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The Lucky Ones

The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (Expanded Paperback Edition)

Expanded paperback edition with a new preface by the author Mae Ngai
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Lucky Ones
    Book Description:

    The Lucky Onesuncovers the story of the Tape family in post-gold rush, racially explosive San Francisco. Mae Ngai paints a fascinating picture of how the role of immigration broker allowed patriarch Jeu Dip (Joseph Tape) to both protest and profit from discrimination, and of the Tapes as the first of a new social type--middle-class Chinese Americans.

    Tape family history illuminates American history. Seven-year-old Mamie attempts to integrate California schools, resulting in the landmark 1885 caseTape v. Hurley. The family's intimate involvement in the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair reveals how Chinese American brokers essentially invented Chinatown, and so Chinese culture, for American audiences. Finally,The Lucky Onesreveals aspects--timely, haunting, and hopeful--of the lasting legacy of the immigrant experience for all Americans.

    This expanded edition features a new preface and a selection of historical documents from the Chinese exclusion era that forms the backdrop to the Tape family's story.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4503-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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    (pp. viii-ix)
    M. N
  2. PART I STRIVINGS (1864–1883)

    • 1. THE LUCKY ONE
      (pp. 3-13)

      The boy, jeu dip (zhao xia), was twelve years old when he left southern China for America. He was from Skipping Stone (fushi) Village in Xinning County, Guangdong Province. The boy’s ancestors were one of thirty-three clans that migrated to Xinning in the thirteenth century, during the southern Song dynasty. Because the founder of the Song dynasty was named Zhao, people in Guangdong with that surname often claimed royal lineage. But in the nineteenth century, there were mostly poor farmers in Xinning, not princes.

      Xinning is the old name for Taishan, one of the Siyi (four counties) in southwestern Guangdong...

      (pp. 14-23)

      Jeu dip’s milk route took him past the Chinese girl’s home; perhaps he even delivered milk to it, for she lived in the same neighborhood, at the home of the Ladies’ Protection and Relief Society on Franklin Street, a block west of Van Ness. Started by the wives of Protestant ministers in the 1850s, the Ladies’ Society began by caring for women who were in temporary need of shelter and assistance. Its founders emphasized that these women came from good families; they were not indigent by fault of character or class. They had followed their “pioneer husbands, brothers, and sweethearts”...

      (pp. 24-40)

      Six months after they met, Jeu Dip and Mary McGladery were married. Reverend Loomis, who had rescued Mary from an unspeakable fate, was happy to perform a Christian ceremony for the couple, although neither Jeu Dip nor Mary was baptized. Reverend Ira Condit, a new addition to the Presbyterian Chinese mission in the Bay Area, assisted. The wedding took place on November 16, 1875, in the First Presbyterian Church, the imposing Gothic revival structure on Stockton Street. The First Church had a white congregation, but it permitted the Presbyterian Chinese mission to use the church for special occasions. Holding the...

  3. Part II SCHOOL DAYS (1884–1894)

      (pp. 43-57)

      Florence eveleth, the teenage daughter of Mary Tape’s friend and neighbor Sarah Eveleth, took on the Tape children as a kind of project. She had the idea to teach them reading and arithmetic, and Mary welcomed the attention Florence gave to Mamie and Frank.

      In 1884, when Mamie was eight and Frank was six, the Tapes discussed enrolling them in school. They undoubtedly understood that their children needed to be educated if they were to move about in Euro-American circles. But social custom and local school board policy excluded Chinese children from the public schools. There were the mission schools...

      (pp. 58-68)

      The tapes’ new home was a simply constructed wood-frame cottage with a small garden at the rear of 927 Washington Street, where the hill steeply rises just before Powell Street, not actually in the Chinese quarter but at its western edge. This was an area that during the late 1880s had begun to turn, as the urban demographers would say, as Chinatown’s growing population began to push beyond Stockton Street, which had been an informal yet distinct boundary between Chinatown and lower Nob Hill.

      Mary likely continued to refuse to live in the central Chinese quarter, which ran below Stockton...


      (pp. 71-82)

      Berkeley was a world away from San Francisco’s Chinatown. The town was situated on land that Mexico had granted to the Peralta family, Mexican settlers, in the 1820s and that had passed to Anglo ownership in the early 1850s, after the Mexican-American War. Berkeley had an industrial section and working-class settlement along the bay front and an elite community that had grown up around the campus of the University of California, three miles east of the bay, after it was founded in 1868. By 1890, Berkeley was a leafy town of forty thousand, with elegant homes, a modest commercial district,...

      (pp. 83-94)

      Herman lowe, the object of Mamie’s affection, was also a Chinese American. He was born as Lo You Huen (Lü Yaoxuan) in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1875, in his parents’ home, a room on the third floor above the Tuck Wo butcher and grocery shop at the corner of Jackson Street and Fish Alley. The alley, lined with fishmongers, poultry dealers, gambling houses, and opium shops, was “one of the most malodorous spots in Chinatown.” His father, Lo Kwai (Lü Guai), had worked for many years in San Francisco as a cook, peddler, and laborer before he could afford to...

      (pp. 95-116)

      In early 1904, Frank and Herman traveled with Mamie and the two children to the fair—formally known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition—and stayed for the duration, about nine months. The men worked for the Hong Tai Company, organized by San Francisco Chinese merchants to run concessions in the Chinese Village, located on the fair’s midway. The village included curio shops, a restaurant and teahouse, a temple, magic and juggling acts, games, artisan demonstrations, and a theater. The men were among some one hundred Chinese Americans from San Francisco employed by the village. The family went under the “fair...


      (pp. 119-134)

      Herman and mamie traveled back to California separately from Frank, avoiding the humiliation of the deportation spectacle. In April 1905, shortly after returning to the Bay Area, Herman was hired as an interpreter by the immigration bureau. He was the first ethnic Chinese hired as an immigration interpreter in San Francisco; his employment was reported in theDaily Morning Callwith the headline “Chinese Blood Goes into the Bureau.” The item noted that Lowe was the son-in-law of the “well known Chinese broker, Joseph Tape.” TheSan Francisco Chroniclemade its position clear with a headline linking Herman to the...

      (pp. 135-149)

      For frank to be sent on special assignment to work with Richard Taylor, the bureau’s special investigative agent who reported directly to the commissioner general—that surely would have made Joseph proud of his son.

      It was indeed an important mission. The decision to send Taylor to investigate the problem of smuggling Chinese across the U.S.- Mexico border indicated how serious the bureau believed the problem had become. Taylor was not the first immigration agent at the scene. In recent years, two Chinese interpreters had gone undercover into Mexico, and another special investigator had toured the southwestern U.S. districts. But...

    • 11. MODERN LIFE
      (pp. 150-160)

      With frank and mamie living in the Pacific Northwest, the rest of the Tape family in Berkeley settled into a life of comfort and small pleasures, but also one in which happiness was unevenly spread.

      The good life was based, foremost, on Joseph Tape’s expanding business interests. He had already done well with his express company and the baggage-handling privilege that he held for the Pacific Mail and Southern Pacific, in addition to myriad other concessions. As the Chinese passenger ticket agent for the steamship and railroad companies, Joseph received a commission on every ticket he sold. Although Chinese were...

    • 12. THE TRIAL
      (pp. 161-172)

      Frank arrived in seattle in the autumn of 1908 with a reputation as a “detective” and a “trusted employee of the department.” But his standing in the district office began to erode within the year. His colleagues’ suspicion that he was a confidential agent of the commissioner general generated resentment, and there was conjecture over whether the source of his extra income was his father, his wife, or graft. However, Frank had the support of Ellis De Bruler, who served as the district commissioner from 1909 to 1913. De Bruler considered Tape “a good interpreter and a good detective ....

      (pp. 173-186)

      Joseph tape was soon to learn what it was like to be publicly accused and shamed. About nine months after Frank’s ordeal in Seattle, Joseph had his own run-in with the corruption mongers. He was implicated in a scandal involving stowaways aboard the SSMongolia,one of the Pacific Mail’s steamships.

      At around noon on October 27, 1915, the customs bureau office in San Francisco received an anonymous letter written in Chinese with information that theMongolia,which had just pulled into port, was carrying Chinese stowaways. The letter carried detailed information—“the no. 1 boatswain has eight of them....

  6. PART V REINVENTIONS (1917–1950)

      (pp. 189-200)

      When the united states entered the Great War in Europe in 1917, it required all males between the ages of twenty-one and thirty to register with the military for the draft. In the Tape family, only Gertrude’s husband, Herbert Chan, who was twenty-five at the time, was at risk for being called to duty. Herbert claimed that the earnings from his job at the Pacific Mail were the sole support of his wife, his recently widowed mother, and five siblings under the age of twelve. The statement was probably not true—Herbert had never been a reliable breadwinner, and his...

    • 15. LOSS
      (pp. 201-206)

      Frank’s new persona as upstanding citizen and businessman supplanted his former images as a street tough and a player—although he could not resist the occasional interview, supplying reporters with colorful, if false, material of daring former exploits. John Bruce’s column in theSan Francisco Call Bulletin,“Skylines of the City,” featured Frank twice. Frank still took long hunting trips to Ukiah, sometimes with Ruby but more often with his Southern Pacific friends. By the early 1930s, Frank and Ruby’s marriage had begun to sour. Ruby may have grown impatient with Frank’s lack of work ethic, his self-aggrandizing posture, and...

    • 16. SERVICE
      (pp. 207-222)

      Several years passed before Frank and Gertrude reentered the world. The impetus was the Second World War, as Chinese Americans joined the fight for world democracy on the battlefront and behind the lines. The enormity of the fight against fascism and the bustle of mobilization that coursed through the country, including Chinatown communities, were impossible for even Frank and Gertrude, the two most self-absorbed of the Tapes, to ignore. It was not just the war but also a new era in race relations that the war ushered in. Citizenship and democratic rights for Chinese Americans suddenly appeared within reach. Members...

    (pp. 223-230)

    Three generations of the Tape family lived through the Chinese exclusion era, protesting and profiting from the legal regime of racial discrimination. Their lives were a paradox: they broke into the American middle class by helping manage the continued marginalization of other Chinese. The Tape family was exceptional, yet it was also archetypal of the first Chinese American middle class. In the late nineteenth century, during Joseph Tape’s time, brokering was not only a desirable way for acquiring wealth and property. It also was a route to social status, not just in the immigrant community but among whites as well....

    (pp. 231-232)
    (pp. 277-314)