 15, 1904, which had an ad mentioning the “Western Egg Sandwich.”

The Janesville Daily Gazette (WI), December 9, 1909, had the first mention of a Manhattan Sandwich, where it was listed on a restaurant menu which also included the Denver Sandwich, so we can see those two sandwiches were different in some respect. The previously mentioned Appeal (MN), April 29, 1905, also presented a menu listing a St. Paul sandwich as well as a Denver Sandwich, also for 10 cents. A number of other menus in newspapers over the course of a number of years, would feature both of these sandwiches.

However, what were the fillings in these sandwiches? And which were just synonyms for the same sandwich?

The Berkshire Eagle (MA), December 16, 1907, had a brief mention that the Western sandwich was made with ham. Then, the Daily Missoulian (MT), February 1, 1909, referenced some restaurant slang, noting the Denver Sandwich was made with minced ham, eggs, and onions. Next, the Press & Sun-Bulletin (NY), October 5, 1911, stated the Western Egg Sandwich was made with minced ham and egg but the Boston Post, October 29, 1916, printed that “A Western sandwich consists of ham and onions all chopped up and fried with an egg.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 28, 1919, noted that “a St. Paul Sandwich which is composed principally of ham and eggs.” The South Bend Tribune (IN), June 9, 1922, stated that the Manhattan Sandwich had a fried egg, minced ham, and onion.

So, we're actually left with somewhat of a confusing situation, one that acquired some resolution in later years, though some confusion would remain. In short, it seems that the Western, Manhattan and St. Paul sandwiches were essentially the same, with the Denver sandwich being slightly different, and that difference later appeared to be the addition of green peppers to the sandwich. However, the lines between these four sandwiches is blurry, and there are exceptions found. These sandwiches also were known all across the country.

More blurred lines. The Algona Upper Des Moines (IA), September 3, 1940, published, “If you order a Denver sandwich you get egg, onion, chopped meat…if you order a St. Paul sandwich, you get the same thing but with green pepper instead of onion…if the cook likes you, maybe you’ll get both onions and green peppers.” And then the Amarillo Daily News (TX), June 9, 1950, noted that, "A sandwich made of scrambled eggs mixed with chopped-up ham and green peppers is known as a Denver or St. Paul sandwich. There’s a slight difference. You add onions to one. The question is, which one.” It all seems to depend on where you order your sandwich.

So, how did the original St. Paul sandwich evolve into an egg foo young sandwich?

There doesn't appear to be much information readily found online about Steven Yuen of Park Chop Suey. The Riverfront Times, November 15, 2006, indicated that Yuen opened his restaurant in the mid-1970s, which seems to indicate his version of the St. Paul sandwich wasn't invented prior to that time. And if it existed before the opening of his restaurant, then he wasn't the inventor. Further research provided a clearer answer to this matter.

In the Indianapolis Star (IN), June 24, 1962, there was an article about recent changes at The Lantern restaurant, which was owned by the Chung family. Their menu included an Egg Foo Young Sandwich for 40 cents. This was the earliest mention of such a sandwich I was able to find, and obviously predates any sandwich Yuen might have created in the 1970s. The Indianapolis Star (IN), April 21, 1963, also mentioned a restaurant, the China Palace, which served an Egg Foo Young Sandwich. Their sandwich was served open-faced on bread and topped by gravy.

A recipe appeared! The Arkansas Democrat (AR), July 18, 1963 and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA), August 1, 1963, presented the same recipe for "Oriental Egg and Shrimp Sandwiches," an "Americanized version of the famous Chinese dish, Egg Foo Young." Basically, you make an omelet similar to Egg Foo Young, which is placed onto a hamburger bun, to which is added tomato slices, watercress and soy sauce. An Egg Foo Young sandwich!

The Green Bay Press-Gazette (WI), August 7, 1963, published the same recipe but added some introductory information lacking in the other article. One of the most interesting bits is that this is a low-calorie recipe, about 235 per serving. Both the Daily Journal (NJ), August 28, 1963, and Clarion-Ledger (MS), September 5, 1963, repeated the information from the Green Bay newspaper. During the early 1960s, the idea of an Egg Foo Young sandwich appeared across the country, from Arkansas to Wisconsin, Missouri to Pennsylvania.

Wong's Chinese Frozen foods appeared to have been around since at least 1950, and one of their products was frozen Egg Foo Young. The San Diego Union (CA), January 8, 1964, presented one of Wong's ads, explaining how their frozen Egg Foo Young could be used to create an "Eastern Denver" sandwich, simply placing the patties between a couple slices of bread. The Battle Creek Enquirer (MI), June 9, 1966, also noted a restaurant selling a Hot Egg Foo Young Sandwich, with gravy, for 65 cents.

Clearly, Yuen wasn't the first to put egg foo young between two slices of bread to make a sandwich. At best, he might have been the first to add mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickles to his sandwich, a minor variation to a pre-existing sandwich idea. His version simply became very popular in Missouri and acquired a legend all its own, ignoring all of the history that came before.

Plus, it seems probable that Yuen adopted the name, St. Paul Sandwich, from the long-existing "omelette" sandwich, rather than naming it after his hometown. It just happened to be a happy coincidence Yuen was from St. Paul. I'll also note that the claims about Yuen being the inventor and namer of the St. Paul sandwich all come from at least second-hand sources. I haven't found any sources that directly quoted Yuen about the invention. He might never had made such a claim. It might have been those around him who created the myth around Yuen and the St. Paul sandwich.

So, do you want to enjoy a St. Paul Sandwich now?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston (Part 7--North Adams & Brockton)

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. Part 1 dealt with Cambridge and Fitchburg; Part 2 with Pittsfield and Malden; Part 3 with Springfield, Part 4 with Fall RiverPart 5 with Lowell, Part 6 with Quincy, and now Part 7 deals with North Adams and Brockton.

As I detailed previously, in June 1870, 75 Chinese workers came to North Adams to work in a shoe factory. They brought two cooks with them and had their own kitchen at the shoe factory, where they lived. Over the next ten years, some of those workers left, but others arrived to replace them, until the later half of 1880, when there were essentially no Chinese workers remaining. Some of the Chinese returned to China, others went to San Francisco, and some likely settled in Massachusetts. However, the first Chinese restaurant in North Adams didn't arrive until 1917, much later than you might have expected.

The North Adams Transcript, December 1, 1917, reported that a Chinese restaurant was coming to town, which had been promised to come for the past several months. The restaurant was to be located on the second floor of the Bradford block on Main Street, over the store of J.E. Miller. It was noted that some citizens had opposed the idea of this restaurant but that it would still open within a short time. The name of the restaurant wasn't given, and there didn't appear to be any further references to this restaurant.

It seems that plans for a second Chinese restaurant didn't appear until 1923, though those plans went nowhere. The North Adams Transcript, August 15, 1923, mentioned that couple Chinese, who ran a chain of restaurants, were looking for a spots in the city for a new restaurant. However, it was quickly noted that those plans fell through.

A month later though, the North Adams Transcript, September 8, 1923, reported that two other Chinese, Wang Foo of Boston and W.J. Toy of Burlington, Vermont, had purchased The Crystal Lunch, on Main Street, and would turn it into a Chinese-American restaurant. The two men owned other restaurants in Boston, Burlington, Vermont, and Bangor, Maine.

The new Chinese restaurant was opened in early 1924. The North Adams Transcript, February 28, 1924, published an ad for The Oriental, at 98 Main Street, offering a special Sunday dinner for $1.00.

Five years later, the North Adams Transcript, December 2, 1929, reported that there had been a large fire at The Oriental Restaurant, also noting that the owner was now Fred Young. The fire swept through the interior, causing several thousand dollars of damage. The fire’s origin was unknown but it was thought to have started near the cashier’s desk in the front of the restaurant. The kitchen was not damaged, but in the dining room, the tile walls, steel ceiling and tile floor were extensively damaged, and all of furnishings, including an electric player piano, booths, tables, etc. were destroyed. Despite that damage, the restaurant was apparently opened by January 2, 1930.

About five years after the party, the North Adams Transcript, November 20, 1934, reported that The Oriental Restaurant had been seized under a mortgage foreclosure. Fred Young and his staff had left the city. Though the restaurant closed, there were ongoing negotiations to reopen it. It would reopen, but no longer as a Chinese restaurant. The North Adams Transcript, January 7, 1935, mentioned that E.K. Daily, of Bennington, Vermont, would open a restaurant and ice cream parlor.

Opening a Chinese restaurant in Brockton was extremely difficult, especially because of the opposition of organized labor organizations. Because of this opposition, there seems to have only been a single Chinese restaurant able to overcome the obstacles, and last for at least 15 years.

The Boston Herald, April 7, 1909, briefly mentioned that there was a Chinese restaurant on Ward Street but no details were provided, and I never found any other references to this restaurant. It may have existed for only a very short time.

The primary Chinese restaurant during this time period was first mentioned in the Boston Herald, November 26, 1911. The restaurant opened on Main Street about two month ago and faced some significant, and active, opposition. Initially, about three weeks before, certain city officials refused to attend a dinner at the restaurant. Afterwards, the Central Labor Union branded the restaurant as “unfair to labor,” and refused to allow the the Chinese waiters to join their organization. The labor organizations wanted the restaurant to shut down, and they passed out circulars which encouraged people not to patronize the restaurant. The restaurant owners, vowing to fight to the end, made an appeal to Mayor Howard but the owners claimed that the Mayor didn't help them.

Soon after, there was an upcoming mayoral election. The Boston Herald, December 3, 1911, noted that on December 5, the public would vote for Mayor Harry Howard or the ex-mayor William Clifford, and the election was expected to be close. However, the article noted that Mayor Howard had decided to approve the license for the Chinese restaurant on Main Street, earning him some anger from the labor unions. Ex-Mayor Clifford stated he would not have approved the license. In the end, Mayor Howard was re-elected and the restaurant continued to operate.

The Boston Globe, April 12, 1913, reported on a City Hall hearing about the renewal of the license for the Chinese restaurant. Over 400 people attended the hearing at City Hall, most opposing the license, and all who were representations of labor organizations. Apparently, the license was granted and the restaurant continued to operate. Curiously, none of these articles had yet provided the name of the restaurant.

Six years later, the Boston Herald, October 28, 1919, discussed the attempt of another Chinese restaurant to open in Brockton. This time, the Aldermen, with the backing of labor organizations, rejected the license application of Shangtun, a restaurant project backed by a $50K corporation. It was noted that only one Chinese restaurant had been successful in gaining permission to open in the city, although it still garnered opposition at times.

The restaurant's name is finally revealed! The Boston Herald, October 3, 1926, published an advertisement for the Nanking Restaurant, located at 173 Main Street, and stated to be "Brockton’s leading Chinese restaurant (thought it was also the only such Chinese restaurant). It was also noted that the restaurant had been around for 15 years, since 1911. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anymore about the Nanking, so don't know how much longer it lasted.

To Be Continued....

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What's A Chop Suey Sundae?

Well have you? When I asked this question on social media, almost no one seemed to have even heard of a Chop Suey Sundae. Some people thought I was joking, that such a thing couldn't exist. I was serious though, and once I explain the nature of this "Sundae," I think people will be seeking it out, or try to make it at home.

The key to understanding the Chop Suey Sundae is knowing that it doesn't actually contain any of the usual Chop Suey ingredients. No meat, onions, celery, bean sprouts, mushrooms nor any other similar ingredients. There are also two different versions of the Chop Suey Sundae, one which is more of a drink and the other which is more of a dessert to eat.

The drink version was invented first, in 1903, but by 1904, the second version had appeared. And both versions could be found all across the country. The Chop Suey Sunday also has existed throughout the 20th century, and you can even find recipes for it in newspapers from the early 21st century. So maybe it's time for you to try one.


The first newspaper reference I found for a Chop Suey Sundae was in the Sterling Daily Standard (IL), May 14, 1903, which briefly mentioned that the Chop Suey Sundae was available at Hallett's Fountain.

The Milwaukee Journal (WI), June 19, 1903, had an ad that mentioned the Chop Suey Sundae, but didn't describe it. There was another brief mention in the Manhattan Mercury (KS), July 15, 1903, noting, “Try a Chop Suey Sundae at Manhattan Candy Kitchen.

The first description of the sundae was provided in the Plain Dealer (OH), July 26, 1903, which discussed an article about Chicago. The article stated that the “Chop suey sundae is a great favorite,…it has absolutely none of the ingredients in the Chinese preparation from which it takes its name nor is it eaten with a chopstick. It is a combination of dates, figs and nuts all flavored with a special mixture of syrups and ices.” It was essentially a soda fountain drink, and a new fad that quickly spread across the entire country.

More detail was given in the Indianapolis Journal (IN), August 2, 1903, quoting an article from the Kansas City Journal. It stated, “The ingredients of the real chop suey of Chinatown are not used in the chop suey sundae. The drink gets its name because it resembles chop suey in hue. It is, in fact, black—black as midnight. It might be called a nocturne.” The writer watched as his server “...mixed together dates, figs, chocolate and soda water” and then commented that “The drink, when it was finished, looked like some sort of effervescent ink.”

As Chop Suey was such a hugely popular dish during this time period, the term was apparently used to entice people to try the new soda fountain drink. And its very loose connection, a shared color, was sufficient for many to use the term.

Trying to firm up a connection, the Daily Chronicle, August 6, 1903, published an ad for Brown’s Drug Store, noting that "every lady" who bought a Chop Suey Sundae would receive a free pair of “Genuine Chinese Chop Sticks.” You obviously couldn't use the chop sticks for the fountain drink, so they were intended only to capitalize on the popularity of the Chop Suey dish.

The Macksville Enterprise (KS), August 7, 1903, quoting from a Chicago article, mentioned that, “Every season something new in this line is introduced. This year the chop suey sundae is one of the new ones that has proven popular. Its name belies its contents, as it is but a mixture of dates, figs and notes, flavored with sirups and ices.”

How much did a Chop Suey Sundae cost? The Fitchburg Sentinel, September 9, 1903, noted that a local druggist sold them for 10 cents. And ads from other places across the country generally sold them for the same price.

The Elkhart Truth (IN), May 5, 1904, published an ad for Leonard’s Soda Menu, noting that the Chop Suey Sundae cost 10 cents.

A different version appears. The first newspaper reference I found referring to the Chop Suey Sundae as more of an actual sundae, as we now know it, and not a fountain drink was in The Cleveland Leader, (OH), August 7, 1904. It stated, “Chop suey sundaes are perhaps enjoying the widest popularity of all of the new aspirants for public favor in the ice cream line. One of these sundaes is made by filling a glass with ice cream, pouring over the cream a syrup made of dates, figs, and maple syrup, and topping the whole with a sprinkling of chopped nuts.” Essentially, the fruit and nut mixture that would have gone into the fountain drink was made into a sauce and put atop ice cream as a topping.

Over the years, both versions would continue to co-exist, although the sundae style would eventually be more dominant. The Evening Star (DC), August 17, 1906, still made the fountain style, from fruits with a dash of currants, raisins and figs, all blended together, and selling for 5 cents a cup.

Another, and even fancier fountain drink, was listed in the Detroit Times (MI), January 20, 1910, in an ad for Crowley, Milner & Co.  They used 8 different kinds of crushed fruit, with walnuts, almonds, pecans and filberts, all diluted with pure maple syrup. Though it regularly cost 10 cents, it was offered as a special for only 5 cents.

The National Soda Fountain Guide (1913), by William S. Adkins, is a fascinating book about the operation of a Soda Fountain, and contains some information about the making of a Chop Suey Sundae. It states, "As the name indicates, these constitute various mixtures. Chopped dates, figs, and raisins make a good Chop Suey combination. Place a scoop of ice cream in a cup and sprinkle it with the chopped fruit. Or mix the chopped fruits with a heavy syrup and pour over the ice cream." It then continued, "Chopped fruits are apt to get sticky and will work better with the addition of syrup. Chopped nuts of all sorts may be added to the Chop Suey mixtures; also sliced pineapple, candied fruits, shredded cocoanut, preserved ginger, and almost any confection of this sort you care to use."

The book also gives instructions on how to make a Chop Suey Double Sundae. "Take raisins, dates and figs, in equal quantities, chop them and mix with enough simple syrup of a heavy grade to permit the mixture to pour easily. This is the chop suey mixture." After making this mixture, "Now place any two desired kinds of ice cream in the usual mounds on the serving dish. Pour a small ladle of the chop suey mixture in the space between the two mounds of ice cream. Top with a whole cherry or with a whole berry in season. Prepared cocoanut ay also be introduced into the chop suey mixture, and a little candied ginger is added by some dispensers."

There was a variation, the Nut Chop Suey Double Sundae which basically added nuts instead of raisins. Plus, there were recipes for a Chop Suey Mouuse and a Chop Suey Parfait. I've seen a number of online articles which have claimed that this book contained a Chow Suey Sundae recipe that included the use of Chow Mein noodles. After scrutinizing all of the recipes in this book, I can positively state that it doesn't contain such a recipe. And Chow Mein noodles are not mentioned a single time in the book. There are soda fountains that made Chop Suey Sundaes with Chow Mein noodles but this book wasn't their source, and it was rare during the first half of the 20th century.

The Rockford Republic (IL), July 16, 1919, in an advertisement for Allen's Ice Cream, provided a nice drawing of their Chop Suey Sundae.

As a variation, the Lake County Times (IN), November 29, 1919, published an ad for the Summers Pharmacy and their Soda Fountain, noting they sold a Hot Chop Suey Sundae, where the fruit and nuts "dressing" was hot. This was the only mention I found of a hot version.

Another drawing of a Chop Suey Sundae was in the Baltimore Sun (MD), August 20, 1922. This seems different as the only fruit mentioned was a single cherry, and it was topped by marshmallow. This sundae also sold for 15 cents.

Want to make a Chop Suey Sundae at home? The St Joseph Gazette (MO), April 26, 1924, offered a simple recipe. It isn't too similar to some of the other sundaes, and is more akin to a Banana Split.

And there was another new version in the Riverside Daily Press (CA), February 21, 1928, more similar to some of the earlier versions.

If you want other Chop Suey Sundae recipes, a quick Google search will find plenty. And now that you know what it is, I suspect you'd like to eat one. I'm most curious about the fountain style sundae and may try to make one sometime in the future, when things get more normal again.

(FYI: This is NOT an April Fool's prank post!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston (Part 6--Quincy)

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. Part 1 dealt with Cambridge and Fitchburg; Part 2 with Pittsfield and Malden; Part 3 with Springfield, Part 4 with Fall RiverPart 5 with Lowell, and now Part 6 will deal with Quincy.

According to The Patriot Ledger, January 8, 2019, "Quincy has more residents of Asian descent per capita than any other city in Massachusetts. The city’s Asian population jumped to 22,174 in 2010 from 13,546 in 2000 and 5,577 in 1990. That means 24% of Quincy residents are Asian, compared with 15.4% a decade ago, and the population has grown by about 64% in that decade." And remember that those numbers are from ten years ago, so the Asian population has probably increased even more.

Quincy also has an abundance of excellent Asian restaurants and eateries, from Japanese to Thai, Korean to Chinese. For example, you'll find The China, maybe the only Chinese restaurant & Sports Bar in Massachusetts, MoMo Cafe, where you can find tasty Durian Doughnuts, and Chili Square, where you can order Duck Heads and Duck Wings.

However, in the early 20th century, there were few Chinese in Quincy, and around 1960, the census found only around 100 Asians in Quincy. Surprisingly, the first two Chinese restaurants which opened in Quincy were owned by white Americans. This may be the only Massachusetts city where that occurred, as I've found that in other cities and towns, even with small Chinese populations, the first Chinese restaurants were still owned by the Chinese. Why was Quincy such an anomaly?

The first Chinese restaurant in Quincy, which I've been able to document, was the Green Dragon Inn, also referred to as the Green Dragon Cafe, which opened in the Spring of 1916. The Patriot Ledger, April 1, 1916, noted that Mrs. Ida Morgan had obtained a common victualers license from the city council to operate a restaurant at 1609 Hancock Street, which would serve Chinese and Japanese cuisine. The restaurant, located on the second floor of the building, would open in a few days. However, it wasn't without controversy.

There was a “Vigorous protest against the use of a representation of an American flag in connection with a chop suey sign over the entrance to the restaurant.." The flag, which was to be electrically illuminated, was also to be located at the foot of the stairs up to the restaurant. It was alleged that the use of the flag violated Chapter 571 of the Acts of 1914 “which expressly provides that the flag of the United States or a representation of it shall not be connected directly or indirectly with any advertising.” It was noted though that there were similar signs in use in other cities and towns in Massachusetts. Despite the opposition to the flag sign, no action was taken against the restaurant.

The Boston Globe, June 23, 1916, menioned that Wong You, the chef at the Green Dragon Inn, was arraigned in court on the charge of threatening to assault Ida Morgan, the owner of the restaurant, and ended up fined $25. We thus see that Ida had at least hired a Chinese cook for her restaurant.

The flag controversy was resolved. The Boston Globe, March 19, 1917, reported that “The electrically lighted American flag, which has formed part of an advertising sign over a Chinese restaurant on Hancock st, and which formed the basis of considerable controversy a year ago because the proprietress refused to remove it, has been taken down by Mrs. Ida M. Morgan, who runs the restaurant. The removal was made Saturday by Mrs Morgan, who was prompted by patriotic motives.” It took about a year to resolve this matter but everyone should have been happy at that point.

The flag sign was then put up for sale. The Boston Globe, April 22, 1917, had an ad where Ida offered for sale, “An illuminated electric American flag, 4x4 feet, double sides, 292 lamps, motor and flasher, very cheap, used little." I couldn't find out whether someone purchased it or not.

Unfortunately, and despite her good deed, tragedy struck. The Patriot Ledger, May 7, 1917, reported that a fire completely destroyed the Green Dragon. The origin of the fire was unknown though it was believed to have started on the ground floor and spread to the restaurant on the second floor. The Boston Globe, May 7, 1917, also noted that the first floor of the building had a deli and lunchroom, which were also operated by Ida Morgan. The building itself was owned by Mrs. Charles Jenness. The Green Dragon was not rebuilt.

The second Chinese restaurant in Quincy opened in 1919, again with a controversy over its sign. Proper signage seemed very important to the people of Quincy during this period. The Patriot Ledger, February 14, 1919, reported that Henry Saunders, who had owned a restaurant, with a common victualer's license, at 1514 Hanock Street for several years, had recently closed for extensive repairs. A sign in the window stated that it would reopen as an American and Chinese restaurant, and Henry had hired several Chinese as cooks.

The Mayor though refused to grant Henry a permit for a Chop Suey sign that was going to be hung out over the sidewalk on Hancock Street. This refusal though may not have actually been about signage. It was noted that the past City Councils, with one exception, had opposed granting common victualers licenses to Chinese restaurants, though no reasons were given for their stance. The one exception was allegedly in 1915, a license granted to a party at Houghs Neck.

However, I've been unable to find any confirmation that a Chinese restaurant actually opened at Houghs Neck. It would have been the first Chinese restaurant in Quincy, but a lack of evidence of its existence seems to cast serious doubt. It seems more likely that the newspaper article was mistaken, and the City Council's only exception was the granting of a common victualer's license to Ida Morgan. Otherwise, the newspaper would still have been incorrect as Ida Morgan would have been the City Council's second exception. The most logical solution is that the Houghs Neck reference was incorrect, and the Green Dragon was the Council's lone exception.

The Patriot Ledger, March 5, 1919, published an advertisement for The New American and Chinese Restaurant, located at 1514 Hancock Street in the Kincaide Building. The new restaurant, owned by Henry M. Saunders, would have a dining room with a seating capacity of 175 people. It was also noted as the "only one of its kind in Quincy." With the City Council's general opposition to Chinese restaurants, Saunders was fortunate to be able to open. This restaurant would exist until sometime in 1921, until possibly it was sold as a new Chinese restaurant took over that address.

The Patriot Ledger, March 3, 1922, had an ad for King Fong, an American and Chinese restaurant, that was open from 11 a.m. to midnight, and offered Special 40 cent dinners. It's unknown whether this restaurant was owned by a Chinese or not.

The Patriot Ledger, April 29, 1922, had a different ad for King Fong, though it didn't actually mention the restaurant's name. There was also a mention of a Chicken Chow Mein Special for 50 cents.

Sadly, fire struck this Chinese restaurant too. The Boston Globe, August 13, 1928, reported that there was a fire in the cellar of King Fong. The cause was unknown and the restaurant was badly smoked up. I couldn't find the ultimate fate of King Fong.

To Be Continued...

Monday, March 30, 2020

Origins Of The Chop Suey Sandwich: A New England Invention?

"The chop suey sandwich is a cheap and filling concoction of roast pork or chicken, onions, celery and bean sprouts cooked in a thickened soy gravy and served on a hamburger bun."
--New England Historical Society, "Salem Chop Suey Sandwiches, A Sign Of Summer"

If you've visited the Salem Willows, you might have enjoyed a Chop Suey Sandwich, likely at the Salem Lowe restaurant. Many sources claim that this sandwich is unique to New England and parts of New York. However, these sources disagree as to when this sandwich was invented. For example, the New England Historical Society alleges it extends back to the Salem Willows in 1905, which seems unlikely, especially as Salem Lowe wouldn't exist until around 1912.

According to Sweet and Sour: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants, by John Jung, "In parts of New England, many lunch counters, drugstores, five-and-dimes, and amusement parks offered a variant known as the chop suey sandwich as early as the 1920s. Its heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s, and it was also popular in the New York City area." This sounds more likely, though no evidence was provided to support the claim.

And anthology professor, Imogene I. Lim, and John Eng-Wong, in their article, “The Chow Mein Sandwich: Chinese American Entrepreneurship in Rhode Island,” placed the likely place of origin of the chop suey sandwich in Fall River, also noting that its heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s. A definitive origin date for the sandwich wasn't provided.

So, when and where did the Chop Suey sandwich originate? And is it only a regional New England dish?

I haven't seen sufficient documentary evidence from any of the sources which have alleged Salem, Massachusetts was the origin of the sandwich. Those sources also haven't offered sufficient evidence of the possible year of origin. Lots of assertions without proof. These sources also all seem to have concentrated on New England as the source of origin, with no consideration to the rest of the country. Initially, it seems to me that this might be a case of another food origin myth, where the origin tale, which isn't true, has become "common knowledge," accepted by the masses without question.

I decided to conduct some of my own research, and what I've found seems to indicate the chop suey sandwich isn't isolated to New England and parts of New York. The sandwich can be found all around the country, from Florida to California, Arkansas to Michigan. This brings to mind my previous article, The Origins of American Chop Suey, a so-called "regional New England" dish which actually had origins all across the country.

One of the first references to this sandwich I found wasn't in New England at all, and was actually on the other side of the country. The Long Beach Telegram (CA), January 30, 1912, published an article which discussed the opening of a new Masonic club. The club had its own dining room and one of the dishes that they served was a Chop Suey Sandwich. Unfortunately, no details of the sandwich were provided, but we know the concept of this sandwich was known in California at least as far back as 1912. Potentially, this could predate the concept of the sandwich in both Salem and Fall River.

If the chop suey sandwich had originated in Salem and/or Fall River before this time, it would be quite surprising that its fame had spread across the country by 1912. It is far more probable that someone in California had a similar idea, separate from what was occurring in Massachusetts.

The Press and Sun-Bulletin (NY), April 7, 1914, made a brief mention of the chop suey sandwich, using the term in an analogy, thus indicating it was also known to New Yorkers at this point.

Another New York reference. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), July 31, 1924, published an article about the Coney Island Boardwalk, titled “Try Chop Suey Sandwich In Cosmopolitan Luncheon On Coney’s Boardwalk.” Curiously, most of the article had nothing to do with the chop suey sandwich. There was a brief reference to a Chinese stand, located on the Boardwalk, selling a Chop Suey Sandwich. Once again, no details about the sandwich were provided but the author of the article obviously enjoyed it.

During the late 1920s, there were other advertisements, around the country, mentioning chop suey sandwiches. The Hagerstown Daily Mail (MD), February 6, 1928, had an ad for Mackenzie’s Luncheonette Dept, mentioning they sold a “Hot Chop Suey Sandwich on Toast and a pot of tea” for 30 cents. The Tampa Tribune (FL), July 20, 1929, published an ad for Tampa’s Public Market, noting that one of the stalls for Mrs. Moore’s Restaurant sold a Chop Suey Sandwich for 5 cents. The Journal Gazette (IL), July 23, 1929, also had a brief mention of a Chop Suey Sandwich as a special in the Coffee Shop of the Hotel U.S. Grant.

Chop suey sandwiches in Maryland, Florida and Illinois! The idea certainly wasn't restricted to New England by any stretch. And these advertisements are all before the heyday of the sandwich during the 1930s and 1940s, before they became so popular that word might have spread across the country.

The News-Journal (OH), November 6, 1931, published an ad for the opening of the Shadow Inn, a new place to dine and dance, which stated, “Introducing the Chop Suey Sandwich The Latest Thing in Sandwiches.” It appears the sandwich was already a fad, and definitely not restricted to New England. The November 17, 1931 issue of this newspaper noted that the sandwich sold for 10 cents.

The Lowell Sun, December 18, 1931, presented an ad for Lee’s Shop Suey Lunch, which offered a Chop Suey Sandwich for 10 cents.

Onto Massachusetts. The Wellesley College News, April 21, 1932, had an for Liggetts, located at 539 Washington Street, Wellesley, mentioning that they recently added Luncheonette Service at their Soda Fountain. Their new menu included a Chop Suey Sandwich for 25 cents.

Onto Vermont! The Rutland Daily Herald (VT), September 23, 1932, printed an ad for the Ones & Braves restaurant offering a “Special Toasted Chicken Chop Suey Sandwich (open).”

And then we journey back to the mid-west. The Battle Creek Enquirer (MI), May 14, 1933, reported that Yee Ling Nun and Charles Hem, local chop suey sandwich peddlers, were stopped by the police as they didn’t have a license to sell their sandwiches, The police told them to either obtain a license or shut down.

Some New England references. The Greenfield Daily Recorder Gazette (MA), July 24, 1935, presented an ad for Rose Garden Café, which sold a "toasted chop suey sandwich" for 15 cents. The Fitchburg Sentinel (MA), March 5, 1936, had an ad for the F&L Café, offering a "Hot Chop Suey Sandwich." The Portsmouth Herald (NH), August 30, 1940, had an ad for the Demarais Restaurant, which also offered a "Chinese Chop Suey Sandwich.” And the North Adams Transcript (MA), April 11, 1941, published an ad for Chick’s Café, which offered a Chicken Chop Suey Sandwich for 10 cents.

Arkansas? The Fayetteville Daily Democrat (AR), November 22, 1935, had a brief ad for the Kurtz-Moore Coffee Shop, which offered a Chop Suey Sandwich for 25 cents.

Midwest again. The Ludington Daily News (MI), September 26, 1939, published ad for Tobey’s, which offered a Chop Suey Sandwich.  The Ludington Daily News (MI), December 19, 1947, also presented an ad for Gibb’s Restaurant offering a Chop Suey Sandwich and Mashed Potatoes for 55 cents.

The Princeton Daily Princetonian (NJ), February 27, 1950, printed an ad for The Princeton Tea Garden, which noted, “After 9pm, try out Chow Mein Sandwich & Tea” for 35 cents.

The Bristol Phoenix (RI), August 10, 1951, presented an ad for the Bing Sum Restaurant, which gave you an option of a Chop Suey or Chow Mein Sandwich with Soda for 25 cents.

After my research, I still don't have an answer as to the origin of the Chop Suey Sandwich, but the evidence is clear that this sandwich was known all across the country and wasn't restricted to New England. You could find the sandwich everywhere from Florida to California, Arkansas to Michigan. The sandwich might have multiple origins, in different places of the country. There are still plenty of unanswered questions, and more research is definitely warranted. I'd like to know more details about the nature of the Chop Suey Sandwiches served around the country. Were they similar to what was found in Salem and Fall River?

My search continues....

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...