Chinese Immigration to America (1830-1851)

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Courtney Squires

HIST 315

University of Mary Washington

Professor Moon

Chinese Immigration to America


Chinese immigration is a well-studied topic in American history. However, most history of Chinese immigration focuses on the time period post-California Gold Rush (1849). The goal of this research is to highlight the less discussed Chinese immigration history pre-Gold Rush, roughly (1830-1851). The California Gold Rush attracted thousands of Chinese immigrants because it provided jobs and the chance to strike it rich in America. The time period in focus is key in discovering what attracted the first initial Chinese immigrants to America. There are multiple push factors that encouraged the Chinese immigrants to leave China, many pull factors that must have enticed the Chinese to America versus other lands, and it will also be important to note their experiences throughout the journey and their newly pronounced lives in America.

The sources used in this research topic have been carefully selected for their focus on initial reports of Chinese immigration to America. The United States Federal Census of 1830 has been selected to show contrast and change over time, considering there are no recorded Chinese in America at that time but that changes over time. Two newspapers, one located in Illinois and one located in New York contains articles featuring conversation about Chinese immigrants in the years 1845 and 1850. These newspapers are important to provide concrete evidence of the early primary reports of Chinese immigrants in America. The Secondary sources selected are from educated, historians who have interviewed families of Chinese immigrants and have studied into the history of primary sources. Many of the resources are collections of reviewed letters and artifacts of the time period in focus, including the book, The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. The second-hand sources are vital to understand different interpretations and viewpoints in the settled lives of the Chinese immigrants in America. The selected primary and secondary sources have been listed and attached.

The history of immigration is crucial to understand the present-day United States, which consists of people of all cultural backgrounds. Chinese immigration is largely studied when the race climaxed in America during the California Gold Rush. But the period before this historical event, the initial immigration of Chinese peoples, considering the push and pull factors is the objective of this research. Also, it is important to study the immigrant’s reactions and experience to the new land.


Primary Sources

Hoff, Rhoda. America's Immigrants; Adventures in Eyewitness History. New York: H.Z. Walck, 1967. Print.

H.R. Doc. No. Fifth Census-269 (1830). Print.

Cushing, Caleb. "China and the Chinese." The Ottawa Free Trader VI (5 Dec. 1845): n. pag. Print.

"From the Sandwich Islands." New-York Daily Tribune (5 Sept. 1850): 4. Print.

Secondary Sources

Liu, Haiming. The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2005.EBSCO Host. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.

Tsai, Shih-shan Henry. The Chinese Experience in America. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986. Print.

Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1990. Print.

Takaki, Ronald T. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown, 1989. Print.

Tong, Benson. The Chinese Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

Bergquist, James M. Daily Life in Immigrant America, 1820-1870. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2008. Print.

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