Some Early Chinese Business Men of 1905 OKC

The city directory of Oklahoma City for 1905 lists several business men. These may not be the only ones - others may have been in the community but simply not recorded in the directory or may have been in other business fields.
The men all operated laundries and in a city bursting with single men, traveling business people, numerous hotels and boarding houses they no doubt did well. Laundry was a labor intensive work and not everyone could afford the new up-to-date hand crank wringers and still had to use a serious of wash tubs for cleaning and rinsing soiled clothes and bedding.  Once cleaned they had to be hung and then steam iron and folded. 

In 1905, at 230 West Second (modern Kerr) was John Chee and there is no mistake as to ethnic origins because it states after the name '(Chinese)'.  Almost center in the wildest part of town was Sam Lung at 124 1/2 W. California.  John Lee was found at 209 W. California, also just at the west edge of the notorious Hell's Half Acre.  At 306 W. Main was the establishment of Sam Fong or Sam Lee Fong or Sam Fong Lee.  All three were listed so there may have been some confusion as to his name.  Sing Lee was at 110 W. Reno and Wah Hop was at 7 N. Harvey.
Shortly after this period, however, governmental regulations and openness to oriental immigrants cooled and many of the Chinese in Oklahoma went back to the west coast in order to connect with communities there and to find passage back home.  Some appear to have possibly stayed in OKC but adopted a less politically volatile ethnicity by the time of the next census as similar names appear but cite Japan as their place of birth.

Some are still in Oklahoma City in 1908 and 1910 as ads for laundries and cafes can be found. Also, apparently there was a crackdown of standards of hygiene in various Chinese and Japanese restaurants ca 1910 that noted the presence of the odor of opium as well and unclean kitchen standards. Most, however, 'cleaned' up their act in response to state investigations.
One of the issue facing many Orientals in this time period was the issue of acculturation.  Many had come to earn money to acquire wives and property at home but became mired in social attitudes and manipulating employers in mines and railroads.  Others became westernized in dress, attitudes and skills alienating them, and in some cases violating rules laid down in China and Japan.  Many thus 'burned their bridges' to remain in America. 

Entertainments, social centers, businesses, libraries and religious houses all developed in response to the Asians in the Oklahoma City society. Unfortunately, by the 1960's when proof positive was found for the underground world of rumor-it was too late to save any of it.

Select Sources:

Urban Archaeologist, Slice
U.S. Federal Census
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma, Asians
"No Celebration Held by Chinese". Oklahoman (Feb.2, 1908)13. Noted there were 22 Chinese residents of Oklahoma City.

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