Term of Graduation

Winter 2003

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Chinese Americans -- Oregon -- Portland, Portland (Or.) -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (146 leaves)


This thesis studies the development of the Portland, Oregon Chinese immigrant community between 1850 and 1910. Chinese immigrants first arrived in Portland in the mid-1850s and quickly created businesses as well as social institutions they transplanted from China to the U.S. West. They also established intricate relationships among themselves and with members of the surrounding white community. County and state court records held at the Multnomah County Courthouse and National Archives in Seattle, Washington, reveal much about the Chinese immigrant community in Portland and provide a window into a society that left few written records. Through the analysis of hundreds of court cases held at the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, this thesis reconstructs four broad aspects of Portland's Chinese immigrant community. The first chapter discusses the arrival and establishment of Chinese immigrants in Portland. The second chapter discusses Chinese experience with white missionaries in the courts as both groups battled for custody rights to Chinese women and children. The third chapter looks at the case of United States v. John Wilson, which revealed how Chinese and whites had collaborated to establish one of the largest and most successful immigrant and opium smuggling rings on the West Coast. With the aim of profiting from Chinese exclusion, the white and Chinese operators of this ring bridged racial barriers that had, for decades, divided the two groups. In chapter four, finally, the thesis examines social conflict within the late nineteenth century Portland Chinese community. This chapter describes how internal conflicts in Portland Chinatown, stemming from traditional social associations transplanted from China, played as strong a role in shaping the Chinese community in Portland as did exclusion laws determined to end the entry of Chinese to the United States.


Copyright (c) 2012 Sarah Marie Griffith.

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