Chinese Food and Politics in Chicago, 1905-07

The early years of the Chinese restaurant boom saw the forging of close links between food service and political agendas.  In 1905, the powerful and famously corrupt Democrat alderman Hinky Dink Kenna was leasing the space above his saloon (at the corner of Clark and Van Buren) to the King Yen Lo Restaurant, managed by Chin Foin.  Hinky Dink seems to have become a patron of Chin’s.  As related elsewhere on this website, he called on Chin to do political work for him.

In 1907, the Baohuanghui or Empire Reform Association decided to open its own restaurant in the U.S. as a way of raising funds to support its activities within China.  Settling on Chicago as a potentially profitable location, it called the new restaurant King Joy Lo (瓊彩樓 or in Mandarin, “Qiongcai Lou”), invested a large sum of money in equipment and decorations, and chose Chin Foin to be the manager.  Although bitter arguments over the disposition of profits were to follow, these did not affect the reputation or quality of the restaurant itself, which soon came to be seen as one of the finest in Chicago.  An unpublished paper by Jane Leung Larson tells the story of the founding of King Joy Lo and the subsequent international political quarrels about it.  We hope to be able to reproduce that paper here within the next few weeks.
Part of the story has already been published in Jane Leung Larson, “New Source Materials on Kang Youwei and the Baohuanghui,” Chinese America:  History and Perspectives (San Francisco:  Chinese Historical Society of America), 1993.

The stereo comes from the fabulous website of Bill & Sue-On Hillman, at  It is reproduced here with the Hillmans’ permission.