U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island, San Francisco Bay
U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island, San Francisco Bay

Historical Overview


external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngChinese Americans: The Eagle and the Dragon from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library provides an historical overview of immigration from China to the United States from 1800 to the present day.

Chinese Immigration is a history in two parts:
  1. From the 1850s to the 1880s before being halted by federal anti-immigration legislation
  2. From the 1970s to the present following normalization of U.S./China relations

Why Did the first Chinese Immigrants Come to the United States? from KCC Alterna-TV News

Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance, National Women's History Museum

primary_sources.PNGPrimary Sources from Harper's Weekly, The Chinese American Experience, 1857-1892

Early Chinese Immigration

  • Many of the first Chinese immigrants were wealthy merchants and skilled artisans known for their hard work.
    • Well and widely received by Americans
  • In the 1880's poor unskilled workers came looking for work on railroads, to mine gold, to become cooks, and take other jobs considered 'dirty" or undesirable.
    • They worked hard for little pay.
    • Unlike the skilled Chinese immigrants who were well received, were treated negatively and attitudes were hostile towards them

Chinese Immigrants in the West

Chinese Laborers on the Way to the Gold Fields
Chinese Laborers on the Way to the Gold Fields



For more, see The Chinese and Westward Expansion from the exhibit "The Chinese in California, 1850-1925" from the Library of Congress.


The Unsung Story of Chinese and Japanese Immigrants Who Brought Rice to California from Good Magazine, December 24, 2014.


Chinese in California, 1850 - 1925 from the University of California Berkeley

Multimedia.pngThe Story of Ing "Doc" Hay, a Chinese herbalist in a small town in Oregon in the 1880s from Crossing East, a radio program about Asian American History




external image Transcontinental_RR_1944-3c.jpg

Chinese Workers and the Transcontinental Railroad


See also Dramatic Event page on The Transcontinental Railroad

Timeline from Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, Stanford University

Chinese-American Contribution to Transcontinental Railroad from the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum.
Some 80 percent of those involved in building the Transcontinental Railroad were immigrant Chinese workers.

The Chinese Workers Strike in June 1867 from PBS American Experience.


The Only One Barred Out, Political Cartoon, 1882
The Only One Barred Out, Political Cartoon, 1882

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

  • First law in American history to ban a specific racial group from entering the country
    • Angel Island Inspection Station was built in 1910

Paper Sons and Daughters

Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts, Office of the Historian, United States Department of State


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rotating gif.gifLink to Immigration Gateways and Ports of Entry for more about Angel Island Immigration Station and other ports of entry


masscities.pngChinese Immigrants in Massachusetts