Hatchet Men: The Story of the Tong Wars in San Francisco's Chinatown
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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.
of the Hop Sings, for they got the wrong man—not a Wah Ting at all—and hatcheted him so badly he was scalped of his queue. The police did their best. They kept all pedestrians on the go, broke up all gatherings—no matter how peaceful—and repeatedly searched suspects for weapons. To add to their troubles there was a revival in the slave-girl trade because of a new exposition, the St. Louis Fair, and because of corruption in the Chinese bureau of the Customs House. Indeed, things were breaking so
Federal census figure was 11,817. Most accurate was the figure of the Chinese Protective Association (the Six Companies)—17,000. Like a corollary to the increase in Chinese population, there was an increase in anti-Chinese incidents and riots. The people of Chinatown found themselves between the jaws of a vise: the growing tong underworld in Chinatown itself forming one jaw; the mounting pressure of hoodlums, labor and eventually a large segment of the city’s population, forming the other. Thus
tongs were able to grow rapidly while the Six Companies was distracted by the onslaughts of the sand lotters. The latter accidentally played a major role in the rise of the criminal element to power within Chinatown, and thus helped bring about the tong wars themselves. CHAPTER FIVE Sand Lots And Pick Handles “So long as the Chinese are here, I shall give them the most complete protection which my official authority can control or create. The humblest individual who treads our soil, of
represented by the killer tongs. Finally, the tongs themselves had had enough. In 1913 they created a Peace committee which secured an armistice. Their power was declining as that of the mercantile class, Chinatown’s quasi elders, rose. Chinatown was eventually united against the hatchet men as implements of the old way—the wrong way—of settling disputes. But the Americanization process had to grow out of a blood bath of two or three decades before the old customs were thrown off. The tong wars
PROTECTIVE SOCIETY. IF ANYONE IS MURDERED ON THE STREET THE WHITE OFFICERS CAN ARREST THEM AND WITNESS AGAINST THEM WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF THE PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION. THE SOCIETY IS GOOD FOR NOTHING BUT TO INFORM THE OFFICERS AND ARREST PEOPLE FOR VISITING HOUSES OF ILL REPUTE OR HAVE THEM FINED $20 APIECE. THE ORGANIZATION OF A PROTECTIVE UNION IS THE SAME EVIL AS THE [WAVERLY PLACE] POLICE STATION IN CHINATOWN. DIFFERENT COMPANIES SUBSCRIBE MONEY FOR THE SOCIETY. WHY DO THEY NOT BETTER