Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Early Chinese American, Chinese immigrant industry

Courtesy FoundSF, Creative Commons
One of the quietest aspects of San Francisco history is the role of the Chinese American and Chinese immigrant communities in making the waterfront an economically vibrant scene in the earliest of days.
An article on FoundSF helps take the muffler off that history, and the bustling of food businesses becomes audible once again. (Readers may also sense a slight fishy smell.)
In the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, an economic growth spurt began in 1938 when the U.S. Navy evoked eminent domain to take land that was repurposed to create one of the most important shipyards to operate during World War II.
In that same year, the SF Fire Department burned shacks and docks associated with a community of Chinese shrimp fishermen who made their homes and did business around India Basin.
The Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood is once again being redeveloped for new uses that will serve new populations of people. The Chinese fishing villages are historic examples of how progress comes at a cost.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese immigrant families established fishing villages around the San Francisco Bay, and supported themselves for generations by harvesting shrimp that was plentiful in the Bay at that time. Other villages could be found at China Camp in Point San Pedro, at Point Pinole near Richmond, and in Marin County.
In the 1920's, twelve fishery companies operated at Hunters Point.
1. Leuong Shui Shrimp Company
2. City Shrimp Company
3. Quong Fat Shrimp Company
4. Quong Song Shrimp Company
5. California Shrimp Company
6. Golden West Shrimp Company
7. Yip Fook Shrimp Company
8. See Hop Wo Shrimp Company
9. George Shrimp Company
10. Golden Gate Shrimp Company
11. Wing Hing Wo Shrimp Company
12. Quong Duck Chong Company
According to FoundSF, these companies were small, operating 16 boats with 504 nets, and employing 53 men
The Chinese fishermen sailed their redwood fishing boats to the mudflats. They dropped sail and set the large, triangular nets by staking them into the mud in long lines. The mouths of the nets were set open to the oncoming tide to catch shrimp swept along by the current. As the tide slackened, the fishermen raised nets and dumped the live shrimp into large baskets that were then stored in the boat's hold. The nets were reset in the opposite direction for the next tidal cycle. After two tidal cycles, or about twelve hours, the holds were full and the fishermen returned to camp to process the catch.
The fire department burned the last of the Chinese Fish Camp structures in 1938 to make way for the Navy and shipbuilding
Photo courtesy Gaar Collection, FoundSF, Creative Commons

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