1913: Bad East-West marriages II: Alice Davis Sing murders Charles Sing

In 1913 a white Chicago woman named Alice Davis Sing was alleged to have found a more direct way of getting rid of her Chinese husband, one Charles Sing — she took a knife and stabbed him to death in their home at 3460 Archer Avenue.

Alice had been a Christian missionary in Kansas City’s Chinatown. That is where she got to know Charles and several other Chinese men, described by her father as “admirers.” She fell deeply in love with Charles. After the murder, one Chicago journalist noted that unsuspecting white girls like Alice quite often “were lured into [Chinese men’s] parlors, stores, and chop suey joints by their pleadings and outward gentleness, then, captivated by the apparent luxury of their lives and apartments, they visit them again and again until their ruin is accomplished.” Alice’s ruin entailed not only marriage to Charles but conversion to her husband’s religion, a tendency to speak in Pidgin English, and a fondness for Chinese clothing, as shown by the lace-trimmed cheongsam dress she is wearing in this photograph.

She showed touching grief when shown her husband’s body, but the hard-bitten Chicago detectives were not impressed. They still thought she was a murderer. Her husband’s brother Frank told the police that she and Charles had quarreled violently a week before about his plans to go back to China and not to take her. The police themselves seem to have looked into but rejected more exotic motives, including a nation-wide smuggling ring and a love quadrangle featuring George Norn, a strikingly handsome Chinese friend, and Alice’s sister Emma.

The case came to trial in December and, to the fury of the police and Frank Sing, Alice was acquitted.  In spite of the sensational nature of the murder, the evidence against her was not strong.  The jury may also have been influenced by her grief and devotion.  As she told a newspaper reporter a few days after the murder, “From the first time I saw him I loved him.  There was something about him that fascinated me.  He was quiet, lithe, and graceful.  He was mysterious, and I guess that is what attracted me.  He never laughed out loud no matter how happy he was.  He chuckled…”

We first encountered the story of the Sings in Northwestern University’s comprehensive on-line historical files on Chicago murders: http://homicide.northwestern.edu/.

Most of the above comes from contemporary newspaper accounts of the murder found in the microfilm newspaper archives of the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library.  The following newspapers covered the Sing case: the Chicago American (9/5/13-9/13/13), the Chicago Daily News (9/8/13-9/9/13) and the Chicago Evening Post (9/4/13). The Chicago Tribune, rejecting vulgar sensationalism, did not so much as mention Charles and Alice Davis Sing.