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In Pursuit of Gold

Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West

Sue Fawn Chung

Publication Year: 2011

Both a history of an overlooked community and a well-rounded reassessment of prevailing assumptions about Chinese immigrants in the American West, In Pursuit of Gold brings to life the world of turn-of-the-century mining towns in the Northwest. Sue Fawn Chung meticulously recreates the lives of Chinese immigrants, miners, merchants, and others who populated these towns and interacted amicably with their white and Native American neighbors, defying the common perception of nineteenth-century Chinese communities as insular enclaves subject to increasing prejudice and violence. Peppered with fascinating details about these communities from the intricacies of Chinese gambling games to the techniques of hydraulic mining, In Pursuit of Gold draws on a wealth of historical materials, including immigration records, census manuscripts, legal documents, newspapers, memoirs, and manuscript collections.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

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pp. ix-x

Not so many years ago historians wrote as if whatever economic contribution Chinese workers might have made to the development of the American West ended with the completion of the transcontinental railroads. That myth was demolished by the 1986 publication of Sucheng Chan’s This Bittersweet Soil: The Chinese in California Agriculture, 1860–1910, ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

My interest in Chinese American history began with the planning and execution of my senior honors thesis under Roger Daniels, who introduced me to the leading scholarship in the field at that time and the methodology and approach that I have used. ...

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Introduction

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pp. xv-xxviii

Tens of thousands of Chinese came to the United States in pursuit of gold in the late nineteenth century. A popular late nineteenth-century Cantonese song described how “the Spirit of Money” graced a miner’s home so that “in one blink” he had become a rich young man with gold and silver, no longer facing a desperate financial situation.1 ...

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Note on Transliteration of Names

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pp. xxix-xxxii

Chinese names have been problematic for American historians because there has been no standard method of transliterating the Chinese characters. Emma Woo Louie tried to unravel aspects of the problem in her book, Chinese American Names: Tradition and Transition.1 ...

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1. The Coming and Early Challenges

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pp. 1-45

Chinese migrated to the United States for many reasons. Upon arrival, they faced many challenges and established organizations to assist in coping with their new environment while preserving some traditions. The miners left few or no records about their experiences, but several different types of government documents provide some insights. ...

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2. Onward to Eastern Oregon

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pp. 46-81

By the mid-1850s as the gold became harder to find in California, some Chinese miners remained in California or returned to China while others moved into unchartered territories in the nearby regions. There was an advantage in going to new areas because they might have the opportunity to mine unhindered by animosity and anti-Chinese mining regulations. ...

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3. Eastward to Northeastern Nevada: Tuscarora

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pp. 82-121

By the mid-1850s Chinese miners migrated to remote parts of Utah Territory, now called Nevada, from various parts of the West, especially California because of the new gold discoveries along the Carson River. Most of the Chinese lived in western Nevada in the Carson City and Comstock Lode areas where mining and lumbering were major industries. ...

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4. Farther East: Island Mountain and Gold Creek

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pp. 122-170

The completion of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869 opened numerous other potentially rich placer gold sites in northeastern Nevada. Island Mountain, and the later town of Gold Creek that encompassed it, was first settled in 1873 and abandoned between 1918 and 1930. ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 171-184

Chinese miners and merchants in the three relatively small, isolated communities of John Day, Oregon, and Tuscarora and Island Mountain, Nevada, faced situations similar to those in other mining towns elsewhere in the American West, and in mining communities elsewhere in the Chinese diaspora, most notably British Columbia and New South Wales, Australia. ...

Notes

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pp. 185-214

Bibliography

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pp. 215-242

Index

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pp. 243-258

Further Reading, About the Author, Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252093340
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036286

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The Asian American Experience

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Subject Headings

  • Chinese Americans -- Nevada -- Elko County -- History -- 19th century.
  • Gold miners -- Nevada -- Elko County -- History -- 19th century.
  • Merchants -- Nevada -- Elko County -- History -- 19th century.
  • Mining camps -- Nevada -- Elko County -- History -- 19th century.
  • Community life -- Nevada -- Elko County -- History -- 19th century.
  • Intercultural communication -- Nevada -- Elko County -- History -- 19th century.
  • Elko County (Nev.) -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • Chinese Americans -- Oregon -- History -- 19th century.
  • Oregon -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • Chinese Americans -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
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