During the second half of the nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants played a significant role in the economic growth and development of the western part of the country. However, their presence also led to an outpouring of racial prejudice and violence, and to the eventual passage of legislation at both the state and national levels to restrict Chinese immigration.
Chinese workers began
Chinese mine workers travel on a railroad handcart.
These Chinese immigrants provided an important labor source for a number of economic enterprises. Following the gold rush, large numbers were employed during the 1860’s by the Central Pacific Railroad in the building of the western leg of the transcontinental railroad. During the 1870’s, they provided an important source of labor for the construction of the levees of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, helping to create the fertile farmlands of that region. Many also turned to fishing, playing a key role in the development of the coastal fisheries. Others opened small businesses, such as restaurants or laundries, or found work as domestic servants.
Very soon after their initial arrival, Chinese immigrants began to experience racial and economic prejudice. In 1862, California passed the
Chang, Iris. The Chinese in America: A Narrative History. New York: Penguin Books, 2004. Gyory, Andrew. Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Pfaelzer, Jean. Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. New York: Random House, 2007.
Asian trade with the United States
California gold rush
Chinese trade with the United States
Japanese trade with the United States