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1852: The First Chinese between the East & West Coasts?

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The following story appeared in the Chicago Tribune on December 14, 1852:

"The steamship Falcon lately brought to New Orleans a troupe of Chinese jugglers.  The company consists of twenty persons, male and female, and their performances are said to be the most astonishing that have ever been witnessed on the American continent."

This is all we have been able to find so far, but we think it is quite possible that the troupe traveled up the Mississippi from New Orleans to theaters in St. Louis, which in those days was the largest American city in the region.  It may even have come as far as Chicago, the Midwest's second city.  We also think it is likely that at least some members of the troupe stayed in the U.S.: perhaps in the South, the Midwest, or the East Coast.

These visitors were not connected with the Mexican-Filipino fishing village of St. Malo that sprang up in the Mississippi Delta in the 1760s, and that was first publicized in the 19th century by the great essayist Lafcadio Hearn. Residents of the village spoke a Philippine language and were mostly former crew members of Spanish ships sailing between Acapulco and Manila.  As was true of many specialized workers employed by the Spanish in the Philippines, some St. Malo people may well have been of Chinese descent.

Reference: http://www.filipinorecipeslink.com/cgi-bin/redirect.cgi?url=manilamen.html; L. Hearn, Harper’s Weekly, March 31, 1883.

Research & writing by Ben Bronson and Chuimei Ho; copyright 2004-2006 by the Chinatown Museum Foundation.
 
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