New York State Archives
Throughout the Ages
A Visual Document Resource

History | Buffalo | Chinese Communities

Image. Photo of Jim Lee, Buffalo Courier, 1902.
Photo in Buffalo Courier, October 19, 1902. Collection of the Erie County Public Library.

Chinese immigrants appear to have begun settling in the Buffalo area during the late 1800s. A Buffalo Courier news article from October 19, 1902 tells the story of Num Hule, who had adopted the Americanized name of "Jim Lee." He arrived in San Francisco, California in 1874, and eventually began to migrate eastward, arriving in Buffalo in 1891. The first Chinese residents of Buffalo were men who established Chinese laundries and restaurants. According to the Courier article, however, by 1902 the Chinese population had decreased from 140 to 76. U.S. laws that severely limited Chinese immigration (called Exclusion Laws) and discrimination most likely contributed to the small population in the early 1900s.

A January 18, 1902 edition of the Buffalo Times mentioned that there were about 40 Chinese laundries in Cold Spring, Black Rock, South and East Buffalo. Chinese restaurants were located on Michigan Street, Broadway, Oak Street, and William Street. The Tai Gum & Co. store on Michigan Street carried Chinese merchandise, including ivory and bone carvings; and a few doors down a Chinese grocery store provided familiar ethnic foods for the immigrants. A Chinese drug store, owned by Quong Sing Lung, was also established in 1904.

Vocabulary

Immigrants: People who come into a country as settlers.
Americanized: Made to become more American in appearance or character. During the first half of the 20th century, an organized effort was made to help new immigrants become "American" in culture and appearance.
Migrate: To move from one place to another.
Exclusion Laws: Laws enacted in the U.S. between 1882 and 1943 that limited or prevented Chinese immigration into the country.
Discrimination: Unfair or intolerant actions towards a group of people,
usually based on prejudiced beliefs.
Ethnic: Relating to the culture of a specific group or race of people.

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