The Gin/Louis Collection contains family keepsakes, school books, and photos and receipts from Young Louis’s photography studio.
The Louis family were pioneers of San Luis Obispo and founding members of the city’s Chinese community.
In total, Ah Luis had eight children that he had raised in San Luis Obispo. His oldest son, Young Louis also was a major
influence in the San Luis Obispo area. He was a movie projectionist for San Luis Obispo’s Palm Theater, a movie projectionist
and stage manager who personally worked for William Randolph Hearst at Hearst Castle, and one of the first Chinese Americans
to graduate from the California State Polytechnic College in San Luis Obispo. He married Stella Chandler and together they
both founded the Chinese Student Association at Cal Poly SLO, an organization that brought together Chinese Americans all
from first, second, and third generations and provided a comfortable circle for the Chinese minority on campus to learn Chinese
tradition through Lion Dancing and promote Chinese culture both on campus and to the San Luis Obispo area. Among other achievements,
Young Louis was a professional photographer who owned his own studio in San Luis Obispo on Chorro Street, a muralist, and
Young’s father Ah Louis, also known by his Chinese name Wong On, immigrated to the United States during the 1850’s in pursuit
of the gold rush. He eventually settled in San Luis Obispo in 1870 and acted as a laborer contractor, organizing crews of
Chinese immigrants to help construct the Pacific Coast Railroad, mine the quicksilver mines near the town of Cambria, and
drain the Laguna Lake area as well as the swampland between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach in 1882. He also operated a Chinese
goods shop on Chorro Street in the Chinatown district of San Luis Obispo, operated as a banker to the Chinese, owned a brickyard,
and produced seed farms selling his produce to the American navy and armies during both World War I and World War II.