Hatchet Men: The Story of the Tong Wars in San Francisco's Chinatown
Richard Dillon, one of California's premier historians, tells the compelling story of San Francisco's exotic pre-1906 Chinatown when vicious hoodlum gangs held sway. Chinatown, as demonstrated by Dillon's fast-paced narrative, became a cauldron of chaos teeming with thugs, prostitutes, gamblers, and warlords preying on scores of helpless victims. As the Tong Wars ripped through San Francisco's Chinatown, the Chinese inhabitants lived under a reign of terror. Opium was abundant as were "slave girls," women imported for the purpose of prostitution. Hatchet-wielding killers silenced any opposition. It was a lurid and violent chapter in American history-and, in an era when the customs of an Asian people were considered foreign and frightening to begin with, the very word "Chinatown" came to suggest the mysterious, the sinister. The truth that survived the earthquake of 1906 was both colorful and tragic. Richard Dillon exposes the plight of the Chinese "average man," trapped between the Tongs that terrorized and cast their shadow over him, and a government that disastrously misunderstood him. Richard H. Dillon has written more than 20 books about California and the West.
the attack was made.” “What was the date of these two murders?” “I think one was a year ago in February, and the other a month or two later.” Gordon went on. “I know of a case where a woman was cut because she would not consent to be blackmailed. A Chinaman, Ah Chuck, went into a house of prostitution and Chin Cook, a prostitute, borrowed his pocketknife and after using it laid it on the table. In a few minutes he said he was going and wanted his knife. It had disappeared from the table, and
the singsong girls was the discovery that Chinatown was ringed by white prostitution. He did not attempt to enumerate the number of degraded Caucasian women in this line of business, but he confessed his shock at finding that “their mode of life seems to be modeled after that of the Mongolians to a larger extent than after the manners and customs of the race to which they belong.” (On the other hand, some. Oriental slave girls, as early as the ’70s, affected the hoops and crinolines of their
girls from their masters. (As early as 1857 the city was shocked by the desperate attempt of two girls to escape their lives of slavery by throwing themselves into a well in attempted suicides.) One of the first to become interested in the singsong girls’ plight was Mrs. H. C. Cole. She helped set up the Methodist Misson, but the matron had no customers for almost a year. Then, late in 1871, a despairing girl, Jin Ho, escaped from her bagnio, fled to the Embarcadero, and threw herself into the
this period the San Francisco Grand Jury had to work overtime. On one day alone—March 15, 1893—it indicted nine hatchet men for murder. The Chinatown squad signified its approval by raiding and demolishing the headquarters of the Suey Ying tong after forcing the fifteen members there to run a gantlet of billy clubs. With axes, sledges and hatchets the squad reduced the furnishings of the rooms to rubble. At this juncture Vice-Consul Owyang reported that the merchants of the Quarter had resolved
Immigration Bureau that the girls coming to the Omaha Exposition, ostensibly for the Chinese pavilion there, were in fact en route to Chinatown whorehouses. Crowley kept his own “hatchet men” busy. The keen blades wielded by the Chinatown squad sent six more tong flagpoles crashing, including those of two new rising stars among the tongs—the Gee Sin Seer and the Bo Sin Seer. Sergeant Burke said, “The work will be continued till not a single flagpole, surmounting a place where highbinders have