Title

The Yellow Fear of the 19th Century United States

Subject Area

East Asian/Chinese Studies

Abstract

The arrival of the Chinese to America some one hundred and sixty years ago is part of a complex economic and political relationship between China and America. This influx became the focal point for America’s ensuing foreign and domestic policies that often conflicted with each other, with the United States usually holding the upped hand. Since its birth as a nation in 1776, the United States has sough to establish commercial relations with China. After the annexation of territories west of the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast, particularly after incorporating California in 1848, the United States reached across the Pacific to China, wanting to acquire and hold equal positions of power and influence alongside stronger European powers.

The 1848 discovery of gold in California attracted thousands of Chinese, mostly Cantonese, to the United States. Subsequently the Chinese were also recruited as a major source of labor in the economic development of the American West. Thousands were hired for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad during the early 1860s. By the 1870s, the Chinese were also active in urban industry, manufacturing shirts, shoes, boots, and cigars. White workers, faced with a widespread economic depression at national, state and local levels, saw the growing number of Chinese laborers as responsible for white unemployment. President Chester A. Arthur eventually signed the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 6, 1882. This act was the first federal law to bar immigration on the basis of race and class. Championed by white American labor force, Chinese exclusion became known as the “Chinese Question” in domestic politics. It occupied the nation’s politics from 1870s to 1900s. Racism, especially in the form of xenophobia, intensified the labor versus capital conflict. This 19th century xenophobia, later known as the “yellow Peril,” took root, as the Chinese became scapegoats of the American West movement in the west.

With all the events mentioned above, this presentation will explore a series of pictorials (political and editorial cartoons) published in newspapers and magazines from the mid 1860s to the late 1920s that commented on the political personage. This form of art expression could be humorous, vindictive, or satirical, and condescending also. It is believed that the first political cartoon appeared in the American newspaper on May 9, 1754 issue of the Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette. The 19th Century saw issues emerging that were ripe for the particular medium. By the 1890s, pictorial cartoons were found in almost every daily newspaper. My goal in this presentation is to illustrate the Chinese immigrants through the eyes of the American culture of the 19th Century.

Brief Bio Note

N/A

Keywords

Yellow Fear, 19th century, United States, California, Chinese

Location

Room 211

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-27-2015 3:00 PM

End Date

3-27-2015 4:15 PM

Embargo

5-23-2017

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Mar 27th, 3:00 PM Mar 27th, 4:15 PM

The Yellow Fear of the 19th Century United States

Room 211

The arrival of the Chinese to America some one hundred and sixty years ago is part of a complex economic and political relationship between China and America. This influx became the focal point for America’s ensuing foreign and domestic policies that often conflicted with each other, with the United States usually holding the upped hand. Since its birth as a nation in 1776, the United States has sough to establish commercial relations with China. After the annexation of territories west of the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast, particularly after incorporating California in 1848, the United States reached across the Pacific to China, wanting to acquire and hold equal positions of power and influence alongside stronger European powers.

The 1848 discovery of gold in California attracted thousands of Chinese, mostly Cantonese, to the United States. Subsequently the Chinese were also recruited as a major source of labor in the economic development of the American West. Thousands were hired for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad during the early 1860s. By the 1870s, the Chinese were also active in urban industry, manufacturing shirts, shoes, boots, and cigars. White workers, faced with a widespread economic depression at national, state and local levels, saw the growing number of Chinese laborers as responsible for white unemployment. President Chester A. Arthur eventually signed the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 6, 1882. This act was the first federal law to bar immigration on the basis of race and class. Championed by white American labor force, Chinese exclusion became known as the “Chinese Question” in domestic politics. It occupied the nation’s politics from 1870s to 1900s. Racism, especially in the form of xenophobia, intensified the labor versus capital conflict. This 19th century xenophobia, later known as the “yellow Peril,” took root, as the Chinese became scapegoats of the American West movement in the west.

With all the events mentioned above, this presentation will explore a series of pictorials (political and editorial cartoons) published in newspapers and magazines from the mid 1860s to the late 1920s that commented on the political personage. This form of art expression could be humorous, vindictive, or satirical, and condescending also. It is believed that the first political cartoon appeared in the American newspaper on May 9, 1754 issue of the Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette. The 19th Century saw issues emerging that were ripe for the particular medium. By the 1890s, pictorial cartoons were found in almost every daily newspaper. My goal in this presentation is to illustrate the Chinese immigrants through the eyes of the American culture of the 19th Century.