Immigration - Teacher Page
China at the Fair: Identity and Immigration
This lesson plan addresses the issues surrounding the Chinese participation at the World’s Fair. It would fit well in units discussing late nineteenth century immigration, industrialization, and urbanization, and the early twentieth century Americanization movement. The activity focuses on a single man to lead the students to engage with how immigrants negotiated their multiple cultures and identities. In the case of Chinese Americans, the era of exclusion dominated this issue. To prepare students for the lesson, you may want to have students review their textbooks for discussion about Chinese immigration or watch a video about Chinese Americans (there is a new PBS series listed in the resources). To help students engage with the topic, you also may want to begin with a discussion of immigration and identity from today’s news or students’ own experiences.
Throughout the lesson, there are suggestions for how to group students or whether activities could be done in class or as homework. These are just suggestions, however, and you can best judge and plan what schedule or configurations would work best with your students. Certainly students would benefit from collaboration, especially on the final assessment activity options. You may want to have students complete the entire lesson plan, or you may want to select some of the activities and primary sources and revise the assessment activity, if time is a factor. This lesson plan addresses many important historical issues, and students will still benefit from only partially completing the activities.
Although the lesson plan was developed for use online to help students understand how computers and the Internet can be used for historical learning, each portion of the lesson may also be completed offline. For instance, you may print out the Student View of the lesson plan and the website and source pages for classroom distribution. The assessment activities are also intended to take advantage of new learning tools on the Web, but they can all also be completed using more traditional materials.
This section provides students with an overview of the Chinese participation in the Chicago World’s Fair, and briefly compares Chinese participation with the Japanese. It does not provide extensive information about Chinese immigration and exclusion. Students will find that information in the activity in the Anticipatory Set.
World’s fairs were and still are opportunities for nations to come together and present themselves to the world. They are especially important for the host countries who want to make a good impression for their guests. In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago offered the United States to demonstrate its industrial progress to the rest of the world. But many countries also spent lots of money to develop elaborate exhibits to show their own progress and culture. The Japanese government, for example, allocated $630,000 to build the large Ho-o-den Palace on the beautiful Wooded Isle at the fair. The Japanese minister to Washington, D.C. stated that Japan’s exhibit was intended to demonstrate “that Japan is a country worthy of full fellowship in the family of nations.” [See Robert Rydell, All the World’s a Fair, 48-49].
The case of China, Japan’s neighbor and rival, was different. Although China had participated in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the Chinese government refused to participate officially at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One reason was that the current Chinese rulers of the Qing dynasty wanted to remain isolated and resisted modernizing reforms. Certainly though another important reason that the Chinese government did not participate was the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that was the first legislation to restrict immigration to the United States. This legislation specifically targeted Chinese laborers, who, it was argued, were competing with white laborers for work and driving down wages. Students, merchants, tourists, and diplomats were exempted, but the law prohibited all Chinese people from becoming naturalized citizens. Just before the World’s Fair opened, Congress renewed Chinese Exclusion for another 10 years through the 1892 Geary Act. Here is a section of the law:
The Geary Act required Chinese laborers to apply for and carry a certificate of residence that identified them as legal residents. What would happen to Chinese laborers who failed to comply? What if they lost their certificate? Congress later extended Chinese Exclusion indefinitely. It was repealed in 1943 during World War II, when China was an ally of the U.S. against Japan. During the war, Chinese-Americans began to see attitudes towards them improve, while Japanese-Americans suffered in internment camps.
Without official Chinese participation in the World’s Columbian Exposition, China’s presence at the fair was left to Chinese-American community leaders in Chicago. In 1893, the number of Chinese in Chicago was still small but was growing, from 172 in 1880 to 1,179 in 1900. Three men, Hong Sling, Dr. Gee Woo Chan, and Wong Kee formed the Wah Mee Exposition Company to raise the money ($90,000) to construct a Chinese Village, including a theater with over 200 male actors brought over from China, a Joss House (religious temple), a bazaar, and café that served American food and more Chinese-style dishes. The Wah Mee Company hired a non-Chinese architecture firm, Wilson and Marble, to create the buildings. Unlike the official Japanese exhibit inside the fair ground’s, the Chinese Village was located on the Midway Plaisance, the entertainment and concessions section adjacent to the fair. This meant that the Chinese Village was intended to make a profit and return the initial investments in the Wah Mee Company. If the purpose of the World’s Columbian Exposition was to show the America’s leading role in the “progress of civilization,” then what was the purpose of the Chinese Village on the Midway Plaisance? What was the image of China that it sold to visitors?
1. To develop an understanding of how Chinese Exclusion affected Chinese people.
2. To examine the contested nature of Chinese Exclusion.
3. To consider how immigrants formed their identities.
4. To examine attitudes towards Chinese people and culture in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century.
5. To practice constructing historical narratives using primary sources.
NCHS National History Standards, Era 6: The Development of the Industrial United States (1870 -1900)
Standard 2A: The student understands the sources and experiences of the new immigrants
Grades 7-12: Distinguish between "old" and "new" immigration in terms of its volume and the immigrants' ethnicity, religion, language, place of origin, and motives for emigrating from their homelands [Analyze multiple causation]
Grades 5-12: Assess the challenges, opportunities, and contributions of different immigrant groups [examine historical perspectives]
Standard 2B: The student understands "scientific racism", race relations, and struggle for equal rights
Grades 5-12: Explain the rising racial conflict in different regions, including the anti-Chinese movement in the West and the rise of lynching in the South.
Grades 9-12: Analyze the role of new laws and the federal judiciary in instituting racial inequality and in disenfranchising racial groups.
To prepare students for the activity, have them complete the following exercise. The exercise is intended to be done on computers, but you can also print out Wei’s Introduction and the Nast cartoon and distribute them to students. You may also choose to have students complete the activity at home if they have the technology resources. It may be completed individually, in pairs, or small groups. This activity provides students with an overview of Chinese immigration and exclusion, and provides students with the opportunity to analyze a political cartoon and explore how some Americans questioned how Chinese exclusion could be reconciled with American values.
To prepare for the class activity:
1. Go to the Harper’s Weekly website on Immigrant and Ethnic America. (http://immigrants.harpweek.com/Default.htm)
2. Click on “Introduction” in the middle of the page, and read the short essay by William Wei called “The Chinese-American Experience: An Introduction.”
3. After reading the essay, answer the following questions.
1. According to the author, why did many Americans believe the Chinese were unacceptable immigrants?
2. What did the editors of Harper’s Weekly say about the Chinese?
3. Did the editors think that Chinese people should become citizens?
4. Then click on the link “Content by Type” in the upper right hand corner.
5. Click on “Nast Cartoons.”
6. Click on “E Pluribus Unum (Except the Chinese).”
7. Examine this political cartoon and answer the following questions.
1. What date was it published?
2. What does the “Temple of Liberty represent?” How is it depicted?
3. What does the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” mean? What is it’s significance? Why would the artist choose that phrase as the cartoon’s title?
4. Is the artist sympathetic to the Chinese?
5. What is the artist trying to say about American identity?
Activity: Identity and Immigration
The activity below is intended to provide students with the resources to explore the issues surrounding identity and immigration, by focusing on one man who helped put on the Chinese exhibit at the fair. You can utilize the activity to address many topics in U.S. History including, immigration, industrialization, urbanization, migration, cultural history, race relations, foreign relations, assimilation, and Americanization. The primary source analysis would work well in pairs or small groups so that students can take advantage of peer knowledge. You may want them to answer the questions in notebooks to turn in. Since it will likely take several class periods, the activity includes options for summative assessment. The general student audience is intended to be advanced middle school students through undergraduates.
The Case of Hong Sling
Hong Sling was a Chinese-American businessman who was a manager in the Wah Mee Exposition Company, which he and two other Chinese-Americans founded to raise the money to put on the Chinese exhibit at the 1893 World’s Fair. Sling immigrated to the United States in 1874 at the age of 14 to work on the railroads, and he eventually became an agent for the Union Pacific in Ogden, Utah, a railroad hub 35 miles north of Salt Lake City near where the transcontinental railroad was completed. Hong Sling also helped put on the Chinese exhibit at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. He became very wealthy businessman with investments in Chicago, Hong Kong, Panama, and Cuba. His children went to public school in Chicago, and his son, Harry Hong Sling, attended Yale University in the early 1920s. Hong Sling died in 1936 in Hong Kong. To some extent, Hong Sling and his family were assimilated, but his participation in the World’s Fair Chinese exhibits shows another side of his identity.
Questions to consider:
* Why might Hong Sling have developed these two identities?
* Do all immigrants have dual or multiple identities?
1. Read this entry on Americanization from the Encyclopedia of Chicago (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/46.html). Then answer the following questions.
1. Why did social reformers in the early twentieth century seek to “Americanize” immigrants?
2. What are some identifying features of “Americanization?”
3. What might some benefits of “Americanization” be for immigrants?
4. How and why might immigrants resist “Americanization”?
2. Read this excerpt from a book by a University of Southern California Sociology professor, Emory Stephen Bogardus, published in 1919 called Essentials of Americanization. Then answer the questions that follow.
1. How did Professor Bogardus define Americanization? What was its purpose?
2. What was the best method of Americanization?
3. Why were the Chinese a special case?
4. What types of immigrants does Professor Bogardus think should be admitted?
3. Examine the following newspaper sources that discuss Hong Sling and answer the questions that follow with 2-3 sentences. How do the articles describe Hong Sling and his partners? What qualities of the men do the articles praise?
4. Read Hong Sling’s letter to the Chinese Ambassador written in October, 1900, and answer the following questions.
1. Why did Hong Sling write the letter?
2. How does he describe himself?
3. Why might he think that the Ambassador will be sympathetic to him?
5. Hong Sling’s mistreatment at the hands of the Federal Deputy Marshal in Illinois was brought up during testimony in the U.S. Senate in March, 1902, considering renewal of Chinese Exclusion. Read this excerpt of retired Civil War General Oliver Otis Howard’s testimony. General Howard testified about how Chinese were being mistreated under Chinese Exclusion. Then answer the questions that follow.
1. Why did General Howard bring up “the case of Hong Sling”? Why was Hong Sling’s mistreatment particularly egregious, considering many Chinese suffered much worse?
2. How does General Howard’s account compare with Hong Sling’s in his letter? What might be some reasons for any differences?
3. How did the Senators receive General Howard’s testimony? Do they seem sympathetic to his arguments?
6. Examine this photo of Hong Sling from 1924 published in the Los Angeles Times. The caption stated his arrival in San Francisco and described him as a “millionaire” who had started out as a laborer.
7. Based on the activity introduction, the two newspaper articles, Hong Sling’s letter, General Howard’s testimony, and the 1924 photo of Hong Sling, make the case that Hong Sling was Americanized. Write at least 5 sentences, using specific examples from the sources.
8. Next, examine the photo of Hong Sling and fellow fair promoter, Dr. Gee Woo Chan. This photo was taken inside the Joss House in the Chinese Village at the 1893 World’s Fair.
1. Describe the interior of the room in 2-3 sentences.
2. How are the men dressed?
3. Why might they be dressed this way?
4. How does this photo compare with the photo of Hong Sling from the 1924 Los Angeles Times?
9. Read the following excerpt from the Chicago Tribune article, “Freaks of Chinese Fancy At the Fair.” Then answer the questions below.
1. How does the article describe the Chinese fair exhibit?
2. How does the article describe the Chinese people in the exhibit?
3. What picture of China and Chinese culture you think that the Chinese exhibit promoters intended visitors to gain? What kind of experience do you think visitors had?
4. How do you think the Chinese exhibit was affected by its location inside the Midway Plaisance, the entertainment section of the fair?
Apply Your Knowledge
The assessment activity below is intended for more extensive exploration of the topic and could be assigned as a term paper or as chapter review to address immigration, assimilation, and Americanization. Option one is a more traditional analytical term paper; Option two is a biographical writing exercise that can be completed as a group or individually; and Option three is intended to allow for more student creativity and to make use of the Internet and computers. The options are presented to students to allow them to choose which is most interesting to them and which they feel most comfortable with. Student who enjoy writing may want to complete Option 1, students who enjoy researching may want to do Option 2, and students who enjoy more creative activities and working with computers may choose Option 3. You can also adapt the activity requirements and suggestions to best fit your classroom needs and your students.
Hong Sling was an Americanized Chinese businessman, but he also sold an experience of ancient China to visitors at the multiple world’s fairs. In the analysis activity options below, you will be able to apply what you have done in steps 1-9 as you examine the issues of assimilation and Americanization. The archive on this website will be very helpful for all of the assignments below. There are many more primary sources there that you can use for your project!
Write an essay that examines Americanization and the dual nature of immigrant’s identity, focusing on Hong Sling. Your essay should address the following questions: How did Hong Sling identify himself? How do you think non-Chinese Americans viewed him? Use at least three primary sources from this website’s archive in your essay.
In order to start thinking about this topic, you may want to read this article from a multi-part series on immigration in the United States published in 1998 in The Washington Post newspaper titled, “The Myth of the Melting Pot.” This article by William Branigin discusses assimilation and immigrant identity. It is called “America’s Racial and Ethnic Divides: Immigrants Shunning Idea of Assimilation.”
You can also go to the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago’s website to learn about other Chinese-American families.
Search through the sources related to Hong Sling on this website, and conduct a Google search to look for more information on the Internet. From what you find, write short biography of Hong Sling. Be sure to situate the details from the sources in the context of what you know about U.S. History and Chinese-American history during his life. What information are you missing? What questions about his life do you still have? What kinds of primary sources would you need to find to answer these questions?
If you are working with a group, you may want to create a Wiki or use Google Docs if you have a Gmail account to facilitate collaboration. You can share your document with your teacher so she or he can monitor your group’s progress.
Create a multimedia essay, presentation, or short film about Hong Sling, the Chinese exhibit at the Fair, and Chinese Americans. Include information from any of the sources on this website, your history textbook, the websites used here, and any other resources your teacher provides.
Remember that your essay should not just be text.
* You may want to construct a timeline of important events in Hong Sling’s life and in Chinese-American history. You can use an online timeline generator to help you.
* You could create a photo slideshow.
* You could include a Google Map showing different important places for Hong Sling and Chinese-Americans.
The options below provide just two possibilities for extending the activity beyond this lesson plan. Both compare the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 to contemporary world events including the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair. They address the issues of U.S. - China relations and the role of these world events for host and participating countries. Students may want to use these links in their projects.
To provide additional connections to the present day, you can read this article comparing the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
* What similarities does the author point out between Chicago in 1893 and Beijing in 2008?
* How were the purposes of the two events similar? How were they different?
Also, you can listen to a broadcast from Chicago Public Radio that compares the 1893 Fair preparations and the 2010 World Exposition in Shanghai and that questions the role of mega-projects like world’s fairs in the past and present. It is about 43 minutes long.
* How is China trying to present itself to the world in the upcoming 2010 World’s Expo?
* Is this presentation similar or different that the one shown at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago?
There are many resources here for further exploration. Students should certainly consult them as they work on their assessment projects. They may also prove helpful for your own teaching.
Chinese-American Museum of Chicago. http://www.ccamuseum.org/More_1893.html
This site includes photos and information from the museum’s exhibit from June, 2006 – September, 2007 on Chinese-American participation in the two Chicago World’s Fairs in 1893 and 1933. The exhibit featured original research by museum staff and has made available many important primary sources related to the fair.
Encyclopedia of Chicago, Entry on Chinese. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/285.html
The Encyclopedia of Chicago is a searchable online resource of multimedia entries about Chicago written by leading scholars. There is a very helpful entry on “Chinese” in Chicago.
Chinese Historical Society of America, Online Exhibit, “Remembering 1882: Fighting for Civil Rights in the Shadow of the Chinese Exclusion Act.” http://www.civilrightssuite.org/1882/
This exhibit features videos, photos, a timeline, and additional resources related to Chinese Exclusion and the long fight for its repeal and the winning of equal rights for Chinese-Americans.
Immigrant and Ethnic America at HarpWeek.com. http://immigrants.harpweek.com/Default.htm
This website from Harper’s Weekly includes and introduction to the Chinese-American experience and an explanation of Harper’s role in the debates about Chinese immigration and exclusion. It includes related articles and illustrations, including many of Thomas Nast’s political cartoons criticizing unfair treatment of the Chinese.
Immigration…Chinese, Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/immig/alt/chinese.html
This website from the Library of Congress includes a section on Chinese immigrants along with other immigrant groups, Africans, and Native Americans. It includes an overview history of Chinese immigration, photos, interviews, and other resources.
Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: Why Do Many Large American Cities Have a Chinatown? Lesson Plan by Don Barbour. AHTC Summer Institute 2006. http://www.usd116.org/ProfDev/AHTC/lessons/Barbour06/Barbour06.pdf
Rydell, Robert W., All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916, (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984).
Robert Rydell is a leading scholar of world’s fairs around the world. This book includes a chapter on the 1893 Chicago exhibit and he briefly discusses the Chinese-American exhibit and some general reactions to it.