The three decades, from 1921 to 1950, were turbulent years in Chinatown, for a number of reasons, including the above significant events. The growth of Chinese restaurants that occurred during the prior two decades greatly slowed, and there actually may have been more closings than openings. There were far less advertisements for new Chinese restaurants during this period, as well as some noticeable closures.
For this part of my historical review of Chinatown and its restaurants, I'm concentrating on the 1920s. There seemed to be much more acceptance of the Chinese during these years, and a growth in Chinese restaurants, with many trying to appeal more to non-Chinese, offering both Chinese and American cuisine, music, dancing, and more. In addition, the 1920s seemed to be more a decade of exploration and fads, with people seeking new thrills, and Chinese restaurants catered to those desires.
It's also fascinating that despite Prohibition, and the strict regulation of alcohol, there weren't newspapers articles referencing liquor violations by Chinese restaurants. If violations occurred, they were probably very few and minor. Part of the reason may be there were multiple mentions of the Chinese generally being more temperate, with opium being generally their drug of choice. And arrests for opium use occurred on a far more regular basis.
One of the primary problems during the 1920s was a fear of Tong violence, which, at times, kept people from patronizing Chinese restaurants and businesses. Fortunately, some of that potential never developed, though there were several acts of terrible violence as well. The Tong violence was connected, in large part, to Tong violence in other parts of the country, though there were some local issues as well.
Onto some history....
When he returned to the dining room with this blade, it caused a great panic, as well as a food fight. About fifty people tried to disarm and fight Toy, who swung out with the cleaver, and caught an innocent bystander, Michael Cullen, who was just there to eat some chop suey. Michael sustained a severed tendon on his left hand, and this caused the crowd to call for the killing of Toy. Several hundred people had even assembled outside the restaurant, but fortunately the police arrived before Toy was killed. Toy was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill, but the newspapers failed to indicate his disposition.
There were closings as well. The Boston Globe, March 27, 1921, reported that the Hankow Chinese Restaurant, which had opened in 1907 at 19-21 Essex Street, went bankrupt, and was to be sold at public auction.
Fire and smoke! The Boston Post, April 20, 1921, wrote about an incident at a Chinese restaurant, at 34 Oxford street, where fat boiling caused flames and smoke to pour into their dining room during lunch. Though the property damage was minimal, the restaurant lost money when their diners fled out of the restaurant without paying for their meals.
This article also is indicative of a greater issue with the local newspapers which often referred to a Chinese restaurant with their address, and not their name. Why was this the case? Did some restaurants make it difficult to know their name? Or was it a bit of racism? A curious omission.
Beware the Milk Inspector! The Boston Globe, May 12, 1921, reported that C.G. Sung, the owner of a Chinese restaurant at 32 Harrison Avenue (again, the name of the restaurant wasn't mentioned), was fined $10 after being convicted of a sale of milk below standard. The Milk Inspector, Dr. James O. Jordan, had recently cited six other violators for milk infractions. None of those six violators were also Chinese restaurants.
A great feel-good story came out in the Boston Globe, September 29, 1921. William Moy Ding, a leader in a chain of Chinese restaurants, was the Scoutmaster for a troop of Chinese Boy Scouts. The troop had previously existed but died out from a lack of members, but it had been resurrected and was then the only such troop east of the Pacific. Ding, a graduate of MIT, was a member of the prior troop, had three assistant scout masters, and their troop was excelling! The story stated, "In one way the Chinese scouts show a difference from scouts of native parentage; they are far more eager for the outdoor woodcraft, and take more pleasure in it." And they had much support from all of Chinatown, "Chinatown is back of the scout movement to its last inhabitant, .."
Beware the Chicken Inspector! Although the Milk Inspector was legitimate, the Chicken Inspector who was traveling through Chinatown was a fraud. The Boston Globe, December 21, 1921, reported that a fraudulent “chicken inspector” was currently wanted by the police. This man, who has operated in Providence, RI and Nashau, NH, descended upon Boston's Chinatown. He went to restaurants, claiming to be connected to the Board of Health, and providing a badge that stated, ‘Inspector of Chickens, State of Massachusetts.” He would alleged various violations and then shake down the owner for money, commonly $5-$10, so he wouldn't report the violations to the Board of Health. He even sometimes took chickens, which were allegedly violations, with him when he left the restaurant.
He was accompanied by a blond woman, with a card that stated "Wardeness," and she spoke some Chinese. They seemed to know a fair bit of information about Chinatown, including those who currently were away, maybe on a trip to China. They would ask about these people, claiming to know them, and no was one there to dispute their claims. Although they obtained money from at least several restaurants, their story began to unravel and they fled from Chinatown. The police were actively searching for them. I didn't find any article that the police ever apprehended this pair of con artists.
A terrible tragedy. The Boston Globe, December 23, 1921, related a murder that occurred at a Chinese restaurant at 22 Harrison Avenue (again, no name for the restaurant was provided). Pearl Belle Payne and Nicholas Saunders (real name Nicholas Savitz) were sitting inside a booth at around 9:30pm. Nick then shot Pearl twice, in the head and chest, before shooting himself. Pearl died relatively quickly, though Nick lingered for a couple more hours before dying. They had both lived in Roxbury, very close to each other, and Pearl was married, though separated. Nick had a few notes on himself, seemingly indicating that he loved Pearl, but had spent all his money on her and was now broke. He was also worried she might marry someone else so he decided they both needed to die. Tragic.
The Boston Register and Business Directory (1922), compiled by Sampson & Murdock, contained information about the businesses within Chinatown. Most of the ten Chinese restaurants were located on Harrison Avenue. The list included: Ching Hing Low Co. (58B Beach), Red Dragon Restaurant (9 ½ Harrison), Royal Restaurant (16 Harrison), Joy Yong Co. (19 Harrison), Siwoo Restaurant (24 Harrison), Eagle Co. (32 Harrison), Hong Far Low & Co. (36 ½ Harrison), Kung Yung Low (34 Oxford St.), Joy Hong Low (8 Tyler), and Hon Hong Low (25 Tyler).
Mah-Jong is a 2000 year old Chinese tile game and its popularity skyrocketed in the early 1920s. Just after World War I, there were numerous foreigners living in Shanghai, and they became enamored with Mah-Jong. According to The Red Dragon & The West Wind: The Winning Guide to Official Chinese & American Mah-Jongg, by Tom Sloper, one of those foreigners was Joseph Park Babcock, an American oil executive. "Intrigued by this addictive game and noting its incredible popularity among the foreign community, Babcock decided that the game would also catch on in America."
He made some changes to the game, to make it easier for the American market, and then "..commissioned the manufacture and shipment of mah-jongg sets, trademarked the name “mah-jongg” (with hyphen and double G), and wrote a set of simplified rules. His rules were printed and bound in red covers, and included in sets imported into the United States in 1922 by W. A. Hammond’s Mah Jongg Sales Company of America, in San Francisco." And by looking through Boston area newspapers during the early 1920s, we can see how popular this game quickly became, helping to fuel an appreciation of all matters Chinese.
A lengthy Mah-Jong article appeared in the Springfield Republican (MA), February 18, 1923, with a title of “Mah Jong Emerges From 2,000 Years of Obscurity.” The article began with a legend of the origin of Mah-Jong, alleging that a secluded maiden invented the game, with its smooth little oblong tiles, to wile away the time with her handmaidens. The article then noted how the popularity of Mah-Jong had exploded in New York and now was spreading through the rest of the country. Then, it was mentioned that the game, which was also called Pung Chow, had been played for 2000 years in China, though for all but the last 70 years, it had been restricted only to Mandarins.
There was then a brief description of the game, “Mah-Jong is played with 144 oblong tiles made of smooth bamboo and white bone gayly decorated with cryptic Oriental characters in colors. These hieroglyphics are of three different kinds representing the three suits of Bamboos, Characters, and Dots. In addition are the high or ‘honor’ titles—The Four Winds of Heaven and the Red, Green and White Dragons.” There was then additional information on how the game was played. It also noted, “The fascination of the game are legion and the opportunities it presents for both amusement and study are enormous.”
During the first half of 1923, at least a couple books were published about how to play Mah-Jong, including How to Play Mah Jong by Jean Bray and How to Play Pung-Chow by L.L. Harr. The Red Dragon amp; The West Wind, by Tom Sloper, also noted that "By 1923 Babcock’s mah-jongg game became so popular that other companies also began importing and/or manufacturing, and selling, mah-jongg sets. And other authors wrote their own rule books. Because Babcock had trademarked the name “mah-jongg,” these other companies had to use other names. They called the game Mah Chang, Pung Chow, Peling, Chinese Tiles, the Game of a Hundred Intelligences, the Ancient Game of the Mandarins; and, thanks to Robert Foster, Mah Jong (with no hyphen, and only one g) became widely accepted as a generic name that didn’t violate Babcock’s trademark."
Mah-Jong became especially popular with the upper classes, so-called "society," and some Mah-Jong sets could cost quite a bit. The Boston Herald, November 26, 1923, printed an advertisement for Jordan Marsh Company, which stated “We positively have the Largest and Finest Collection in New England of Mah Jong sets.” The ad also mentioned they had recently received 1000 sets from China, selling 400 for $15, 300 for $17.50, and 300 for $22.50. Plus, they had other sets selling from $25 to $175. However, around the mid-1920s, interest in Mah-Jong started to wane some, though mostly with men, as women would continue playing for years to come, having a significant impact in how Mah-Jong would be played in the future.
There was a dark side to Mah-Jong as well, basically a racist double standard, that it was acceptable for white Americans to play Mah-Jong but that Chinese playing Mah-Jong were often susceptible to being arrested for illegal gambling. Multiple reports during the 1920s exist of police gambling raids on Chinatown, including seizures of Mah-Jong sets and arrests of Chinese playing this game. I didn't find a single report of a white person being arrested for the same. Although the Chinese might be more prone to gamble on the game, it seems quite logical that whites were gambling on Mah-Jong as well, but no one seemed to have a problem with them doing so.
It was also noted that the Chinese acted as their own police, investigating and tracking down offenders, including Tong members. Though Tong members were still considered innocent, until proven guilty, by their own Tong, their own Tong would still track them down and "arrest" them to face the Chinese court. The head of the Tongs, or similarly high placed community members, served as judges, and would hear testimony from both sides. There was an appeal process, for both plaintiff and defendant, to a higher court as well.
If a Tong member were found guilty, especially of a larcenous matter, their Tong would make restitution for the wrong, but then the guilty Tong member would have to make good to his own Tong. If they were convicted on a morals charge, restitution would be made as best as possible and the tong member might be ostracized for a time, or even expelled. These courts were partially intended to prevent Tong violence, and when a court case reached the point of a settlement, a huge feast with both tongs was held, and everyone, including the judges were invited. The decision would then be announced at the feast and the restitution would be paid. It was also claimed that this court had been successful in reducing drug traffic in Chinatown.
This type of court wasn't unique to the Chinese community and I've read of other similar small communities trying to monitor their own residents, avoiding the American courts. Although this Chinese court likely had some success, the violence of the Tongs later this decade would indicate the court wan't fully successful.
There was some additional interesting information in this article, such as mentioning that the population of Chinese in Boston was then about 4000. Although people often assumed the Chinese were more of a monolithic community at the time, that actually wasn't the case. The article stated that about 7-10 distinct dialects were used in Chinatown, including Cantonese, Swatownese, Fuhkienese, Pekingese, Shanghainese, and Hunanese. Thus, some Chinatown residents had difficulty conversing with each other as they didn't speak the same dialect. It was mentioned that there was only one Chinese in Boston, Dr. Tehyi Hsieh, who knew all the dialects. Dr. Hsieh was “one of the most progressive of the Young Chinese and a former member of the Chinese diplomatic corps” and was called the "Roosevelt of China.” He acted as a Chinese interpreter in the courts when he was in Boston.
The Boston Herald, July 17, 1923, reported on the annual On Leong Tong outing, which had moved this year, and was held yesterday, to Canobie Lake, New Hampshire. This was considered a significant event in Chinatown each year, and yesterday, a special train with a Chinese band left North Station with about 300 Chinese and at least 30 cars also headed to New Hampshire too. Those Chinese with families brought their children and the Chinese Boy Scouts even gave a parade around the picnic grounds. It was a fun time, and dinner consisted of chicken, watermelon, and ice cream. Tongs were complex entities, and sometimes did very nice things for the community.
There was a notice in the Boston Herald, September 5, 1923, that Joey Guey, one of the men convicted of the 1907 Tong murders, died last week in state prison. He had originally been sentenced to execution but it was commuted to a life sentence, without the chance of parole.
Food for a Mah-Jong party. The Boston Herald, February 3, 1924, provided a recipe for a “slightly Americanized chop suey,” stating “what could be better for a Mah Jong party than chop suey, rice, tea and some of the odd and fascinating Chinese sweets?” The ingredients for the recipe included pork, chicken, onion, celery, cornstarch, dark molasses, salt, China Soy, mushrooms, green pimentos and red pimentos. Chop Suey certainly was more mainstream now, and popular enough that people wanted to make their own at home.
What's a "cow cop?" The Boston Globe, May 19, 1924, reported that the place made a midnight raid on the "sumptuous apartments" of Yen Hook, on Oxford Place. Tee Duck, a “cow cop” had been watching the door of the apartments for about three hours before the police arrived. Unfortunately, the term "cow cop" wasn't explicitly defined in this article. In a later article though, it was mentioned that cow cops were unofficial "Chinese police." The term was used only a few times in newspapers during this time so it's unclear the term's origin and whether it was a positive or negative term.
The raid led to “one of the most spectacular opium raids that ever occurred on Boston Chinatown” where the police seized “several thousand dollars’ worth of opium, also a dozen Yen hooks, Gows scales, pipes, itchy sticks, Chinese matches, lamps and two-score madeup pills.” The police arrested Ah Bow, aka Charlie Pun, aka Nop Wah, who ran the suite and had previously been arrested 4 times for drug violations and once for smuggling. He denied selling opium to any whites, which got him some leniency as the judge sentenced him to only 3 months in jail, though he appealed that sentence. Also arrested were Jang Jou, Charles Fook, Yun San Tet, Yee Ding, and Wong Lee for being present where opium was found. They were all simply fined $10.
And the police were active once again. The Boston Globe, May 27, 1924, published a short article about, Chin Ping, a U.S. citizen and the owner of a wet wash laundry on Dartmouth Street. He was also considered one of the richest men in Chinatown. He was arrested though on the charge of the illegal sale of opium, selling a box of opium for $25 to an agent of the police.
In addition, the article noted the integrity of the Chinese, "…the Chinese are distinguished by their honesty and that the only Chinaman who made himself an exception to the rule and cost his associates considerable money promptly committed suicide after pledging all his personal belongings as restitution. This occurred several years ago.” Large number of policemen were now being seen in Chinatown and no one was speaking about the reasons for the increased presence, though rumors of a new Tong War were rampant. Nothing came from these worries at this time.
Very sadly, the Boston Herald, July 29, 1924, reported that Chin Yet, only 28 years old, of 86 Harrison Avenue and who worked in kitchen of the Shanghai Restaurant, at 89 Court Street, collapsed at work and died. The autopsy indicated that he died of natural causes, which was certainly a great loss considering his young age.
More fears of Tong violence in Chinatown. The Boston Globe, October 15, 1924, stetted that the police received a tip that Tong members were traveling to Boston to kill at least 3 Chinese, including Moy Dow, the best known Chinese person in Boston. Moy lived in Roxbury, had an office on Tyler Street, and was a member of the Asia Products Company on Newbury Street. Another of the possible targets was Yee Wah Fook of Oxford Place.
This article also mentioned that cow cops were unofficial Chinese police. And some cow cops informed the official police of the presence of 2 strangers in Chinatown. The police stopped and questioned these two men. Finally, the article mentioned that some Chinese, afraid of potential violence, were doing all of their own cooking at home rather than dining out. The fears continued into November, with the Boston Globe, November 22, 1924, noting the fears of Tong violence. Fortunately, again this was one of those times when no such violence occurred.
A lengthy article in the Boston Herald, December 14, 1924, attempted to describe the Tongs, and provided a rather unflattering, and blood-thirsty, view of the Chinese. It began noting that “Tong war has broken loose among American Chinese. The truce is smashed, the hatchet men are out, and no one knows where the next quick, insidious blow will fall.” Then, it began to define the term "tong," which translates from Chinese as "association," and stating it was a “plain, matter-of-fact organization which closely resembles in structure many of our own associations.” It was also claimed that it is strictly an American Chinese invention, unknown in China, and that the “Tong is even more American than chop suey...”
Then the article started to indicate the difference between American associations and Tongs. “The tong is a commercial organization, founded for the purpose of protecting its members in business. Its principal difference in modus operandi is in its methods of retaliation.” To whites, business is a game, but “To the Chinaman, the man who seeks to deprive him of his bread and butter is an enemy, and nothing else.” The Chinese “send a gunman to remove a competitor permanently from the scene.” Much of this derives from a different philosophical stance. “The big difference is caused by the absolute disregard of life typical of the oriental, the placid fatalism which can be read upon his face, and which teaches him to believe that when his time has come he will depart this earthly life, whether by a bullet, or a hatchet, senility or cirrhosis of the liver.” In addition, “To his tong the Chinese owes, by sacred oath, his last cent and his last drop of blood.”
Next the article described the two prominent Tongs in Boston, the On Leongs and Hip Sings. The On Leongs were probably the most wealthy and influential Tong in the East, if not the entire country, and they are predominant in Boston. The Hip Sing is practically nonexistent. The "Big chief” of Boston was supposedly Moy Ni Ding, “the most majestic, inscrutable and taciturn” who was the “mayor” of Chinatown and leader of the On Leong. He became the mayor about six months ago when younger progressives deposed Mayor Yee Wah Fook, the son of Yee Wah who was the big boss in 1907 during the last Tong war.
Fortunately, no Tong violence arose in Boston during 1924, though it took place in other parts of the country.
There was a brief mention in the Boston Globe, May 27, 1925, of Yoeng’s Chinese restaurant, located at 200 Huntington Avenue.
On May 9, 1925, the Boston Herald noted there would be a public hearing held on May 22 concerning the incorporation of Queng Yeun, Inc. The Boston Herald, June 6, 1925, then reported that a group of Chinese and Syrian merchants in Chinatown were alleging that the Hip Sing Tong was trying to establish a new foothold in Boston through the Queng Yeun. According to the Boston Herald, June 30, 1925, the Secretary of State denied the application by the Queng Yeun, Inc. to charter as a Chinese social organization. The considerable opposition, which included police who also felt the Hip Sing Tong was involved, led to this denial.
As mentioned previously, there was a double standard concerning Mah Jong playing. The Boston Globe, August 3, 1925, reported that police made a number of gambling raids in Chinatown. During the raids, they found some Chinese playing Mah-Jong so they seized the game sets and arrested the Chinese for gambling.
After all the worries and fears about Tong violence in 1924, where nothing actually occurred, violence finally erupted in the summer of 1925. Initially, the Boston Herald, August 25, 1925, stated that Ho Kee, a cook and a member of the On Leong, was killed in New York City the previous night. The murder occurred a few hours after a report that a Hip Sing member had been allegedly slain in Boston. However, the Springfield Republican, August 25, 1925, later reported that no one was killed in Boston, though two Chinese and one white man were shot and wounded.
The next day, the Boston Herald, August 26, 1925, stated that police across country have been taking precautions to prevent Tong wars, nothing there have already been killings in New York, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis. In Boston, Yee Kin, an agent of the On Leong, had been shot while kissing his American wife in the doorway of their home at 51 Albany Street. Soon after, Lin Toy, a laundryman of 7 Belvidere Street and a member of the Hip Sing, was shot. In addition, an innocent victim, Joseph Crowley of 100 Tyler Street, was struck in the back by a stray bullet. It was alleged that the Hip Sings were making a move back into Boston, and had even recently leased buildings on Hudson Street to make it their new headquarters.
Quickly, the Tongs in New York tried to make peace. The Boston Herald, August 29, 1925, mentioned that the Tongs in New York agreed to arbitration, seeking peace, and both agreed to abide by the arbitrator decision. Helping the situation, the Boston Herald, September 5, 1925, reported that the Boston Tongs claimed they were at peace, having issued a statement that the “The shooting down of two Chinese in Boston recently was not due to Tong differences but to a personal quarrel.”
The Boston Herald, September 6, 1925, mentioned that the Hip Sings had opened their new headquarters at 49-51 Hudson Street, though for the last several months, they had occupied the basement of 49 Hudson Street, awaiting the completion of the renovations. In addition, the paper reported that yesterday, the police raided the top floor of 103 Kneeland Street, arresting Gem Lung of 21 Hudson Street, for opium. The police seized lots of pipes, other drug equipment, and an amount of opium worth more than $1000.
A few days later, the police made a gambling raid. The Boston Herald, September 9, 1925, stated the police raided 8 ½ and 10-A Tyler Street, arresting 11 Chinese, all members of the On Leong, for gaming. Cards, dominoes and mah-jong sets were seized. The On Leong claimed that the Hip Sing had informed on them to the police though the police denied this allegation.
What happened to the peace between the Tongs? The Boston Herald, September 13, 1925, reported that the On Leong and Hip Sing in Boston had openly declared war against each other. Kneeland Street was established as a dead line between the Tong’s districts. Chin Kow One, cousin of Harry Chin, leader of the Hip Sings, crossed the dead line yesterday morning, and soon after his dead body was found on front of 15 Hudson Street, having been shot twice. Soo Hoo Wing, the mayor of Chinatown, had also received death threats. All of this led to a heavy police presence in Chinatown.
More information was contained in the Boston Herald, September 14, 1925. Ah Fong, a Chinese merchant at 8 Hudson Street, was arrested for the murder of Chin Kow One. Harry Chin allegedly gave police the information which led them to Fong. There was another shooting too, and this time Chang Chong was shot, riddled with buckshot, in the head and upper part of his body, as he passed by Hudson and Tyler streets. It was alleged that Chong came from New York City to assist the Hip Sings. In addition, three suspect Hip Sing gunman, including Ling See, Hip Hing Tong, and Quan Den were arrested, all possessing loaded revolvers. The police raided 50 Tyler Street, seeking other gunmen, and found two men smoking opium, who they also arrested.
The Hip Sings claimed that the war was a result of the On Leong demanding $10 a week as a tribute from all of the Chinese businesses. The Hip Sings refused to pay, and it was said, “Business among the Chinese merchants is paralyzed as a result of the feud. Many places have closed until the excitement has subsided.” Besides the Chinese, “…citizens of Syrian and Armenian extraction held a meeting yesterday afternoon…and decided to register a protest today with city and state officials. These people live in houses in Chinatown adjoining those of the warring factions and are in fear of death for themselves or their children.” How far would the Tong violence extend?
The Boston Globe, September 15, 1925, told about a protest by 9 women, largely property owners in the Syrian district in the South End, adjacent to the Chinatown district. It was stated that Syrian children were afraid to go to school as they had to walk through Chinatown, and the women were worried that Syrian men might try to take action in their own hands. These shootings had hurt business in Chinatown, including the restaurants.
The police took some action. The Boston Herald, September 16, 1925, reported that Federal immigration inspectors and the local police raided Chinatown, arresting 40 Chinese who were thought to be in the country illegally. Relatives came forward to prove that many of them were actually here legally, and only 13 were locked up for the night, though only four would ultimately face possible deportation. Plus, Ng Kum, a laundryman of 37 Howard Street was arrested in a sporting goods store on Federal Street where he bought a .32 revolver. He said he was a Hip Sing member and that his life had been threatened.
The tong threats continued! The Boston Herald, September 19, 1925, noted that though the New York tongs had signed a recent peace pact, Boston's Chinatown was an armed camp due to the alleged murder of a tong member in New York City. Information about the murder had been posted on the Oxford place bulletin board.
Peace again? The Boston Herald, September 22, 1925, published that there had now been a firm peace treaty between the tongs of New York. However, word of this treaty reached Boston only after there had been more violence here. A young Chinese hatchetman forced his way into house at 50 Tyler Street, firing 4 shots from an automatic pistol at James Wong, his white wife, and 3 friends while they were eating supper. He then fled the scene in an auto. A second shooting incident occurred in West Roxbury, where Ju Doy Eyee was found dead on floor of a laundry at 424 La Grange Street. Scores of Syrian residents assembled in front of the Hip Sing headquarters demanding that the shootings stop. The next day, two men were and charged with being accessories before the fact, though there still wasn't an identification of the shooter.
Local Tong peace? The Boston Herald, October 5, 1925, pronounced that yesterday, a peace pact was signed between the two Chinatown tongs, and the news brought much more normal activity to the neighborhood. Would peace last?
The police were still paying attention to Chinatown. The Boston Herald, October 21, 1925, reported that Ming Jo, the head of the On Leong, was arrested for selling three small "toys" of smoking opium to a Federal narcotics officer in front of 32 Oxford Place. The police believed that Ming was a significant seller of illegal drugs.
A verdict in a Tong murder. The Boston Globe, December 1, 1925, noted that the trial of Ah Fong, for the murder of Chin Kow One, had begun, and then on December 5, the paper proclaimed that Ah Fong had been found not guilty by a jury. No other murder suspects were noted.
Happy Chinese New Years! The Boston Herald, February 14, 1926 wrote about the celebration of the Chinese New Year, mentioning that various notices were posted on the Oxford bulletin board, including “firm reminders to certain Chinese who had not squared up their debts for the year.” It was also mentioned that the Tongs were being quiet and friendly at this time.
An intriguing, albeit too brief, article was in the Boston Herald, May 29, 1926, discussing the profitability of Chinese restaurants, which were said to be "crowding out their American competitors." The article stated that one Chinese-American restaurant in New York City made $100,000 monthly, though it wasn’t identified. It was also claimed that a meal at a Chinese restaurant that sold for $1.50 meal generally cost only 21 cents. American restaurants had difficulty competing with such a profit margin.
The Boston Herald, July 1, 1926, had a couple brief ads for the Yet King Low, a Chinese restaurant, on 84 Oxford Street, offering a 35 cent meal from 11-2pm, and the Sun Ho Yuen Restaurant, at 10 Hudson St, which offered a special lunch for 35 cents.
There was a brief article in the Boston Globe, October 9, 1926, that Chinatown would celebrate the15th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese republic, and there would be banquets at all of the main Chinese restaurants. Y.N. Haywah, the owner of the Joy King Restaurant, was also the national secretary of the Kua Min Tang, or Chinese Nationalist Party, as well as the chairman of the celebration.
More police action. The Boston Globe, November 5, 1926, reported that seven members of the vice squad raided the backs of two grocery stores in Chinatown, at 54 and 58 Beach Street. The police had been watching the area for a time, and knew gambling was occurring there. When they raided the two stores, they found 78 Chinese waiters playing dominoes for money with about $60 in the "bank" for payment. They were all charged with "being present where gaming implements were found." Fortunately, they all got bailed out in the early evening, time enough for them to work that night at their restaurants.
A foiled robbery. The Boston Globe, December 20, 1926, detailed a robbery attempt at a Chinese restaurant located at 14 Hanover Street, which was in the North End. Three men, one armed with a pistol, tried to force the manager, Coon Sing, to give them money but he refused and simply shrieked. Even after they hit him in the head with the butt of the pistol, he kept shrieking, and the three men finally decided to flee.
More Tong War fears. The Boston Globe, March 26, 1927, noted that Chinatown was very quiet at the moment, with fears that the Tong Wars in several other cities might come to Boston. Even the Chinese theater, which had run steadily since a Tong truce was signed two years ago, was dark. The Chinese restaurants did very light business.
Then the Boston Herald, March 26, 1927, reported on Tong violence. Dong Chun Yen, aka Jim Sing, age 65, who owned a laundry at 389 ½ Cambridge Street, Cambridge, was said to be one of the richest Chinese in the city, owning real estate valued at nearly $100,000 in Cambridge and Boston. He was also a past treasurer and current member of the Hip Sing. While at his laundry, Jim was shot twice, just under the heart, and killed by a Chinese, a possible member of the On Leong, who fled the scene in an auto. The North Adams Transcript, March 26, 1927, added that Jim Sing had a premonition of his death a month before.
The Boston Globe, April 2, 1927, noted that the police were at a standstill in locating the murderer of Jim Sing. It appears the killer was never found, as there weren't any further newspaper mentions of this matter.
The Boston Globe, November 23, 1927, reported that Wallace Y. Hong was convicted of employing minors, in violation of the law, at his American-Chinese restaurant in Boston. The restaurant was the Symphony Restaurant at 251 Huntington Avenue. Hong hired girls, who were under 21 years old, to sing at his restaurant and some of them worked past 10pm, which was illegal. No penalty was noted in this article.
A policeman was assaulted at a Chinese restaurant. The Boston Globe, November 15, 1928, detailed that an officer was eating in a side room at a Chinese restaurant at 245 Tremont Street. Three boisterous men, possibly intoxicated, entered the restaurant and a waiter refused to serve them, asking them to leave. They refused to do so and the officer then intervened, except instead of leaving, the three men assaulted the officer. The trio had a history of causing trouble at Chinatown restaurants, and all three were arrested. One received a six months sentence, and the other two received suspended sentences.
The Mayor of Chinatown. The Boston Herald, January 27, 1929, published a lengthy article about the current mayor of Chinatown, Yee Shue Wah. He was about 63 years old, married, and had two married sons, Yee Loon and Yee Kim. Wah was born in Canton, China, having journeyed to San Francisco when he was 16 years old. He then worked for 10 years as a family servant and laundryman, before moving to Marisville, California for 4 years, where he worked in rice fields. He then returned to China, where he married Wong She, and returned to America, trekking to New York for a time before going to Boston. He owned a laundry on Shawmut Avenue and four years later, he visited China once again. Upon his return to the Boston area, he bought a laundry in Brockton, and then established a grocery store at 14 Hudson Street in Boston. And 4 years ago, he started the Red Rooster restaurant with 3 friends as partners.
Wah had been the mayor for five years, since Moy Dow died. “The mayor of Chinatown is really a combination judge, lost-person-locater and maintainer-of-the-peace. He doesn’t get a cent of salary,…” Plus, as the Chinese generally don’t go to civil court, they often brought their disputes before the mayor. The article was also interesting for noting that there were about 4,000 residents in Chinatown, as well as 70 restaurants. Around 1913, about 15 years earlier, there were only about 6 restaurants in Chinatown. That was an amazing amount of growth in only fifteen years.
More Tong violence! The Boston Herald, August 6, 1929, reported that the previous night, two Chinese were shot dead last night and one man was arrested. First, Chin Hinh, age 50, of 200 Harrisons Avenue and a member of the Hip Sing, was killed in from of 85 Kneeland Street by two gunmen who fired 4 bullets into his head. About 45 minutes later, Yee Wah, age 59, a laundryman at 407 Harrison Avenue and a member of the On Leong, was killed in the basement of his building, receiving four bullets in his back and chest. The second murder was thought to be a reprisal for the first.
For the first murder, Lee Sing (whose real name was thought to be Harry Wong), age 31, of New York and a member of the Hip Sing, was arrested. It was alleged that the cause of the current Tong violence was a desertion of some Hip Sing members to the On Leong.
The next day, the Boston Herald, August 7, 1929, it was alleged that the Hip Sing Tong had tricked and used a police escort to extort money from On Leong members. The uniformed cop, who accompanied the Hip Sing through Chinatown, didn't know the Hip Sing were extorting money, threatening to have people arrested if they didn't pay up. The On Leong blamed the police more than the Hip. As a reprisal, the On Leong had allegedly lied to the police, claiming the tongs had a peace pact, though they fully intended to fight another war. Numerous Chinese had left the city due to the tong war.
The matter got more confusing. The Boston Herald, August 9, 1929, noted that Lem Poy, aka Frank Lem, a prominent Hip Sing member, was arrested as an accessory to the recent murders. Lem, age 29, was married to a white woman and lived at 6 Crestwood Park in Roxbury. He recently claimed threats were made against him and thus a police officer was assigned to watch at his house, which occurred during the time of the murders occurred. However, the police allege he was in a room in July plotting the murders. Yee Wah, a member of the On Leong, was a target, but Chin Ching, was either killed by one of his own or an independent by mistake. In resolution, the North Adams Transcript, April 19, 1930, reported that Lee Sing was found guilty of 1st degree murder while Lem Poy had previously been found not guilty of being an accessory before the fact.
The Boston Herald, August 11, 1929, mentioned that the Boston tongs had refused to follow the New York brokered tong peace. Even threats to deport Chinese had not persuaded the On Leong to seek peace. An informant told the newspaper that unemployment of the laboring classes in Chinatown had been troublesome, as most of those workers belonged to the Hip Sing. Members of the Hip Sing members had thus been seeking membership in the On Leong, but were declined.
There was an editorial in the Boston Globe, September 11, 1929, which stated, "To one who has been even a casual visitor to Boston's Chinatown section during the passing years it is obvious that our Chinese residents have improved very much in their 'English." This is especially noticeable in the Chinese restaurants, where one nowadays seldom encounters a waiter who is not fairly proficient in speaking the tongue of his adopted land."
In 1929, an enterprising Chinese woman, Ruby Foo, seized opportunity, opened a Chinese restaurant, and eventually created a small empire of Chinese restaurants that even extended outside the U.S. However, her fascinating story is worthy of its own article and that will be the next part in this series.
Check out Part 1, covering the 19th century.
Check out Part 2, covering 1901-1920.
Check out Part 4, the tale of Ruby Foo.
Check out Part 5, covering 1930-1954
Check out Part 6, the tale of Anita Chue
Check out Part 7, the tale of Mary Yick
And also see my Compilation Post, with links to my additional articles about Chinese restaurants, outside Boston and in Connecticut, as well as a number of related matters.
(As of March 16, 2020, I've expanded/revised this article due to additional research, tripling the size of the original article. There is much more information on the Tongs, details on Mah-Jong, more restaurant advertisements, details on "cow cops" and Chinese courts, and more.)